A dog laying next to an owner doing a facial, with the owner offering the dog a cucumber.

Can Dogs Get Acne?

6 mins |

Acne is a skin condition that develops due to the clogging of hair follicles that can lead to an inflammatory response. Dogs may get exposed to a range of skin issues, like eczema, allergy, and dermatitis. But can dogs also get acne?

Just like humans, dogs can also get acne near the chin or muzzle. The reason involves clogging of the hair follicles due to excessive sebum or trauma to hair follicles releasing its contents, triggering an inflammatory reaction. Mild cases involve pimples or red bumps, and more serious cases may involve bleeding wounds and swelling. 

What Is Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition in dogs, it commonly affects the skin of the lips, chin, and muzzle and involves hair follicles and sebaceous glands in the middle skin layer. 

In mild cases of acne, red bumps or pustules, also called pimples, develop on the skin. In some severe cases, acne may involve painful swelling of the lips, muzzle, and cheek. Moreover, bleeding wounds or scars may develop later on. 

How Does Acne Develop In Dogs?

Acne develops as an inflammatory response to trauma to the hair follicles, which releases its contents into the surrounding dermis (skin layer). These contents are treated as a foreign substance and trigger an inflammatory response by the body’s immune system. 

Although initially, the inflammation is non-infectious in nature, bacteria may colonize the damaged skin tissue and cause a skin infection like pyodermatitis. 

In addition, allergens and excessive sebum production cause clogging of the hair follicles, leading to inflammation. 

Causes Of Acne In Dogs?

There are a number of factors responsible for causing acne in dogs. Given below is a list of these factors.


Among other causes, genetic predisposition is an important factor that exposes some of the dog breeds to acquire acne at one point or another in their lifetime. These breeds include Mastiffs, Boxers, Great Danes, English Bulldogs, Shorthaired Pointers, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers.

Hormonal Imbalance

Much like humans, dogs can develop acne as they hit puberty because of a causal relationship of sex hormones in the development of acne due to high sebum production (a waxy oil that moistens the skin).

This is also seen in pregnancy. As sebum production increases, it causes the hair follicles to clog, providing a favorable environment for bacteria to lodge in these clogs, causing inflammation and infection of the skin. 


Food or environmental allergens may cause hypersensitivity reactions in the skin near the lips and muzzle, causing inflammation. This resolves when the allergen is identified and removed. An example is a particular food ingredient like protein derived from pork meat, etc. 


As discussed earlier, any kind of trauma to the hairs close to the lips and muzzle may damage the hair follicles and the release of its contents, which triggers an immune response leading to acne. 

Bacterial Skin Infections 

Traumatized or clogged hair follicles can attract bacteria to colonize and cause skin infections. Staphylococcus and streptococcus infections are commonly characterized by red painful patches and scaly or crusty skin with pustules. 

How To Diagnose Acne In Dogs?

An owner doing a facial home spa treatment while holding and looking at their dog.
Spa day for both?

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of the skin lesions and rule out other causes of dermatitis in dogs. The specific location of lesions on the lips and muzzle will also aid in establishing the diagnosis of acne. Furthermore, red bumps or pimples signal acne.

A thorough history of diet, housing, and previous skin issues and allergies will also aid the veterinarian in establishing a diagnosis. 

Your veterinarian may perform a number of tests as well, like a skin biopsy or skin scraping test, and look under the microscope to identify the cause of acne. In addition, culture and sensitivity tests may be performed to isolate the causative agent in case of infection.

Are Some Breeds More Prone To Develop Acne? 

As discussed earlier, some breeds have a genetic tendency to develop acne. Acne is most commonly seen in short-haired breeds. More specifically, these breeds include Boxers, Mastiffs, English Bulldogs, Shorthair Pointers, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers. 

Are There Any Other Inflammatory Skin Conditions In Dogs Resembling Acne?

When diagnosing acne, a veterinarian will look for similar inflammatory skin conditions in dogs that resemble acne, including folliculitis, pyoderma, and seborrhea.


This is an infection of the hair follicles that can cause red, swollen, and itchy skin, with or without pimples. This condition is often caused by bacteria or yeast.


This is a bacterial skin infection that can cause pustules or pus-filled lesions on the skin. This condition is often seen in dogs with underlying skin allergies or hormonal imbalances. This is commonly caused by staphylococcus and streptococcus.


This is a condition that causes excessive oil production in the skin and can lead to red, scaly, and itchy skin. It can also cause blackheads and comedones, which can resemble acne.

Can We Pop The Pimples On A Dog’s Skin?

As an owner, one may get the temptation to pop the pimples on a dog’s lips or muzzle in an attempt to provide relief. However, it is advised not to attempt any such act. Also, popping a pimple will release infectious contents and exudate that will further damage the dermis, and the skin may get infected, making matters worse. Moreover, always consult your veterinarian regarding appropriate treatment measures for acne in dogs. 

Treatment And Prevention Of Acne In Dogs

After a thorough examination of the lesions, a veterinarian may recommend some treatment plans, including topical antibiotics in combination with corticosteroids. In mild cases, topical benzoyl peroxide is used for flushing out the hair follicles. 

For infections like pustular dermatitis, a broad-spectrum oral antibiotic therapy may be initiated for a period of 3 to 4 weeks after the culture and sensitivity testing and identification of the causative agent.

Veterinarians will use antihistamines and corticosteroids for allergies. Moreover, they will identify and remove specific allergens. 

Prevention strategies include:

  •  Providing a clean environment
  •  Regular bathing using a pH-balanced shampoo for healthy skin and coat 
  •  A balanced hypoallergenic diet
  •  Avoiding using oil-based skin products that may clog a dog’s skin, and keeping the face clean from dirt to prevent hair clogging

Conclusion: Can Dogs Get Acne?

In conclusion, dogs, much like humans, are prone to get acne, characterized by raised bumps or pimples on the face, muzzle, and lips. Also, there are a number of causes for this inflammatory condition, like trauma, puberty, allergy, excessive sebum, and infection, to name a few. Acne is quite common in short-haired breeds, but with proper care and guidance, one can manage acne and stop it from getting worse.

So, are you noticing acne in your dog? Let us know what’s going on in the comments below!

Shahzaib is a qualified veterinarian and professional writer. He is from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. He did his DVM from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Being a Veterinarian, Shahzaib has technically sound knowledge of pet health, nutrition, breeding, and housing. He has more than two years of experience in small animal medicine and surgery. Currently, he is working as an Associate Veterinarian in a renowned pet hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan.