Can Dogs Get Pimples? Canine Acne

Golden retriever next to a pimple while his owner is wondering can dogs get pimples

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Our dogs don’t seem too different from us when it comes to health conditions and concerns. They can get a lot of diseases that we can too. And even though their skin seems so much different from ours, it really isn’t. They need regular washing with a good shampoo, they can get wrinkly with age, and unfortunately they can also get skin cancer. But can dogs get pimples? It would totally make sense as we know that their skin is similarly build to ours. Here’s what science has to say about that.

Can dogs get pimples?

Dogs absolutely can get pimples! This condition is called canine acne. It’s an inflammatory disorder that most commonly affects the lips and the skin of the muzzle. In mild cases, pimples appear as red bumps on the skin. In severe cases, acne can lead to swelling of the lips and/or muzzle, bleeding or scabs. If untreated, they can even lead to permanent scaring.


Canine acne is most commonly diagnosed by clinical appearance. The skin lesions that are distributed around the lips and muzzles are quite specific for this skin condition in dogs.

In some cases, however, the vet may require a biopsy of the skin to confirm the diagnosis. This will be done to rule out other possible skin abnormalities. Often, a bacterial culture is done as well. This helps to identify the bacteria that’s causing the acne in your dog. That way your vet can prescribe the appropriate antibiotics.

Layers of a dog’s skin showing how canine acne develops
Canine acne can be triggered by skin trauma which causes the hair to break off. This leads to inflammation within the hair follicle and eventually the rupture of the follicle.

Why does canine acne develop in the first place?

It’s not fully known why canine acne develops. It’s mostly believed that genetic predisposition plays a huge role. That would explain why some dog breeds (such as Boxers, English Bulldog, Rottweilers) are more prone to it than others.

Canine acne can be triggered by skin trauma which causes the hair to break off. This leads to inflammation within the hair follicle and eventually the rupture of the follicle. The ruptured follicle releases it’s contents into the surrounding skin. This creates the inflammation within the skin. Bacteria can easily colonize the damaged skin and lead to infection.

How can I treat pimples in dogs?

The most common way pimples in dogs can be treated is with benzoyl peroxide. This is an over-the-counter product that is used on the affected area of the skin. It reduces bacterial contamination and flushes out the hair follicle.

Other ways of treating canine acne are with the help of steroids, antibiotics or retinol. Your vet will be the one prescribing the best possible treatment for your dog. Don’t self-medicate your dogs acne and don’t use your own products on their pimples.

The treatment has to be done professionally. Especially if antibiotics are needed. Make sure to always follow the instructions that were given to you by your vet.

Can I do anything at home to help when my dogs get pimples?

The one thing your shouldn’t ever do when either you or your dog get any pimples is to pop them! Don’t pick on pimples, don’t pop them, in short — don’t touch them at all! Squeezing then will increase the likelihood of hair follicles rupturing and lead even worse inflammation.

If you want to prevent the pimples from developing, minimize the chances of skin trauma. Little skin abrasions can lead to the development of pimples on your dog’s muzzle, lips or chin. The little cuts happen most commonly when your dog is eating from a bowl that’s sharp around the edges or when he is scratching it’s face. Identifying where the trauma comes from and decreasing it, will also decrease the likelihood of pimples developing in the first place.

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