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Can Dogs Get Pimples? What You Need To Know About Canine Acne

From time to time, you may notice small bumps or red areas around your pup's chin or muzzle. This will likely lead you to wonder, "can dogs get pimples?" Surprisingly, canines not only can get zits, but they can suffer from acne just like us. In most cases, dog pimples are not a serious concern, but an acne outbreak can signify something that needs to be addressed. Dog and puppy acne is just one of the various skin conditions our four-legged friend can suffer from. Therefore, regular dog grooming, including skin care, is vital. Read on to discover what causes dog pimples and what you can do to treat and prevent them.

Dog Pimples 101

Your pet dog may get an occasional pimple, an acne outbreak, or persistent blackheads. This is because dogs like us have sebaceous glands in their hair follicles.  Canine acne and pimples occur when these glands become dirty, clogged with oil (sebum), or irritated. When this happens, the pores become raised, and if they develop a white head, the skin may break to release the pus below the surface.  On pups, spots look similar to how they do on humans, but with a canine's fur coat, they can be harder to spot. You may notice a white or red colored pimple-like bump on your dog, a cluster of blackheads, or crusty or bleeding dog sores under their chin.  Dog acne can show up in any of these ways. However, as it is due to an inflammatory disorder of the skin of the muzzle, it's most likely to affect the chin and mouth area. If you notice one zit, you can easily tell if it is a one-off or an acne outbreak by inspecting and feeling this area. If you notice red, black, or white head dog pimples, it's not necessarily a cause for concern, and you don't need to rush to the vet. This is especially true for young dogs, as puppy acne is expected because of the hormonal changes they are going through. Still, pimples can irritate dogs, causing them to itch and scratch. If your pup opens up a zit, bacteria can enter inside and cause infection, which can be severe and painful and require antibiotic treatment. Infected dog pimples will appear ruptured and oozing pus or liquid.  Like most canine health conditions, some breeds are more prone to acne. These are usually short-haired dogs, including Rottweilers, Boxers, Great Danes, Dobermans, Mastiffs, Pugs, and Pit bulls.

Dog Pimple Causes

Dogs can get pimples for various reasons, ranging from hormonal changes to poor hygiene to underlying conditions.
  • Hormones - Dogs can get acne and pimples at any age. Still, it is more common during adolescence as their hormones rapidly change. Therefore, teenage dogs may suffer from recurring breakouts.
  • Poor hygiene - One of the main reasons pores clog is due to dirt and debris. As you know, dogs love to play outdoors and don't think twice about rubbing their face in the mud. So, if you do not bathe your dog regularly, the chances of them getting pimples are high. Also, note that poor dental hygiene can also trigger acne.
  • Friction from collars - Besides dirt, foreign objects that rub against a pup's skin can evoke an acne breakout. Collars and harnesses that do not fit properly are the biggest culprits. What's more, the material of your dog's collar may also irritate the skin.
  • Plastic food and water bowls - Plastic is the worst material for harboring bacteria. Therefore, it's best to use stainless steel or ceramic bowls for your dog's food and water. 
  • Food allergies - Pimples can also indicate an allergy your dog has. If you have recently changed your dog's food and suddenly notice an acne breakout, this could be why.
  • Skin trauma - Dogs can damage their skin during rough play, a fight with another dog, or rubbing their chin too hard on a rough surface. Trauma to the skin can cause the fur to break off near the follicle, resulting in inflamed pores and pimple formation. 
  • Other skin conditions - Bacterial or yeast infections and skin mites can also inflame the pores, creating pimple-like bumps and sores.
  • Stress - While stress is one of the biggest causes of feline acne, it is a less likely but still possible reason for a sudden outbreak in dogs. So if a pup has recently experienced something traumatic, acne or other skin conditions can be their body's way of responding to the stress.

Treatment and Prevention

While dog acne treatments are available, practicing good hygiene is hands down the best way to keep canine acne at bay or prevent outbreaks from reoccurring. This includes a regular grooming routine with bathing, fur brushing, and checking for any skin issues.  How often you should bathe your dog depends on their breed and coat type but generally ranges from weekly to monthly. In addition to washing, you should brush your dog's coat daily, weekly, or somewhere in between, depending on its coat type. You should also opt for specialized dog shampoo and other cleaning products with ingredients like vitamin E that promote a healthy coat and skin. Avoid using human products as they may irritate the skin further and thus, worsen the condition. If your dog has persistent, severe or recurring acne, you should first take them to the vet for an examination. Wait for an official diagnosis before using any products, as the treatment protocol will vary depending on the severity and type of pimples. Moreover, your vet can determine if there is an infection or underlying condition. Your vet may diagnose canine acne on clinical appearance alone. However, if they suspect other skin disorders could be present, they may take a skin biopsy. The most commonly prescribed dog acne treatments are topical ones, such as benzoyl peroxide gels or creams. Note that while the acne treatments for dogs and humans may contain the same active ingredients, you should never use a product made for humans on your pup. This is because human-grade versions will likely be too strong or could even contain other ingredients not suitable for canines.  If your dog's acne is severe, your vet may prescribe steroids or antibiotics in addition to the topical treatments. Steroids like prednisolone can reduce inflammation, whereas antibiotics like mupirocin can decrease the bacteria causing the zits. Although it may be tempting, popping dog blackheads or spots is not a good idea. Just like with human spots, squeezing them increases the inflammation and opens up the skin, making it more susceptible to infection.

Final Thoughts

If you've ever wondered whether or not dogs get pimples, now you know they do. Dogs can get spots and blackheads for various reasons, so understanding the different causes can help you understand why it has happened. However, if you notice a pimple on your dog's lip, don't panic, as canine acne is usually not a severe condition. Moreover, following a regular grooming routine and practicing good hygiene can help keep painful and annoying zits at bay.
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