Pet Health

Dog Acne: What Is It and How To Treat It

Three Minutes
Jan 17, 2023

Does your pup have gnarly looking bumps on their chin? Don’t panic — your dog may just have acne. Canine acne is an inflammatory disorder that causes swelling and itching in or around the hair follicles, causing red bumps or pimples to form.³ Usually, pet parents find dog acne on their pup’s chin or around their muzzle.

Dogs, especially young adolescent dogs, go through puberty just like us. These hormonal changes don’t just include naughty behavior — they may come with a few pimples. Here are the basics about canine acne and what you can do about it.

What Causes Dog Acne?

Like with humans, acne happens when a dog’s pores get clogged by dirt, debris, and excess sebum. Unlike us, dogs don’t have fancy skincare regimens to keep their skin clean, so bacteria can wreak havoc on their skin. Here are some familiar places that can host acne-causing bacteria and fungi:³

  • Ceramic and plastic water bowls
  • Your yard
  • Other dogs
  • Dog beds
  • Crates

Luckily, most dogs experience acne due to hormonal changes. The breakouts tend to go away in less than 2 weeks.

Symptoms of dog acne

The most common signs of canine acne are:

  • Swelling of the lips or muzzle
  • Pimples on the chin, lips, or face
  • Excessive rubbing or scratching of the affected area
  • Skin lesions from scratching

Inspect the area carefully for signs of infection, like excessive pus. Make note of when the flare-up started and how long it lasts so you can work with your veterinarian for proper treatment.

When to call the vet

Acne isn’t a major health risk to dogs, but it can be very uncomfortable and unattractive. Chat with your vet about it and they’ll advise on if you should schedule an appointment. Most canine acne can be managed with over-the-counter shampoos and ointments, but your vet may insist on conducting tests to identify underlying conditions.

Some of the tests may be basic blood tests, skin cultures, and physical examinations. Many vets will want to rule out allergies, parasites, fleas, or skin conditions before prescribing anything that could make the flare-up worse.³,⁴ After the tests come back, they’ll usually make a decision based on what’s best for you and your family.

Common Dog Breeds That Get Acne

Some dogs are more likely to experience acne than others, so those little bumps may just be a part of the doggy package. Many brachycephalic breeds get acne due to the shape of their muzzle and the folds in their skin. Breeds that experience acne include:³

Chat with your vet about your dog’s specific needs if you own one of these breeds. They may be able to guide you on how best to manage their canine acne.

Is It OK To Pop a Dog’s Pimple?

The short answer is no. Popping your dog’s pimples can make their acne worse because the bacteria inside the pimple can spread. On top of that, the open wound can become reinfected and cause even more pain. Do yourself — and your pup — a favor by leaving the pimple popping to your vet. Your vet is typically trained to drain the pimples properly plus they could give you all the meds you need to keep the area clean.

Dog Acne Treatment Options

There are a few things that pet parents can do to manage their dogs' acne. Your vet may prescribe you antibiotics or antifungals if a skin culture shows an infection is present. If parasites and other disorders are ruled out, your at-home care may include:³’⁴

  • Topical benzoyl peroxide creams
  • Antibiotics
  • Topical or oral antifungals
  • Topical or oral steroids
  • Medicated shampoos

Keep in mind that you may have more than one of these treatment options given to you by your vet. Follow their instructions closely, especially with antibiotics, to avoid repeat flare-ups or antibiotic resistance.

How To Prevent Acne in Dogs

The simplest way to prevent dog acne is to practice good hygiene.³ You should bathe your dog regularly with vet-approved shampoos. If your dog isn’t due for a bath, you could simply wipe their muzzle with a damp cloth and diluted benzoyl peroxide. There are also dog acne wipes on the market that are easy to use.

Some other things you can do regularly to manage canine acne are:

  1. Switch ceramic and plastic bowls to stainless steel. Stainless steel is non-porous and easy to sanitize. Simply put them in the dishwasher for a wash and dry, and forget about it!
  2. Clean doggy blankets and beds regularly. It’s easy to neglect laundry day but don’t skip your dog’s stuff in the process! Opt for machine-washable dog beds or ones with zip-on covers to cut your cleaning time down.
  3. Talk to your vet about your dog’s diet. Since acne is usually a hormonal issue, you may be able to manage the acne with simple dietary changes. Consult with your vet and they can help guide you when making a diet plan.

Pet parents have a lot of control over this disorder, unlike other dog illnesses like cancer. Trust yourself and your vet to help your dog manage their itchy chin problems.

You Know What's Uglier Than Pimples? Vet Bills

Your dog’s acne may be able to be treated at home, but you might have to get special shampoos and medications that only your vet can provide. On top of the tests your vet may conduct, you may find yourself paying a few hundred bucks you weren’t prepared to spend. MetLife can help.

A dog insurance policy can potentially reimburse you up to 100% of your bill.¹,² Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2023 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.

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Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Acne in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

⁴ “Diagnosis of Skin Disease in Animals,” Merck Veterinary Manual

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