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White Bumps on Dog Skin: Identifying and Treating Common Causes - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

White Bumps on Dog Skin: Identifying and Treating Common Causes

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

white bumps on dog skin

Discovering white bumps on your dog’s skin can be a concerning experience. These bumps could be a sign of different problems, like irritations or serious medical issues. Skin health is a vital part of your dog’s overall well-being, and noticing such changes warrants a closer look. White bumps on your pet’s skin can be benign or indicative of something that needs medical attention. By staying informed, you can help keep your dog comfortable and healthy.

Identifying the type of white bumps and understanding their causes is crucial. It could be a case of folliculitis, where the hair follicles become inflamed, or it might involve cysts, warts, or other growths. For the best veterinary advice on what to do if you notice lumps on your dog, we consulted Dr. Hilary Jackson, DVM, and Dr. Rosanna Marsella, DVM, PHD. Our experts are veterinary dermatologists,  responsible for the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dermatology.

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Underlying autoimmune diseases, allergies, obesity, cancers, and even nutritional issues can also cause a number of problems in the skin.

So how do you know what kind of pale lump your dog may have? Well, we’ve put together a helpful guide with pictures and images of the various skin conditions. 

Key Takeaways

  • White bumps on a dog’s skin could indicate various health issues.
  • Proper identification and understanding of the causes are essential for treatment.
  • Prevention and regular vet check-ups are crucial for maintaining skin health.

Understanding White Bumps on Dog Skin

White bumps on your dog’s skin could be anything from a mild skin irritation to a sign of something more serious. To accurately assess the situation, observe the characteristics and accompanying symptoms carefully.

Identifying White Bumps

To accurately identify white bumps on your dog, consider their number, size, consistency, and whether they are filled with pus. Sebaceous cysts are usually singular and contain a cheese-like or oily substance. Canine acne can appear as multiple swollen red bumps, especially on your dog’s chin. This may indicate a problem similar to pimples in humans. In cases of dog acne, bumps are often accompanied by inflammation.

According to Dr. Jackson:

  • A single bump could be a cyst or growth. Multiple bumps could indicate a rash or allergic reaction.
  • Small bumps may be skin tags or warts. Larger bumps could be cysts or tumors.
  • Soft bumps are usually caused by cysts or lipomas. Hard bumps may indicate calcification or more serious conditions.
  • Bumps filled with pus can look like pimples and may mean there is an infection or folliculitis.
  • It’s vital to identify that Sebaceous cysts are common and often harmless. Warts can appear due to viral infections but are usually not serious.
TypeDescriptionAction Needed
Sebaceous CystsSmall, painless bumps; filled with sebum.Monitor
WartsCaused by a virus; rough texture.Vet consultation
Infection SignsRedness, swelling, discharge.Immediate vet care

If your dog exhibits swollen red bumps on its chin, resembling pimples, it might be an indicator of dog acne.

Symptom Overview

Observing additional symptoms is important. Redness, pain, or itchiness could suggest infection or inflammation. Hair loss may go with various skin conditions, indicating a more pervasive issue. Scaling or dandruff often suggests skin dryness or seborrhea. Each symptom can help narrow down the potential causes of the white bumps.

  • Redness: May mean inflammation or an allergic reaction.
  • Dogs with painful lumps may not like being touched. This could mean there’s a problem that needs immediate attention.
  • Itchiness lead to scratching and potential secondary infections.
  • Hair loss can be caused by a skin disorder, hormonal imbalance, or an irritant.
  • Scaling or Dandruff: Common in skin infections or parasitic infestations.

See this article if you find a lump on the neck or bumps on dogs’ lips.

If your dog has any symptoms, watch them carefully. If you’re not sure or the condition persists, talk to a vet. Vets can find out what’s causing canine skin lumps on your dog’s skin. It’s important to get a professional diagnosis because treatments can vary depending on the cause.

Common Causes

When your dog develops white bumps on their skin, it’s crucial to identify the cause for proper treatment. Various conditions can lead to these skin anomalies.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts are typically small, slow-growing bumps under the skin. They are usually not painful and feel somewhat soft. These cysts may have a central pore or opening, and sometimes they discharge a cheesy or oily material.

They originate from the sebaceous glands, which produce an oily substance called sebum. The cysts form when these glands become blocked. Factors contributing to their formation include genetic predisposition, trauma to the gland, or secondary infection.

In both types, the cysts are usually benign and may not require treatment unless they become infected, inflamed, or bothersome to the dog. In such cases, a veterinarian may recommend treatment options such as drainage, antibiotics, or surgical removal.

Other medical terms for these are Epidermoid Cyst or Epidermal Inclusion Cyst.

Follicular Cysts (Cysts of the Hair Follicles)

These cysts often present as firm, round, movable lumps under the skin. They may vary in size and can sometimes become quite large. The overlying skin is usually normal but can become inflamed or ulcerated if the cyst becomes irritated or infected.

They are formed due to the dilation or blockage of hair follicles. This can be due to several factors, including genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, or skin trauma. In the image below you can see what it looks like when a dog gets pustular folliculitis. This is when the hair follicles have become inflamed and infected, causing pus-filled bump.

Pyoderma Pustules

These pustules are caused by bacterial infections that can manifest as pus-filled bumps. They’re often a sign that your dog might be battling an infection or other underlying issue like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. 

Warts (papillomas)

Warts are typically caused by a viral infection and can appear as single or multiple rough-surfaced bumps on your dog’s skin. They spread via the canine papillomavirus.

Skin Tags

Skin tags are benign growths that commonly appear as flesh-colored extensions on your dog’s body. Knowing when to be concerned about skin tags on your dog can help in keeping them healthy.

Flea Bite Dermatitis Nodules

Flea bite dermatitis could cause raised, pink or pale  bumps where the flea has bitten. This allergic reaction is often accompanied by intense itching.

Canine Cutaneous Histiocytoma

A common benign tumor in younger dogs, presenting as a small firm nodule on the skin that can occasionally regress spontaneously.

Pustular Demodicosis

This condition results from an overgrowth of Demodex mites, leading to pustules on your dog’s skin.

Bacterial Impetigo

Primarily affecting puppies, impetigo is a kind of bacterial infection (pyoderma) presents as pus-filled blisters that can break and form white scabs.

Contact Dermatitis (Allergies)

Contact with irritants or allergens can cause a skin reaction, leading to raised, itchy white, red or pink bumps.

Adverse Reactions to Certain Foods (Food Intolerances & Allergies)

Some dogs develop skin issues due to food intolerances, which might appear as bumps or hives.

Nodular Sebaceous Hyperplasia

This condition involves the enlargement of sebaceous glands, causing nodules to form.

Mast Cell Tumors

While not all are malignant, mast cell tumors can manifest as raised bumps and need veterinary attention.

Epitheliotropic Lymphoma

A rare skin cancer in dogs, epitheliotropic lymphoma can appear as lumps or ulcers on the skin.

Sweat Gland Adenocarcinoma

Sweat gland adenocarcinoma is a rare and potentially aggressive tumor originating from the sweat glands.

Diagnosing White Bumps

When you notice white bumps on your dog’s skin, a clear diagnosis is crucial. This involves a professional evaluation by a vet and your own observations at home.

Veterinary Diagnosis Process

At the vet, you can expect a thorough physical exam. The vet will likely look for signs such as bump size, shape, and location. They may perform different tests, like:

  • Skin Scraping: To check for parasites or mites.
  • Cytology: Where cells from the bump are examined microscopically.
  • Biopsy: A small tissue sample might be collected if cancer is a concern.

Results from these tests help pinpoint the cause, be it an allergic reaction, infection, or skin condition.

At-Home Observations

Your observations at home are also valuable. Keep a detailed record of:

  • Bump Changes: Have they grown or multiplied?
  • Behavior: Any scratching, licking, or changes in appetite?

Note the onset of symptoms and any recent changes in your dog’s environment or diet. Share this information with your vet — it’s vital for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Strategies

When white bumps appear on your dog’s skin, it’s important to choose the right treatment. You can choose between getting help from a vet or using home remedies for the bumps.

Professional Treatments

If the bumps worsen or persist, it’s important to consult with a vet. They may suggest a biopsy or skin scraping to get to the root of the issue.

Your vet might give you antibiotics, antifungals, or antiparasitics as treatments based on what’s wrong. Make sure to follow their prescription for the duration they recommend.

Home Remedies

Regular Baths: Use hypoallergenic shampoo to soothe your dog’s skin. Gentle shampoos with oatmeal can reduce irritation.

Cleaning the Affected Area: Keep the area with bumps clean. You can use a soft cloth dabbed in warm water for this. Be sure not to scrub the bumps, as this could irritate them further.

Remember, it’s crucial to identify the cause of the bumps with the help of a veterinary professional. Your dog’s treatment should be based on a proper diagnosis.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If you notice white bumps on your dog’s skin, it’s important to monitor them closely. Here are some signs that you should take your dog to the veterinarian:

  • Persistent Bumps: If the bumps don’t go away or seem to get worse over a couple of weeks.
  • Changes in Behavior: If your dog seems to be in pain, is lethargic, or has a decrease in appetite.
  • Signs of Infection: Redness, swelling, discharge, or if the bumps are warm to the touch.
  • Spread of Bumps: If new bumps appear on other parts of the body.

Actionable Steps

  • Monitor: Keep an eye on the size, color, and number of bumps.
  • Don’t Wait: If you’re concerned, it’s always better to check with your vet sooner rather than later.
  • Prevent Scratching: Prevent your dog from scratching the bumps as it can lead to further complications.

Keep in mind, the symptoms mentioned could be a sign of different underlying conditions. Some may need urgent medical care. It’s key to your dog’s health to get a professional diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Prevention and Maintenance

To keep your dog’s skin healthy and free from white bumps, incorporate key strategies such as balanced nutrition, keeping up with grooming, and staying vigilant with vet visits.

Diet and Nutrition

Your dog’s diet plays a crucial role in skin health. Ensure you’re feeding them high-quality dog food that’s rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins. You can consider adding supplements like omega-3 and omega-6 to their diet after consulting with your veterinarian.

  • Recommended Nutrients for Skin Health:
    • Omega-3 fatty acids;
    • Omega-6 fatty acids;
    • Vitamin E; and
    • Vitamin A.

Regular Grooming

Regular grooming helps spot any unusual changes to your dog’s skin early. Brush your dog several times a week to remove dirt and distribute natural oils.

  • Grooming Tips:
    • Use a suitable brush for your dog’s coat.
    • Bathe your dog as recommended, usually not more than once a month with a gentle dog shampoo to prevent skin irritation.
    • Check skin for irregularities during each grooming session.

Routine Check-Ups

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to catch and prevent any potential issues. Discuss any concerns about your dog’s skin during these visits.

  • Veterinary Schedule:
    • Initial Puppy Visits: Monthly until four months old;
    • Adult Dogs: At least once a year; and
    • Senior Dogs (7+ years): Twice a year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If your dog has unusual bumps on their skin, you’re likely looking for answers. Here are some common questions and straightforward information to help you understand what might be going on with your furry friend.

What might cause my dog to develop small bumps under their coat?

These bumps could be caused by various issues, from harmless skin tags to infections or allergies. Insect bites or parasites could also be culprits.

Could noticeable lumps under my dog’s skin be a sign of an underlying issue?

Yes, noticeable lumps could be a sign of something more serious, such as a tumor or cyst. Monitoring the lumps for changes in size, shape, or color is crucial.

My dog’s developed some pea-sized lumps just below their skin; should I be worried?

It’s best to have any new lumps checked by a vet to rule out serious conditions. Many lumps are benign, but it’s important to get a professional opinion.

Are those white spots appearing on my dog’s skin something common?

White spots can be common and often result from conditions like vitiligo or fungal infections. A vet can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How can I identify if a growth on my dog is a harmless skin tag or something more serious?

A vet will need to examine the growth to determine its nature. Harmless skin tags typically don’t change rapidly, while more serious growths may grow quickly or be accompanied by other symptoms.

Is it normal for dogs to have sebaceous cysts, and do they clear up on their own?

Sebaceous cysts are common in dogs and can sometimes resolve without treatment. However, if they become large or appear infected, a vet visit is warranted.

Final Thoughts

White bumps on your dog’s skin can range from benign to signs of illnesses that require a vet’s attention. Here’s what you need to remember:

  • Check Regularly: Keep an eye on your dog’s skin. Regular grooming sessions provide the perfect opportunity to spot any white bumps.
  • Contact Your Vet: If you’re unsure or the bumps seem to change or irritate your dog, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian.
  • Monitor Changes: Keep track of the size, color, and number of the bumps. If they increase rapidly or change drastically, inform your vet.

Remember, your dog’s health and comfort are paramount, and monitoring skin changes plays a crucial role in ensuring their well-being.

References:

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.