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Can Dogs Get Pimples?

Dog being held by owner
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You’re smitten with your pooch’s beautiful face. You know every line, wrinkle, and whisker like the back of your own hand. (We know – they’re perfect.) But every now and then, you may notice some bumps that look like dog acne or dog pimples. And unfortunately, that could be the case. 

You probably have lots of questions about dog acne and dog acne treatments. Don’t worry—you’ve come to the right place! 

Do Dogs Get Pimples?

Man holding puppy

“Yes, dogs can get pimples, a symptom of acne, just like humans,” says Dr. Jennifer Bruns, a veterinarian at PetSmart. “Dogs most commonly develop pimples on their muzzles and lower lips, and are most likely seen in young dogs.” 

While all dogs are capable of experiencing breakouts, some breeds are more genetically predisposed to developing acne, adds Dr. Bruns. Dog breeds that commonly get pimples include:

  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Rottweilers
  • Weimaraners

Dog Pimples: What Do They Look Like?

Holding dog face

If you suspect your pup may be dealing with acne, there are some tell-tale signs.

“Mild canine acne typically presents as small raised red bumps on the skin. Sometimes the bumps can come to a head, forming a whitehead,” says Dr. Bruns.

Dogs also can experience more severe acne, explains Dr. Andrea Honigmann, a veterinarian at Hannastown Veterinary Center in Pennsylvania.

“If a dog is experiencing severe acne, pet parents may notice less individual bumps and more generalized swelling and inflammation that is often red in color,” says Dr. Honigmann.

The location of the pimples is significant. The most common areas that dogs develop acne are on the chin, muzzle, and lower lip area. However, pimples on the belly and chest area are more commonly associated with pyoderma, a skin infection.

Causes of Dog Acne and Pimples

Dog scratching face

There are many factors that can contribute to canine acne. But the most common is trauma to the skin, which can be as simple as repeated scratching of the area. 

“The constant scratching of a particular skin area causes the hair in that area to break off and the hair follicle to rupture, which incites inflammation,” explains Dr. Honigmann.

Other causes include a genetic predisposition to acne, as well as underlying medical conditions such as food or environmental allergies, skin mites, fungal infections, and bacterial infections.

Additionally, extra curious and adventurous dogs may experience more acne. 

“Our pups explore the world around them by sniffing, chewing, and rubbing their nose and muzzle against all kinds of things—many of which may not be sterile,” says Dr. Bruns. “Not only can this cause the hairs to break off below the skin, it can also lead to dirt and debris build-up on their skin, which can cause clogged follicles and inflammation.”

Dog Pimple and Dog Acne Treatment Options

Dog looking sad at camera

The first rule of dog acne? Never “pop” those pimples! 

“Just like in humans, popping a pimple can lead to worsening effects like increased inflammation, pain, and potential bacterial infections,” says Dr. Bruns. 

For mild cases of acne, there are a number of at-home remedies to try.

“In the case of a pimple that is already white or yellow, a warm compress may help to open up the area,” says Dr. Honigmann. “If the dog is one that is particularly known to drool, keeping the face clean and dry is an easy step that owners can take to reduce the incidence of bacterial skin infections.”

Depending on the severity and underlying cause of the breakout, your veterinarian may prescribe topical or oral treatments, such as steroids or antibiotics. 

“It’s important to treat the underlying cause of what perpetuated the trauma to the skin first, which is often either environmental or allergic causes,” says Dr. Honigmann. “Having a discussion with your veterinarian may help identify particular triggers.”

Additionally, you should never use human-intended acne treatments or ointments on your dog.

“They are not created for canine skin and may cause further irritation and inflammation, as well as serious illness if ingested,” adds Dr. Bruns.

Can You Prevent Dog Pimples?

Dog being held by owner

There are many steps you can take to help prevent your dog from developing acne. 

Follow good hygiene procedures. “Pet parents should try to keep their dog’s face and body clean and dry as much as possible, while also ensuring their bedding and food and water dishes are clean and free of bacteria,” says Dr. Bruns. (Great Pet Wipes are a great choice for between-bath wipe downs.) 

Stop scratching before it starts. Minimizing itching or trauma to your dog’s skin is also key. Since scratching repeatedly at an area can cause canine breakouts, it’s important to put your dog on monthly parasite prevention and work with your veterinarian to rule out food and environmental allergies.

Swap plastics for other materials. You might also consider swapping out any plastic bowls or toys your dog uses, as some plastics contain chemicals that can irritate the skin, notes Dr. Honigmann.

If the pimples appear to be spreading or appearing on other parts of the body, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian.

“It’s much easier to treat this early on in the course of the issue, rather than wait,” adds Dr. Honigmann. 

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