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Dog Acne

What Is Dog Acne?

Dog acne refers to inflammation affecting the lips and muzzle skin, presenting as red bumps or pimples. It typically initiates as folliculitis, wherein short hairs become inflamed beneath the skin’s surface. Alternatively, it may stem from furunculosis, characterized by painful, infected hair follicles filled with pus. These conditions result from trauma to the tissues, potentially leading to chronic complications like secondary bacterial or fungal infections. Dog acne is prevalent among young dogs of short-coated breeds.


Symptoms of dog acne typically manifest on the underside of the chin, the skin surrounding the mouth, and the lower lips. They may present as red bumps, patches of hair loss, and swelling in the muzzle area. With advancement, the bumps may get infected, increase in size, and discharge fluid.


The causes of dog acne often remain unidentified, although potential factors include:

  • Skin damage resulting from vigorous play or rubbing the face against rough surfaces.
  • Itching and scratching triggered by an underlying skin allergy.
  • Age, with most dogs experiencing chin acne between 6 months and a year old.

Breeds with short hair, such as Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, English Bulldogs, Great Danes, Weimaraners, English Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and German Short-Haired Pointers.

  • Dog acne is distinct in that it typically affects only the muzzle area of the dog. While the exact cause of acne remains unclear in many instances, it could stem from localized trauma due to rough play or rubbing the face against carpets or rough surfaces. Some pets may scratch and rub due to underlying skin allergies affecting various body parts, which can exacerbate or instigate the initial acne outbreak. Not all short-haired breed dogs develop chin acne, suggesting that genetics and environmental factors likely contribute to this condition.


If you suspect your dog has developed acne and is displaying any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s crucial to arrange a visit with your veterinarian promptly.

Your veterinarian will aim to rule out other potential conditions, including:

  • Demodicosis: A form of mange typically diagnosed via skin scrapings examined under a microscope.
  • Ringworm: In its early stages, this fungus may resemble acne, so your veterinarian may pluck several hairs for a culture, which usually takes 10 to 14 days for confirmation.
  • Puppy Strangles: A skin disorder appearing in puppies that can resemble acne.

Typically, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination and inquire about your dog’s diet, treats, supplements, and home environment. Questions may encompass the types of pet dishes used or the presence of other pets in the household, as some dogs may have a contact reaction to plastic bowls. Additionally, contamination of bacteria or yeast can hide in micro scratches on plastic dishes.

Your vet may also collect skin samples to detect secondary bacteria, yeast, or Demodex mites and might order a dermatophyte fungal culture. If the acne exhibits signs of draining, a bacterial culture may be obtained to determine the bacterial type. In rare instances, a biopsy may be recommended to assess deep-seated disease, unusual lesions, or cases resistant to treatment.


Treatment for dog acne involves a combination of medication, dietary adjustments, and behavioral interventions.

Your veterinarian may prescribe topical or oral medications aimed at reducing inflammation and combating bacterial infections, if present. These medications may include:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals

Behavioral therapy may be recommended to help your dog refrain from exacerbating the condition through rough play or rubbing their face against rough surfaces. Your veterinarian may also provide guidance on proper cleaning techniques for the affected area to prevent secondary infections.

If an underlying allergy is identified, your vet may propose dietary modifications, supplements, and allergy medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, as part of the treatment plan.

Living and Management

The majority of dogs suffering from acne typically recover well with appropriate treatment, although ongoing management is often necessary. This may involve measures to prevent recurring trauma, application of topical medications during flare-ups, and long-term allergy management if indicated. In severe cases, scarring may occur, increasing the likelihood of lesion recurrence.

Dog Acne FAQs

How can I assist my dog’s acne at home?

You can implement behavioral adjustments to minimize contact with rough surfaces or rough play, which can help prevent hair breakage. Additionally, maintaining cleanliness and dryness in the chin area can aid in preventing secondary infections.

Will dog acne resolve on its own?

Due to the inflammation of the follicle when the broken hair is pushed beneath the skin, dog chin acne typically requires some form of treatment. The intensity of treatment may vary from mild to significant based on the specific case. Dogs with deep skin infections (pyoderma) may necessitate several months of medication.

Is dog acne contagious?

In most cases, dog acne is not contagious. However, if there’s a secondary bacterial or fungal infection present, the likelihood of spreading the infection is minimal.

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