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Can Dogs Get Pimples? What You Need To Know If Yours Has Acne

can dogs get pimples acne

If you’ve found angry, painful bumps under your dog’s chin, you may wonder, “can dogs get pimples?”. After all, if your dog is older or middle-aged, surely they can’t be struggling with skin problems like acne?

When we strive to keep dogs’ skin and coats healthy with the gentlest dog shampoos and regular grooming, it can be disheartening to see patches of pimples on our dog’s face and body. After all pet health is always our first priority. So before we resort to popping, let’s clarify the issue of pimples and acne in dogs.

Can dogs get pimples or acne?

Dogs often get acne on their chin or muzzle. This is usually called muzzle or chin folliculitis, although there is a difference between chin acne and kinds of folliculitis. Chin acne refers to angry, swollen bumps around a dog’s muzzle that may be filled with pus.

Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, states that there isn’t much research on canine acne, and we don’t even know if it’s the same condition as human acne. So we need to look a bit closer at what we mean by dog pimples and dog acne.

How canine acne and pimples form

  1. Chin acne starts with comedones or blackheads. This is when tiny hair follicles around the muzzle get clogged with excess keratin, sebum, and other gunk. This creates a clogged pore.
  2. When that clogged hair follicle becomes inflamed or infected with bacteria, it becomes muzzle folliculitis or chin acne.
  3. If the inflamed follicle is filled with pus, it is a pustule or pimple.

So dog acne is not quite the same as a pimple, a blackhead, or an ingrown hair, but they are all related terms. It is a type of folliculitis, which means the hair follicle is inflamed and infected. Folliculitis usually appears as swollen red bumps that can contain pus. If there is pus, then it is a pimple.

Dogs can get pustules or pimples without folliculitis. For example, dogs stung by a bee will get a pustule about 12 hours after the sting that could last weeks.

Acne refers to swollen red bumps or pimples around a dog’s muzzle or chin. But pimples can be anywhere on a dog’s body. The most common areas are under the armpits, on the genitals, or belly. But you may also find pimples on your dog’s back, neck, chest, or elsewhere.

What causes dog pimples?

Dogs often get pimples or pustules anywhere on their body. These are the most common symptom of pyoderma in dogs, along with black scabs, lesions, bumps, and hot spots. In fact, pyoderma means “pus in skin.” These are bacterial or fungal skin infections that happen when:

  • The skin is consistently moist,
  • There is poor hygiene between skin folds,
  • The skin’s barrier is damaged,
  • The skin’s natural microbiome is disrupted,
  • A dog’s immune system is weakened,
  • The dog has an endocrine issue.

Dogs can get pimples for other reasons, such as an insect bite or splinter, but it is usually one of the many types of pyoderma. Dr. Ihrke from the University of California outlines the many kinds of pyoderma pimples and their causes.

Essentially the first issue arrives when the skin is constantly wet, like when dogs lick their paws too much and cause infections like interdigital furuncles. This leads to a painful cyst, abscess, or pimples between the toes.

A second common factor is any area of the dog’s body that chafes against the hair follicles. Hair follicles affected by chafing skin can become irritated and inflamed. The same areas are also often breeding grounds for bacteria and yeast. So you’ll often see pimples and infections in dogs with skin folds and loose skin.

Thirdly, dogs have a high skin PH, and it’s very easy for the bad bacteria to grow out of control, especially if something irritates or damages their skin. In fact, something as small as a flea bite can cause tiny red bumps that look a lot like pimples. This can lead to flea bite dermatosis, and the scratching can cause further infections.

Finally, anything that weakens the immune system, from allergies to lupus, can lead to skin problems with pimples and pustules. Another common cause in older dogs is diseases that affect hormones, like Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

One study finds that purebred dogs have higher incidences of pyoderma. So skin problems may have a bit to do with too much selective breeding.

What causes acne in dogs?

In short, acne in dogs is caused by excessive moisture (drooling, getting their face wet when drinking water) and exposure to bacteria from plastic or porous drinking bowls. Dogs with short, bristly coats are more at risk, as dogs whose skin releases too much sebum and keratin, as in oily seborrhea.

In humans, hormones, excess skin oils, Propionibacterium acne bacteria, and diet cause acne. But it doesn’t seem to work the same way in dogs. Hairless breeds, like the Mexican Hairless dog, seem to have different fatty acid profiles that suggest their blackheads start in the epidermis and not the sebaceous glands like other dogs. This may mean acne in a Chinese Crested dog is closer to our skin than in other dogs with fur.

We know that most dogs with acne have hair follicles infected with staphylococcus intermedius. This kind of bacteria is an extremely common cause of folliculitis and pyoderma. You find it dog ear infections.

This kind of bacteria is always in the skin and is opportunistic. It thrives when there is damage to the skin or a change in the environment. Dogs who scratch from allergies often get a staph infection with pimples.

Dog breeds with short, bristly hair, like Shar Peis, Great Danes, English mastiffs, and Bull Dogs, are especially vulnerable to acne. Firstly, because of their coarse, short hair that seems to give them more clogged pores and ingrown hairs than longer-hair dogs.

Another reason these breeds get more acne is because of how they drink water Many have short noses and get their whole faces sopping wet. This is especially a problem for dogs with wrinkly faces and loose skin, as their chins can’t dry as easily. This makes an excellent breeding ground for bacteria to form acne.

Finally, one last factor that seems to play a role in a dog’s acne is the water bowl. It seems that porous materials like plastic contain more bacteria and fungi. Many owners find that their dog’s acne clears up by switching to ceramic, glass, or stainless steel bowls.

When is it acne and when is not?

To diagnose acne, a vet may need first to rule out other conditions, like:

  • Canine Juvenile Cellulitis (puppy strangles)
  • Demodectic mange
  • Ringworm

How to treat dog acne

Dog acne treatment by veterinarians usually involves:

  • Benzoyl peroxide solutions for milder cases
  • Topical mupirocin
  • Medicated shampoos like those for seborrhea
  • Doxycycline or other antibiotics for severe cases
  • Occasionally, a vet may prescribe glucocorticoids or retinoids.

If your dog has pimples caused by different infections or by underlying conditions like hypothyroidism or allergies, then your vet will need to diagnose the problem and adjust treatment.

How do you treat dog acne naturally?

But your treatment options for chin acne aren’t limited to medication and ointments. Many people successfully treat canine acne by:

  1. Replacing the water bowl with stainless steel, ceramic, or glass options,
  2. Cleaning the water bowl out frequently and put doggy mouth rinse in the water because bacteria from the teeth can spread to the face,
  3. Washing the face frequently with a gentle oatmeal shampoo to reduce itching and aloe vera to soothe inflammation.
  4. Keeping the facial area clean with dog face and ear wipes,
  5. Cleaning your dog’s bedding and anything their face comes into contact with regularly, like toys
  6. and drying off drool and water after drinking.

Do not pop your dog’s pimples because breaking the skin releases bacteria and can lead to a worse secondary infection, like a hot spot. Do not scrub or try to exfoliate pimples either, as irritating the hair follicles can cause more folliculitis.

Remember that what’s best for dog health is usually not the same as it for humans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can dogs get pimples on their back?

Dogs frequently get pimples on their back. This happens with cases of oily seborrhea or in Schnauzer Comedone Syndrome, which affects terriers with bristly hair. It may also be a sebaceous cyst. Your vet will need to diagnose pustules on the back accurately.

Can dogs get pimples on their belly?

Pimples on the belly are usually from a type of pyoderma. In puppies, it’s usually a sign of puppy impetigo. It may be caused by bacteria, yeast, allergies, or endocrine problems such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism. Always make sure your vet does a full check-up for belly pimples.

Can dogs get pimples on their head?

Pimples around the lips, muzzle, and chin are usually dog acne. Pimples higher up on the head may be from conditions like seborrhea or a sebaceous cyst.

Can dogs get pimples on their private parts?

Dogs often get folliculitis and pimples on their genitals. One reason is that the area is often moist from licking. Reddening in the genital area of female dogs often means a yeast infection, while pimples indicate bacteria. These can be secondary infections from allergies, hormonal issues, parasites, or other underlying conditions.

Can dogs get pimples on their nose?

Canine acne and pimples can spread from the muzzle area to the nose. However, if there is scaling, hair loss, or swelling, see a vet immediately as it could be a more serious condition.

Can dogs get pimples on their ears?

Dogs can get pimples or sebaceous cysts on their ears. They can also get large blood blisters called hematomas. Other possibilities include seborrhea (especially in Dachshunds) or allergies, so take the condition of your dog’s ears seriously.

Final Thoughts

Dog acne is quite a common skin condition, but not completely understood. While dogs get pimples all over their body, usually because of a bacterial infection, acne refers to the swollen bumps they get on their chins and muzzle.

Pimples have many causes and can be difficult to treat. Luckily, acne is usually not a serious problem. Taking care of the hygiene around your dog’s mouth and using ointments prescribed by your vet should fix the problem.


Tamsin De La Harpe


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.

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