You might have recently noticed the presence of ugly little red bumps on your dog’s normally perfect (and gorgeous) face. Or maybe the sudden appearance of numerous black spots on his belly has you bothered.
What’s going on?
The answer could be something you’re all too familiar with: pimples. Because yes, there’s such a thing as canine acne!
And this post will walk you through everything you need to know about dogs with pimples from what they look like all the way to prevention tips and easy home remedies to treat zit outbreaks.
What Does a Pimple Look Like on a Dog?
Dog pimples may appear as elevated red, brown or white bumps. They can also present as small black spots that we refer to as blackheads (also known as open comedones; closed comedones are whiteheads) or like small pus-filled blisters (pustules) with white or yellowish color.
When bacteria get into the dog’s skin via his hair follicles, his body’s immune system responds, and that results in inflammation, which presents as the raised red or brown bumps on your dog’s face or body.
A white or yellowish color, however, indicates that there is pus. Another way to put that is that the area has been infected.
The most commonly affected areas are the dog’s muzzle, so you will mostly find pimples on the dog’s chin, lips, and occasionally even the dog’s nose.
But pimples aren’t limited to the dog’s face!
Blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules can also be found on the dog’s belly or back and sometimes even on the tail.
When those “pimples” or bumps occur on body parts other than the muzzle then it’s most likely due to excess oil produced by the sebaceous glands. That kind of bump is called a sebaceous cyst.
A sebaceous cyst is a generally harmless lump – like a very large dog pimple – that develops because of a blocked oil gland. As long as it’s left alone, it should resolve on its own.
You might have also come across the term pyoderma used interchangeably with dog pimple, canine acne, or zits.
It’s important to note that while pyoderma literally means “pus in the skin”, pyoderma can be caused by many different things like inflammation and infection or even from abnormal cell growth (tumors). That is to say, pyoderma can indicate conditions beyond pet pimples.
In other words, although pet pimples are often harmless, they can sometimes signal more worrisome health concerns. To be on the safe side, always consult with your veterinarian.
What Causes Dog Pimples?
While the causes of canine acne aren’t fully understood yet, experts agree: your dog’s pimples are caused by clogged hair follicles.
Like humans, a dog’s skin is made up of three major layers. The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. A dog’s hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and claws (nails) grow out of this layer.
The sebaceous glands produce an oil called sebum and a normal amount of that oil protects your pet’s skin as well as coat, keeping it soft and shiny.
But an overproduction of sebum combined with the dead skin cells that dogs slough off cause blocked hair follicles.
Why Does My Dog Have Black Pimples?
Now about those black pimples you’ve spotted on your dog. Remember how a dog sheds dead skin cells? Well, when those dead skin cells and sebum are oxidized – exposed to air – they turn black forming the small dark spots we all know as blackheads.
With all that said, you want to know exactly what causes those blocked hair follicles and therefore pimples. Here are a few contributing factors.
Repetitive friction disturbs the hair follicles, which increases the chances of them becoming inflamed. That, in turn, can then trigger the formation of dog pimples.
Friction can arise from your dog’s chin constantly rubbing against his food bowl. It can also come from ill-fitting collars or harnesses that rub against the dog’s skin.
Lack of Hygiene
While the dog’s general cleanliness matters, particularly for breeds with extra skin folds or wrinkles, hygiene also refers to the dog’s surroundings.
Food and water bowls, toys, and their bed are all attractive breeding grounds for bacteria – especially if not properly cleaned and maintained.
If you want to step your cleaning game up, check my cleaning hacks for dog owners.
Like their human friends, canines can also develop pimples because of hormones. These hormones come with age – normally from the 8th month until they are one year of age – and can activate the overproduction of sebum.
Sebum is an oily secretion originating from the sebaceous glands, which is located adjacent to the hair follicle. When too much of it is produced, it ends up clogging the hair follicles and eventually causes pimples.
Puppy pimples will normally resolve themselves and disappear around the one year mark.
There are also hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism (a thyroid hormone deficiency) or Cushing disease that can be the culprit behind your dog’s pimples. Cushing disease is a relatively common endocrine disorder in older dogs in which the dog has elevated levels of the hormone cortisol.
Barring all the other reasons, some breeds are simply more prone to dog acne than others. Those breeds are:
- Great Danes
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shorthaired Pointers
If you own one of these breeds just be aware that pimples are a very real possibility so do keep an eye out for them.
Dogs with skin folds or extra wrinkles around their face and those with short and bristly hairs around the muzzle are also at greater risk for canine acne.
There are other environmental factors and health conditions that can be causing your dog’s pimples.
Flea allergy dermatitis or allergies to certain foods cause skin irritation and inflammation that can contribute to canine acne.
They can be behind lesions and sores that might look similar to dog pimples. To the non- professional eye, ringworm might be mistaken for canine acne.
Mange mites (Demodex) can also cause skin reactions that can be mistaken for zits. These include the formation of red bumps (papules) and pimples.
Can I Pop a Pimple on My Dog?
Squeezing your puppy’s pimples is definitely NOT advised. Doing so can cause a lot more damage (albeit unintended) than good.
First of all, unless you’re a veterinarian or experienced pet professional, you aren’t trained to discern zits and swellings from other probable skin conditions.
How can you be sure that what you’re looking at are really dog whiteheads or blackheads? Fiddling with growths on your pet’s body can unintentionally aggravate the problem.
And second, popping canine pimples can cause trauma to your dog’s skin. Those open wounds or lesions are then vulnerable to bacterial, yeast, and fungal infections that can proliferate on his body.
Therefore no matter how tempting, please do not pop your dog’s pimples.
How Do You Treat Dog Acne at Home?
Dogs, like humans, can experience varying degrees of canine acne from mild to severe.
Luckily, mild cases may be treatable naturally at home. Severe cases, on the other hand, will need a vet’s intervention.
Here are some natural dog acne cures you can try at home to treat puppy’s pimples.
Treating Mild Canine Acne
Aside from using it to prevent fleas and ticks, applying coconut oil to your dog’s skin and coat can help keep infections and inflammations at bay as well as keep your pup’s coat in great condition.
Put a small amount on your hands and apply it topically, once a week, by running your hands through your dog’s fur and by massaging the oil onto his skin.
Warning: Your dog may be allergic to coconut oil, so watch out for signs or symptoms of allergies in dogs.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe Vera soothes itchy, dry or cracked skin—not just in humans, but for dogs too!
If your dog suffers from canine acne, why not try using aloe vera gel as a remedy? Your first step is to clean the affected area with a wet cloth and then carefully apply the gel to the problem areas. You may also use shampoos that contain aloe vera to help soothe the inflamed skin.
Warning: Although it is safe to use on the skin, the aloe vera plant is toxic for dogs and therefore not to be consumed or ingested. Stick to topical treatments manufactured specifically for dogs.
Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another popular home remedy for dog pimples because it’s affordable and easy to find in most supermarkets or grocery stores. And like coconut oil, it is a natural and organic way to treat itchy skin.
Note that you never want to use apple cider vinegar in its pure form. Always dilute it with water. A suitable solution contains 1:1 or 50/50 water to vinegar concentration.
Apply it directly to the skin using a cotton ball or put the watered-down solution into a spray bottle and squirt onto the acne-affected areas and skin.
While it might not get rid of the dog’s acne, it can help bring your dog’s scratching under control. That, in turn, allows the skin to heal and prevent potential secondary infections.
Warning: Apple cider vinegar is acidic and therefore acts as an irritant on open wounds or broken skin. In other words, it will sting and hurt like hell if applied to raw or injured skin.
Treating Severe Canine Acne
What about if your dog’s pimple outbreak is severe? Then it’s time to think of dog acne medication or a vet-mandated canine acne treatment plan.
Your vet will have to assess how serious your puppy’s pimples are. Cures can include a topical benzoyl peroxide treatment in dog-appropriate doses or medicated (anti-seborrheic) shampoos that contain sulfur or salicylic acid as active ingredients.
Depending on the etiology or causes for canine acne and just how stubborn it is to treat (plus whether there is an infection), the vet could opt for antibacterial ointments, oral antibiotics, and even corticosteroids for dogs.
Consult your vet for more information on appropriate dog pimple medicines.
How to Prevent Dog Pimples
You know what they say: prevention is better than cure. Fortunately, there are a few practical ways you can help your dog avoid getting pimples.
Maintain Good Hygiene
Regular dog grooming is your first line of defense against canine pimples.
You obviously can’t bathe your dog daily but you can clean his muzzle and make sure acne-prone areas are kept dry.
How? Just wipe down doggy’s chin and mouth area after meals and don’t forget to brush your best buddy’s teeth.
Don’t have a dental care kit for dogs? Does your dog really hate getting his teeth brushed? Learn how you can keep your dog’s teeth clean without a toothbrush!
And if you’re a first-time pet parent, these dog hygiene tips are a great introduction on how to care for your pet and his overall cleanliness.
Keep a Clean Environment
Cleanliness obviously goes beyond your puppy’s personal hygiene. It also means making sure you clean your dog’s environment – his bed, food and water bowls, and toys – on a regular basis.
What about if your dog is an outdoor dog? The same rules apply! Wash down concrete, tiles, or wood surfaces and sweep away unwanted leaves, dirt, and hair.
In order to keep doggy’s surroundings clean, there are two things you’ll want to consider when buying pet supplies.
The first is a chew-proof dog bed that you can also easily clean. The second is investing in durable food and water bowls, preferably made of stainless steel. Stay away from the cheap plastic variety.
- Some dogs develop allergies to plastic, which can trigger another set of allergy-related skin disorders.
- When it comes to dogs, plastic simply isn’t going to last long. Your dog is bound to chew on or scratch up the bowl. Cracked plastic bowls can lead to injury like little cuts or lacerations on doggy’s chin and mouth area.
Those damaged areas then become a prime breeding ground for bacteria on or scratch up the bowl. Cracked plastic bowls can lead to injury like little cuts or lacerations on doggy’s chin and mouth area. Those damaged areas then become a prime breeding ground for bacteria.
How Long Do Dog Pimples Last?
The duration of your dog’s pimple outbreak depends on multiple factors including his overall hygiene, environmental cleanliness, whether the breed is prone to pimples and relapse, and the efficacy of the dog acne treatment. It also depends if the acne is mild or severe.
In general, dog pimples can last from as little as 10 to 14 days or all the way up to 4 to 12 weeks for severe and stubborn cases.
If the dog is taking oral medications like antibiotics or antifungals, the duration can last 2 to 3 weeks until it clears up.
Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet immediately.