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What is Acne?

Canine acne (chin acne) is also referred to as folliculitis or furunculosis. Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicle. Furunculosis refers to an impacted, pus-filled, infected follicle that ruptures. Canine acne can cause multiple comedones (blackheads) on the chin and lips,  where short, coarse hairs grow. The area can also be swollen, inflamed, crusty or bleeding. A dog's acne condition can be painful and itchy. All dogs can develop canine acne. However, a large majority of patients are short-coated breeds. Canine acne could also be classified as a type of pyoderma.

The technical terminology for canine acne is folliculitis and furunculosis. Inflammation of the hair follicle is folliculitis, and when the hair follicle is infected or impacted, it is known as furunculosis. Chronic acne is possible if the underlying causation is left unidentified, and if left untreated, can result in a serious medical issue.

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Acne Average Cost

From 311 quotes ranging from $100 - $600

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Acne in Dogs

Initial signs of canine chin acne may be quite mild and may be first seen in any age range. Breakouts are typically concentrated in the chin and lip areas. It might first be seen on a dog as a single pimple on the head, usually around the mouth. Affected dogs may be seen scratching the area more frequently due to itchiness or reacting to scratching the area due to pain. Left untreated, the signs can worsen.

Initial signs may include:

  • Redness (erythema)
  • Hairless papules
  • Comedones
  • Pustules
  • Nodules
  • Furuncles
  • Cellulitis with plaques
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness (pruritus)

Progressive or later signs can include:

  • Suppurative (pus discharge) folliculitis and/or furunculosis
  • Large papules
  • Ulcerated lesions with or without discharge
  • Painful
  • Extremely red/irritated
  • Scarring
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Causes of Acne in Dogs

Unfortunately, there are numerous possible causes for a dog to form canine acne initially. Most often seen on the chin, it can appear on a dog as a pimple or a nodule that looks like a blackhead or whitehead (similar to the human condition).

  • Trauma - Injury to the skin causes breakage of fur and plugging of follicles
  • Contact dermatitis -  Rubbing the chin against a scratched plastic bowl, for example
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Demodicosis
  • Eosinophilic folliculitis and furunculosis
  • Dermatophytosis
  • Malassezia dermatitis
  • Histiocytosis
  • Metabolic disease
  • Neoplasia
  • Allergies
  • Fleas
  • Secondary bacterial infection - Usually Staphylococcus pseudintermedius
  • Previously thought to be hormonal but now thought to be a genetically inherited condition among primarily short-coated dogs mainly due to abnormal follicular keratinization
  • Breed Predisposition - Short-haired breeds almost exclusively affected such as Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, English Bulldogs, Great Danes, Weimaraners, Mastiffs, German Short-Haired Pointers, Rottweilers
  • Breed Characteristics - Bulldog acne and Pug pimples can occur when dirt and bacteria are allowed to build up in the folds of the skin
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Diagnosis of Acne in Dogs

Owners may note certain things that cause the condition to worsen such as exposure to specific materials, foods or chemicals. Owners should make sure the reaction is only located around the muzzle and not spreading. They should also monitor the dog’s reaction (if any) to the acne and any other unusual signs such as lack of or change in appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive scratching.

Veterinarians may perform one or several of these tests to determine the underlying causes of the acne because of the high probability of complicating infections.

  • Skin Scraping - An instrument is gently scraped across the affected region of skin to collect large amounts of cells that can then be viewed under a microscope and also used for cultures. This is done to look for skin parasites, evidence of specific types of infection or causes for the outbreak.
  • Hair Pluck - A few strands of hair from the affected area(s) may be pulled to look at under a microscope to check for parasites such as Demodex mites. Hair strands are also a good way to test for fungal infections.
  • Bacterial Culture and Sensitivity - Skin scraping can be used, as well as cotton swabs to check for bacterial infection and evaluate specific antibacterial efficacy.
  • Biopsy - Typically a secondary test where a small but deep section of skin is taken under light anesthesia or sedation and analgesia. This can give more information about tissue disease than a surface or less invasive test.
  • Fungal Culture - Fungal cultures are done similarly to bacterial except that hair samples may also be used in the test. A fungal infection can be a common complication with open and infected wounds or could be the cause.
  • Needle aspirate - A needle aspirate can be performed on any fluids contained beneath the skin to better determine the infective elements or causes for the reaction. Fluid can also be observed under a microscope to give a better picture of the condition. In this test, a small needle is used to puncture a fluid-filled area and take a sample.
  • Blood Test - This may not be warranted as a test immediately, but may be recommended  if there is a lack of response to initial treatment. Blood tests can be used to rule out or in some diseases that will affect the skin such as autoimmune diseases or neoplasia.
  • Allergy Testing - Allergy testing may be required if there isn’t a good response to medication. Skin and blood tests are both forms of allergy tests performed. It can be extremely helpful in targeting the factors in such a broad issue.
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Treatment of Acne in Dogs

Treatment tends to be quite simple, especially once any infections are diagnosed, and the initial cause is determined.

  • E-Collar – E-collars are used to prevent further trauma to the area by the dog. This tends to be temporary while infections clear and breakouts resolve.
  • Medicated Topical – Topical treatments are a commonly used treatment for many cases of canine acne. Shampoos, cleansers, creams, and wipes may all be prescribed. Topical treatments might need to be used for the dog’s lifetime to prevent more breakouts. Benzoyl peroxide can flush out and clean follicles. Topical retinoids can be drying and cause irritation to the skin. Topical steroids should only be used as a short-term solution as they can cause adrenal suppression. 
  • Natural Topical - Studies are being conducted on the benefits of coconut oil for dogs, and a recent development is the use of coconut oil for dog acne with an antimicrobial effect against fungus and yeast. A pea-sized amount for every 10 pounds of weight can be applied to the acne and surrounding areas. Ask your veterinarian about trying coconut oil to maintain the skin after prescribed medications are complete.
  • Oral – Oral medications might be used in combination with topical treatment for certain causes or in more difficult cases. Antibiotics or antifungals are the most common medications prescribed. Oral medications are usually taken between 2-3 weeks in duration. Oral antibiotics can cause some G.I. upset, like diarrhea.
  • Natural Oral - Coconut oil can improve skin and haircoat; the coconut oil dog dosage is 1/4 teaspoon for every ten pounds, but start slowly with its use and consult your veterinarian before giving any treatments to ensure that there is no contraindication with medications your dog is being given.
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Recovery of Acne in Dogs

Follow-up appointments are extremely important in treatment and recovery of canine acne due to the large number of possible causes. Initial tests and treatments will tend to be basic, and follow-up appointments help veterinarians and owners determine any other necessary tests or treatments based on results. The veterinarian will most likely have your dog come back within two weeks to make sure any oral antibiotics/antifungals have been effective, and the topical medications are working without negative effects.

Management is key to treatment of canine acne because it has a high tendency to reoccur once it has developed. It also continues to worsen without proper treatment. Preventative care such as topical cleansers, medicated wipes, and shampoos can regularly be used. 2% benzoyl peroxide cream can help for mild outbreaks. Removing or avoiding the cause is ideal for treatment. Diet change, switching plastic to metal food bowls or grooming changes are often necessary. If a cause can be determined, and the infection is minor, full recovery is expected in less than a month.

Relapse Risk

The risk of relapse depends on the cause and whether a specific cause can be determined. In most cases of canine acne, once the condition has presented the likelihood of recurrence is moderate to high. Long-term or lifelong treatment may be necessary to prevent relapse. 

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Acne Average Cost

From 311 quotes ranging from $100 - $600

Average Cost

$250

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Acne Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Rottweiler

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Eleven Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Under mouth is a red and swollen area that started small and grew and is now bleeding on occasion

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Shepherd

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Puppy keeps hacking as if he’s going to vomit but nothing comes out. Also has red bumps under his chin by lower lip.

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. If he is coughing frequently it would be a good idea to have him examined by your veterinarian. They can assess the cough as it could be an upper respiratory infection. They may also recommend chest x-rays to assess the lungs (to rule out pneumonia) and heart. For the chin acne there are medicated wipes they can provide or if more serious oral antibiotics to help clear it up. Take care.

July 28, 2020

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Acne Average Cost

From 311 quotes ranging from $100 - $600

Average Cost

$250

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