Dog Acne: A Pet Owner's Guide to Canine Skin Health

When you hear the word acne, the image that probably springs to mind is that of a teenager wrestling with the awkwardness of human acne. If you thought acne was only a human problem, think again. You might be surprised to learn that canine acne is a very real and sometimes problematic condition for our furry friends. As with humans, the presence of acne in dogs can be the result of various factors.

This comprehensive guide will help you understand everything from the causes of dog acne to its treatment and prevention, ensuring that your pooch remains as happy and healthy as possible.

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What is Dog Acne?

Dog acne is inflammation of the lips and the skin of the muzzle, which can result in the appearance of red bumps or pimples. 

Similar to the human condition, canine acne is a skin affliction affecting our pets when their hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, or debris. Typically, it manifests on the chin and lips, where the hair follicles are more dense and may present a clinical appearance similar to chin acne in adolescents

 While generally non-life-threatening, it can provoke irritation in your dog and may indicate underlying health issues.

Dogs develop acne for a variety of reasons, and it's a common misconception that only young dogs or certain dog breeds get acne. In fact, dogs of any age and breed can experience this skin concern. The development of acne in dogs is influenced by various factors.

Symptoms of Dog Acne Include:

  • Red, swollen bumps on the skin surface
  • Blackheads and pimples that lead to soreness of the surrounding skin
  • Dogs with acne may also excessively scratch or rub their faces due to discomfort

Inspect the area carefully for signs of infection, like excessive pus. Make a note of when the flare-up started and how long it lasts so you can work with your veterinarian for proper treatment. Recognizing these signs early is important to your dog’s health.

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Causes of Canine Acne

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Now that we understand what dog acne is and what signs to watch for, let's explore the factors contributing to its occurrence in our furry friends. Like humans, dogs face a mix of elements influencing their acne, including:

Hormonal Changes

Puppies, especially those between 5 and 8 months old, are more likely to get canine acne than adult or senior dogs. This tells us that the big hormone changes as puppies grow up might be a reason they get acne. For many puppies, acne is just a short phase that goes away on its own as they get a little older. 

Poor Hygiene

Consistent grooming is crucial for sustaining healthy skin. Tailored to your dog's breed, it's essential to regularly clean their facial folds to prevent the accumulation of bacteria and moisture, lowering the risk of acne and potential bacterial infection or fungal infections.


Pay attention to your dog's environment. Be mindful of the products you use around your home and ensure your dog has a clean and comfortable living space. Environmental allergies can cause irritation that aggravates the problem. 

Dog breeds with a higher likelihood of developing acne

Certain breeds, such as:

  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • American or English Bulldogs
  • Great Danes
  • Weimaraners
  • Mastiffs

Are more prone to dog acne. If you own one of these breeds, establishing good hygiene practices early on can help minimize the risk of canine acne.

Consult with your vet for specific guidance on managing canine acne in these breeds.


Stress can weaken a dog's immune system and contribute to skin problems, including pimples.

When to Call Your Veterinarian

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Acne isn’t a major health risk to dogs, but it can be very uncomfortable and unattractive. Discuss the issue with your veterinarian, who can guide you on whether to schedule an appointment.

Your vet might do a thorough examination to rule out other conditions, such as:

  • Demodicosis: A type of mange that is typically diagnosed through an examination of skin scrapings under a microscope.

  • Ringworm: In its early stages, this fungus resembles acne, so your veterinarian will pluck several hairs for a culture. It typically takes 10 to 14 days to determine whether there is a fungal infection.

  • Puppy Strangles: A skin disorder that appears in puppies and can resemble acne.  

Usually, your vet will carefully check your pet and gather information about their diet, treats, supplements, and home surroundings. They might inquire about the types of dishes you use for your pets or if there are other pets at home. In some cases, pets might react to plastic bowls. Additionally, bacteria or yeast could potentially hide in tiny scratches on plastic dishes, causing issues.

In some cases, a vet may prescribe oral medications to fight the infection from the inside out.

Treatment Options

Treatment of dog acne can include medication, dietary changes, and behavioral therapy. The approach to treat dog acne varies based on the severity of the outbreak. 

The most common treatment for canine acne is topical benzoyl peroxide. This product helps to flush out the hair follicle and reduce bacterial contamination. In mild cases, benzoyl peroxide alone may be sufficient to resolve canine acne; in more severe cases, long-term benzoyl peroxide may be used to decrease the likelihood of recurrence. 

For mild cases, cleaning the affected area with a special shampoo or wipe may suffice. In cases where a bacterial infection is present, appropriate antibiotics may be necessary. Oral antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to handle more profound effects on the dog's skin.

When considering home treatment, remember that not all home remedies that work for human acne are suitable for canine acne. It’s best to consult your veterinarian before trying any home treatment, as they can recommend safe options for your dog’s specific needs.

Preventing Dog Acne with Simple Home Practices

Some other things you can do regularly to manage canine acne are:

Choose the right feeding bowls: Switch out your dog's plastic or ceramic feeding bowls for stainless steel ones. Stainless steel is smoother and doesn't have tiny holes where bacteria can hide, making it easier to keep clean. After mealtime, just pop the bowls in the dishwasher to wash and dry them – it's that easy!

Keep sleeping areas clean: We all love fresh bedding, and your dog is no different! Make sure to wash your dog's blankets and beds regularly. If you can, get dog beds with removable covers or choose machine-washable options. This helps you save time and keeps your dog's sleeping space clean and acne-proof.

Review your dog's diet with a vet: Since hormones play a big part in causing acne, the solution might be found in what your dog eats. Have a chat with your vet about your dog's food. 

Dog Acne FAQs

What can I do at home to help my dog’s acne?

Acne in dogs can often be treated at home, but before you try to fix it yourself, it’s important to check in with your vet. If you have been given the all-clear from your vet, then there are a few things you can do to get rid of your dog’s canine acne and keep it from coming back.

  1. Keep your dog’s face clean with a daily face wash.
  2. Brush your dog’s teeth often.
  3. Talk to your vet about a topical treatment.
  4. Clean toys and bowls.

Does dog acne go away?

Yes, with the right treatment, including good hygiene practices and the use of medicated cleansers, acne should clear up successfully.

Is it OK to pop a dog’s pimple?

In short, the answer is no. Attempting to pop your dog's pimples can aggravate their acne as it may spread bacteria. Moreover, the open wound poses a risk of reinfection, leading to increased discomfort. It's advisable to leave pimple-popping to your vet. 

Veterinarians are trained to drain pimples properly, and they can provide the necessary medications to ensure the area remains clean and well-maintained, benefiting both you and your furry friend.

Is dog acne contagious?

Nope, you can't catch acne from a dog. But, there are other things to be careful about, like bacterial infections, parvovirus, or heartworms. So, even though a pimple is not on the worry list, it's smart to take precautions when dealing with a dog's waste, dander, or saliva. Just wash up with soap and hot water after being around them to get rid of any germs or diseases that might pass on.


Much like their human counterparts, dogs can suffer from acne, and while the image of a dog with a pimple might be initially amusing, canine acne is no laughing matter for affected pets. By recognizing the symptoms of dog acne and providing proper treatment, you can help alleviate your furry friend's discomfort.

For any concerns, whether it's a potential fungal infection or the need for oral medications, always consult with your veterinarian. With the right care and attention, you can help prevent dog acne and ensure your pooch stays healthy and comfortable.

Take the time to visit your local pet store or vet clinic to find products specifically designed for dog acne and learn more about the different treatment options available. Whether it’s tweaking your dog’s diet to support their skin health or finding a gentle antibacterial wash, there are many ways to directly address the underlying cause and symptoms.

Your pet relies on you for their well-being, so keep yourself informed and proactive when it comes to conditions like canine acne. A clear complexion leads to a happier dog, and ultimately, a happier you.

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