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Can Dogs Get Pimples?


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Remember the horror of being a teenager with pimples, those inflamed and sometimes infected pores or hair follicles clogged with oil and dirt? You’d wash your face with special soap, use smelly astringents, put on benzoyl peroxide, and maybe even take some pills or apply some high-dollar ointment your parents made you get from the dermatologist. But still, without fail, when it was time for a school dance or to give a speech in front of the student council, Mount St. Helens would appear on the tip of your nose. In people, acne can cause physical and emotional discomfort and scars. Oh for the life of a dog, who doesn’t have to deal with these human problems, right? Wait a second, can dogs get pimples too?

Can Dogs Get Pimples?


Dogs can most definitely get pimples, especially short-haired breeds such as boxers, Doberman Pinschers, English bulldogs, Great Danes, Rottweilers, and others.

Does My Dog Have Pimples?

Like your pimples, a dog’s pimples will often itch and cause burning, discomfort, and pain when they are large, significantly inflamed, or raw from scratching. Dogs of any age can develop pimples, which are usually concentrated on the chin and lip area of the muzzle, and can occasionally appear on the dog’s belly. As mentioned above, short-haired dogs are more susceptible to canine acne, but all dogs could, at some point in their lives, have a problem with pimples. It’s doubtful that your dog is worried about whether their zits will show in their yearbook photo, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your dog’s acne. Your dog is probably pretty uncomfortable. Plus, left untreated the condition could get worse by getting infected, and it might even be a symptom of another, more serious, underlying condition.

Most common cases of canine acne, especially on the chin area, are caused by the normal irritation that can occur when the chin rubs against various surfaces, causing the hair follicles to get clogged and inflamed. Your dog might also form pimples in a spot where she has been scratching too much because of skin that is irritated by some form of trauma or allergic reaction. There are some serious underlying causes of canine acne, such as autoimmune disease or metabolic disease, but these are less common. In order to diagnose your dog with acne and to begin determining the cause, your vet will likely employ one or more of the following diagnostic tools: skin scrape, hair pluck, bacterial culture, biopsy, fungal culture, needle aspiration, blood test, and/or allergy tests.

You can learn much more about the causes and diagnosis of pimples in dogs by visiting our guide to Acne in Dogs .

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Pimples?

Having diagnosed your dog with acne, your vet will likely utilize one or more of the following treatments.

Elizabethan collar

The dreaded cone of shame! As much as your dog hates to wear one and you hate to see him in one, sometimes these collars are necessary when a dog won’t stop scratching an area. The fact of the matter is that skin can’t heal if your dog keeps digging into it, breaking the skin and introducing all kinds of dirt and bacteria.

Topical Treatments

Most cases of canine acne will be treated with topical shampoos, cleansers, and/or creams. While some topical treatments simply serve the purpose of keeping the affected area clean, others have more medicinal purposes such as benzoyl peroxide, which dries out the area, and topical steroids, which can be used to help the inflamed area heal.

Oral Medications

Antibiotics may be given to fight bacterial infection and antifungals may be given to fight fungal infection.

With a vet’s help, consistency in treatment, and treating any underlying conditions, it is quite common that a dog’s acne will clear up within a month. If the area is kept clean and any known causes are removed from your dog’s diet or environment, your dog probably won’t need to be treated forever. That being said, it is not uncommon for a dog that has proven to be susceptible to forming pimples to have recurrences over time, especially if you become lax on grooming, diet, and environmental factors.

As you’re figuring out how to help your dog, it can be helpful to read the experiences of other dog owners and get questions answered by an in-house veterinarian by visiting Acne in Dogs .

How Are Pimples Similar in Dogs and Humans?

The biggest similarity between acne in dogs and acne in people is that it is a major bummer! Other than that, here are the main similarities in our experiences:

  • Whether it is on a dog or a human, a pimple is basically the same thing--a clogged pore.

  • Dogs can get blackheads and/or whiteheads, just like humans.

  • Dogs are like people--when they’ve got a zit, they just can’t leave it alone.

  • Like in people, a dog’s face, especially the chin, is the most susceptible to forming pimples.

How Are Pimples DIfferent in Dogs and Humans?

Although zits are no fun for either you or your furry friend, there are actually some differences between canine acne and human acne.

  • Unlike in humans, especially humans going through puberty, veterinarians do not believe that hormonal levels play a significant role in causing acne in dogs.

  • Canine acne doesn’t usually last for long multi-year periods of time. It tends to be a reaction to something in the dog’s environment.

Case Study

One day you notice that your full-grown Rottweiler, Stonie, keeps rubbing his chin on the carpet and scratching at it. When you look at it you can tell that the skin is red with inflammation and there are seven or eight bumps on his chin. If he was your 14-year-old son, you’d know exactly what those bumps are--zits! But this is your dog and dogs don’t get zits, do they?

You keep his chin clean with soap and water for a few days to see if it will clear up, but it doesn’t seem to be working. You take him to your vet, who examines the area and confirms that your dog does, in fact, have zits. She asks you some questions about what might have changed in Stonie’s environment in the last week. At first you can’t think of anything but then you remember that Stonie has a new dog bed. The vet prescribes some antibiotic ointment and suggests that you try going back to his old dog bed to see if it clears up. She also suggests that, if Stonie keeps scratching at it, he wear an Elizabethan collar for a few days so he can’t get at his chin. You follow the vet’s instructions--throw the new bed in the garage, put the cream on his chin twice a day, suffer through three or four days of the cone of shame, and a week or two later Stonie’s chin is pretty well cleared up.

Little did you know that the rougher textured fabric on the new dog bed you bought Stonie last week to celebrate the four year anniversary of his adoption was irritating the skin on his chin when he would lay down. After a week of naps, during which his chin rubbed against the new fabric, and then the resulting scratching of the area, some of the follicles of short bristly hairs on his chin had become clogged and infected, causing pimples. Stonie was pretty uncomfortable, but you’ve got it figured out now. The real bummer, though, is that you dropped $50 on that new dog bed that’s sitting out in the garage when you were originally just going to buy him a $5 rawhide.

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