Red bumps, itchy spots—could it be that your dog has acne?
Believe it or not, your furry, four-legged friend is susceptible to acne. Fortunately, acne in dogs is similar to acne in humans: a benign disorder that typically only lasts a short while.
Also like their human counterparts, dogs tend to develop acne as teenagers. Generally when dogs reach adulthood, the acne will clear up, but it can return.
How can I tell if my dog has acne?
Most dog acne will take the form of pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads along the chin, lips, chest, or genital area. If the area is irritated, bleeding or pus can occur.
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms in the presence of dog acne:
- Red bumps
- Itchiness; your dog may rub against the carpet or furniture
- Bacterial infection, causing painful, pus-filled lesions
- Scars from healed lesions
What causes dog acne?
The cause of dog acne depends on the dog, and his environment. As acne is a normal part of aging in dogs, some breakouts could occur regardless of your care. Other times, dog acne can be caused by a hormonal change: allergies to a certain food or product, bacteria, poor hygiene, and more.
Some breeds are more prone to acne than others, including dogs with short coats—especially Boxers, Bulldogs, and Rottweilers.
What do I do if my dog has acne?
If you suspect your dog has acne, it’s important to take him to the vet. Your veterinarian will take note of the dog’s breed and the age at which the lesions began to appear. Although dog acne can clear up on its own, you want to rule out any serious diseases masquerading as such, including:
- Demodicosis: A skin disease in dogs caused by mites, which your vet will test by analyzing skin scrapings under a microscope.
- Ringworm: Early on, this fungus can resemble acne. Your vet will pluck hair for a culture test. Fungal infection tests can take anywhere from 10 to 14 days to determine.
- Puppy Strangles: A nodular and pustular skin disorder in puppies, this disease also resembles acne. The difference? Puppies with Puppy Strangles suffer from depression and will not eat.
Although irritating at first (to your dog, more than you), the good news is that dogs with acne are healthy, save for the lesions.
How do I treat dog acne?
Once your veterinarian has ruled out any serious diseases in your dog, he or she may prescribe a treatment plan. This plan could include any, or a combination of, the following solutions for ridding your dog of dog acne:
If your dog is no longer an adolescent, chances are his acne developed from bacteria or poor hygiene. Regular bathing, at least one time a week, will help keep your dog clean and bacteria-free.
Sometimes acne around a dog’s mouth is the result of poor hygiene. Try brushing your dog’s teeth a few times a week. Edible dental treats may also alleviate the issue as well.
Finally, trace your steps to see if your dog has taken to any new foods or products. Sometimes, an allergy flare-up can occur when new items are introduced into a dog’s routine.
If your vet recommends a medicated shampoo, your local pet store will most likely have the solution for you. Antibacterial or medicated shampoos designed for dogs that contain aloe vera or echinacea are especially helpful in treating skin problems in dogs.
And remember: as much as you love your dog, the expensive hair products in your bath are not the best solution for him. Dogs require products specifically made for dogs as shampoos, creams, and ointments for humans can contain chemicals too harsh for their skin.
Take note of whether the shampoo you are using is alleviating the problem or making it worse, as some products can lead to further irritation—even allergic reaction.
Medication & Supplements
In some instances, your veterinarian could prescribe medication and supplements to heal your dog’s acne. The range of solutions could include:
- Topical benzoyl peroxide gel
- Topical antibiotics, used to limit the infection
- Topical steroids to decrease swelling and inflammation
- Nutritional supplements
- Pills, including antibiotics
Let Time Pass
It may be tempting to pick at the acne, but know that this could make the problem even worse. Picking at the bumps can actually cause the acne to spread — even worsen. Applying a warm cloth to the area can help reduce swelling, but sometimes the best solution is to just let nature take its course.
Acne is prevalent in dogs, but does not last very long. As your dog heals, be sure to protect him from injurious situations and try to limit his activity. With time, you can come to expect—and see—a full recovery!