Table of Contents
What Is Dog Acne?
Dog acne, also called muzzle folliculitis and furunculosis, is an inflammatory disorder of the skin of a dog’s muzzle and/or lips. The skin lesions are small areas of inflammation surrounding irritated or infected hair follicles.
What Causes Dog Acne?
How dogs develop acne is thought to be a result of when small hairs around the mouth are injured or broken, often during activities like itching, rubbing at the muzzle, or playing.
The force from these activities may cause trauma to the hair and its associated hair follicle within the dog’s skin. The hair follicle may then become inflamed and even rupture, spreading the inflammation further into the surrounding area and potentially leading to infection.
Young, short-haired dogs tend to be most prone to dog acne. Breeds that commonly develop acne include Boxers, English Bulldogs, Pugs, French Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Weimaraners, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shorthaired Pointers, but other breeds may also be affected.
Dogs that frequently itch at their faces or rub their muzzles may have underlying allergies. Environmental allergies, food allergies, and flea allergies are the most common types seen in dogs, and all can cause significant itchiness that may result in dog acne.
Additionally, other conditions like skin mites can cause itching around the face and can mimic symptoms of dog acne. If you notice that your dog is frequently itching itself or rubbing its face or muzzle, you should have the dog examined by a veterinarian to determine potential causes and appropriate dog acne treatment.
What Does Dog Acne Look Like?
Dog acne is a skin condition that most commonly appears as raised, round skin red bumps on the muzzle or lips. These bumps may be red in color, have overlying hair loss, or be scabbed over or actively bleeding.
Lesions may also look like blackheads or pimples on a dog’s lips or chin. In severe cases, the lips or muzzle may become swollen and uncomfortable, and scabbing can lead to further inflammation and scarring.
How Is Dog Acne Diagnosed?
In dogs of an age and/or dog breeds that have a genetic predisposition to canine acne, the condition can sometimes be diagnosed based on the clinical appearance of the characteristic red bumps around the dog’s mouth.
However, to rule out other potential causes of dog pimples or bumps around the mouth, and to determine the most appropriate treatment options, other diagnostics may be recommended.
These may include the following:
- An impression smear, which checks for bacterial or yeast overgrowth or abnormal skin cells
- Perform skin scraping, which looks for the presence of harmful skin mites
- A skin culture, which diagnoses bacterial or fungal skin infections
- A biopsy, which checks for abnormalities in the skin tissue
Treatment for Dog Acne
If you notice that your dog has acne, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who will diagnose acne and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Often, mild to moderate cases of dog acne can be effectively handled with a topical treatment and with medicated soaps, shampoos, wipes, or ointments.
These topical agents may contain chlorhexidine, which has antibacterial activity; benzoyl peroxide, which helps to clear pores, eliminate blackheads, and kill bacteria; or other topical antibiotics.
In severe cases of acne in dogs, oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory agents may be prescribed in addition to topical treatments. Dog owners should NEVER try to treat dog acne with human acne medications.
It is also important to note that successful long-term treatment of canine acne involves identifying and eliminating any underlying cause predisposing dogs to recurrent acne.
For example, in dogs with acne due to itching from underlying allergies, it is important to treat the allergy to control the itching, in addition to treating the acne itself.
Anti-itch medications or oral steroids may be prescribed for long-term use or for use as needed in these acne cases.
Recovery from Dog Acne
Once a dog’s acne is effectively treated, owners must monitor their pups for more lesions and take action to prevent a recurrence. This involves multiple considerations, including:
- Removing abrasive food bowls or toys that may damage the hair follicles around the face
- Regularly washing bowls and favorite toys to minimize bacterial contamination from acne
- Gently wash the dog’s muzzle, lips, and facial skin folds regularly with the appropriate pet shampoos or wipes to prevent accumulation of debris, bacteria, or yeast on the skin surface
- Thoroughly drying the face after washing is also important, as chronic moisture on the skin can increase the risk of skin infections
- Managing any itchiness and excessive scratching or other underlying conditions of your dog’s acne as recommended by a veterinarian
- Avoiding popping pimples or aggravating skin lesions, which increases acne inflammation and risk of infection
Mild, uncomplicated cases of dog acne may resolve with regular face washing and good hygiene practices, but moderate or severe cases usually require treatment with topical agents possibly containing benzoyl peroxide or oral medications like antibiotics or steroids.