Can Dogs Get Pimples? Causes And How To Avoid Pimples

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can dogs get pimples

Can dogs get pimples? Well, the answer is yes! Dogs can get acne too, just like us. It can be diagnosed by your local veterinarian. 

Some of the signs that are easily recognizable are blackheads, red bumps, and redness around the muzzle area.

Although canine acne has very specific characteristics, it can be confused with several other skin conditions that we will discuss below.

What Is Canine Acne?

According to VCA Animal Hospital, canine acne is an inflammatory issue that occurs on a dog’s lips and skin on their muzzle [1].  

In severe cases, the lips and muzzle can become inflamed, and the pimples can bleed and scab over. 

In the worst-case scenario (that would likely happen from going untreated) can consequently become permanent scars. 

How Does Canine Acne Start? 

The thought of canine acne might be a bit odd to most people, and to add to the peculiarity of it all, the reason for why it occurs is still unknown. 

We do, however, have statistical data of the dog breeds that are most typically seen experiencing acne. 

Commonly Affected Breeds [2

Rottweiler Great Dane
Weimaraners Boxer
English BulldogsDoberman Pinschers
MastiffsGerman Shorthaired Pointers

You will notice that brachycephalic breeds are often affected. Brachycephalic is referring to their short and “scrunched” snouts. For example pugs, boxers, bulldogs all have that shortened bone structure that we often see as adorable.

With a snout like this, it causes prominent skin folds that are a primary spot for irritation, bacteria, and acne.  

How Is Canine Acne Diagnosed? 

For the most part, a veterinarian is able to decipher if your pet has canine acne just from the external appearance.

The location of the acne (lips and muzzle) is a specific tell-tale sign. The tricky part about these certain locations though is the risk of infection due to the pet’s fur. 

This acne can be activated by trauma or stress to the face and chin area and lead to a breakout. 

A lot of the time, canine acne can cause irritation to the hair follicles. They can swell and even rupture.

A ruptured hair follicle will leak onto the surface and hair around it, creating a space for bacteria and infection, not to mention general pain and discomfort! 

4 Ways To Treat Dog Pimples

The first thing to do when you notice your dog has pimples is to visit your vet first.

Don’t try to solve the problem by yourself, otherwise, it can get worse.

However, there are some rules you can follow in order to help your dog with pimples problems.

Do not pop them

Just like we are told not to pop our own pimples, do not try to do this to your dog! 

It can be painful and worsen the condition as well as increase the chance of infection. 

Eliminate potential culprits 

In addition to leaving the pimples be, you can try to find the source of the problem. 

If your dog wears a muzzle, rubs their snout on their cage or food bowl, chews sticks or bones frequently, digs in the dirt, or scratches at their face a lot, it could cause irritation to their mouth and surrounding area and result in acne. 

Canine acne can often be misinterpreted for several kinds of skin conditions.  

Use medicated shampoo

There are so many options out there that are used to treat acne in dogs. One of them is medicated/antibacterial shampoos.

Most of them contain Aloe Vera, which is one of the best plants out there for skin problems.

Even though Aloe Vera is used in human treatments too, you should not use human shampoo or creams on dogs.

They can dry out the sensitive skin and, in some cases, adverse reactions might occur.

Clean your dog’s toys, bowls, and bed

Make sure your dog has a bed that has washable covers, so they can be cleaned or replaced when it’s needed. Toys, beds, and bowls should be regularly cleaned.

But cleaning your dog’s bowl is not sufficient. You should buy your dog glass, metal, or ceramic bowls. They retain fewer bacteria than plastic bowls.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are tumors under the skin that are almost always harmless. They appear more often as a dog ages. 

They can be found anywhere on the dog’s body and vary greatly in size and even shape. They can also feel soft or firm. 

Since they are benign, there is little to nothing to do with them.

Some pet owners will get them tested to be sure that they are harmless tags and some choose to have them removed from their pet for cosmetic reasons. 

If you chose to get them removed, here are some things to consider: 

Age of your dog is important

Removal could require general anesthesia, which is a significant procedure for your pet to go through.

Their ability to withstand that amount of medication severely decreases with age and can take a toll on their immune system. 

Quality of life

If they are not bothered with their tags, then the veterinarian will advise them to be left alone.

There are cases where a tag can be located on a tricky spot on the body that would cause daily irritation and could be approved for removal. 

However, a rule of thumb in the veterinary world is to subject the animal to the least amount of treatments or procedures possible. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. 

Please, do not ever try to remove a skin tag on your own! If it must be removed then it needs to be done by professional medical experts.  

Skin tags grow slowly, so if you notice one day that your dog has a bump, keep an eye on it for the next week or so.

If it grows within the span of a week, make a vet appointment

Growing rapidly or even doubling in size is a sign of a malignant tumor that is NOT a skin tag. 

What Kind Of Lumps Can I Find On My Pet? 

Dogs can have all kinds of lumps and bumps found on their body. Most of the time, they seem to come out of nowhere and can cause some worry.

If it’s a soft and squishy bump that is small or large, it is likely to be a lipoma. This just means that it’s a bump filled purely with fat cells and is also harmless. 

Lipomas can get surprisingly large and because they are filled with fat cells, they can correlate with canine obesity and diabetes. 

Monitoring your dog’s diet is important for the prevention of these, especially as they get older. Read our article on How Heavy Should My Dog Be if you are more interested in this topic.

Lipomas don’t really have any treatment either. Depending on the size and location, they can be left alone. In more severe cases they could be drained or removed completely. 

Another mysterious acne-like bump you might come across is a wart. A veterinarian would call them “papillomavirus.” 

Luckily, they are also benign and tend to go away on their own as the body slowly builds up immunity against them.  

They can pop up anywhere along the body, but they are especially seen on the feet, even in the paw pads and in and around the oral cavity, which is why they are easy to confuse with acne. 

Different Types Of Bites Your Dog Might Have

Bites can resemble acne scabs or scars. It’s important to be able to differentiate the various kinds.


Ticks are tricky and you can literally see them jumping off your dog’s body! They like to migrate by the head, neck, ears, and paws. 

Ticks carry a lot of diseases and can cause real harm! There are roughly three kinds you may or may not have heard of before. 

American Dog Tickamerican dog tickThis one is known for preferring dogs as their hosts. They are also called the wood tick and cause the spread of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs and humans [3]. 
Brown Dog Tickbrown dog tickThis species is unique because it is capable of completing its life cycle indoors and outdoors. This is why infestations of these creatures can occur within kennels, homes, and colder climates [4]. 
Deer Tick deer tickThese ones transmit the infamous Lyme’s Disease, which is a life-long and sometimes fatal ailment. Symptoms can take time to develop and can look like limping, or overall joint pain, fever, decreased appetite, and reduced energy levels [5].

Ticks hide out in tall grassy areas so it is best to have your dog on a monthly flea and tick preventative (and heartworm preventative) and check them when they come inside! 

We would also strongly recommend getting your dog the vaccine for Lyme. You can simply feel around their head, paws, and bodies, preferably with gloves on in case you do catch one.

There is a safe way to remove ticks from your dog on your own. The technique is very specific but it is successful:

Step 1: Wear gloves and get a small plastic bag 

Step 2: Grab a pair of tweezers

Step 3: With a firm grip on your dog and the tick located, you will want to place the tweezers at the tick’s head, as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Pull straight up firmly, do not twist. 

Step 4: Place the tick in a ziploc bag.  


Flea Warning Signs [6

  • Dark specks found in the fur or carpet can represent flea droppings
  • White specks found in the fur or carpet can represent flea eggs 
  • Scabs or hot spots found on the fur and excessive licking of the area 

One flea can lay nearly 50 eggs a day and an infestation can happen almost immediately. If they get inside your house and in the carpets and furniture, you will need an exterminator or a complete replacement of all items. 

Fleas can consume large amounts of blood and cause anemia quickly, especially for puppies. 

Signs of anemia would be pale gums and extreme lethargy. 

Dogs can catch fleas anywhere, especially outside. They are the most common cause of skin disease for dogs and cats [7]. 

Dogs can be specifically allergic to flea bites which would look like:

  • Excessive itching 
  • Hair loss right before the start of the tail 
  • Red, irritated skin, and scabs 

Acquiring a flea comb would be helpful for weekly checks at home.

Running the comb from the base of the neck all the way to the tail will scoop up any flea dirt, or droppings, or eggs and be all the evidence you need. 

Spider Bites

Spider bites can occur anywhere on the body and can present as a pink to red swollen-looking bump, possibly resembling canine acne. 

There are two main types of spider bites that are usually seen: 

  • The Widow Spiders (ex: black widows)
    • Can develop symptoms 8 hours after bite 
    • The reaction to this spider is generally low. There might be some redness and swelling 
    • More severe reactions could include vomiting, diarrhea, abdomen pain, muscle cramping, and shaking [8]. 
    • Will still need to see a veterinarian immediately for treatment. 
  • Recluse Spiders (ex: the brown recluse)
    • These bites have significant impact 
    • Noted for its bullseye lesions at the affected site. It looks like a red circle with a pale middle that turns darker as the tissue dies [9]
    • Your pet would need immediate medical attention. 

One More Mix Up

Another common misconception for a pimple is a mast cell tumor (MCT), which is a form of cancer.  

A mast cell is a variation of a white blood cell that is known as the allergy cell [10]. 

When exposed to an allergen, these cells release amounts of histamine that are meant to fight off any intruders but can actually cause fatal responses (like anaphylaxis) when too much is expressed. 

MCTs can pop up anywhere on the body, but on the snout is a common area. It would look almost like a boyle as opposed to a pimple on the face.  

Unfortunately, there are breeds that are noted the most common to get mast cell tumors[11]:

  • Bull Terriers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Labrador Retrievers 

Fortunately, the treatment and prognosis are fair! 

Diagnosis would be determined by your vet and they would grade the severity of the tumor from one to three. 

Sometimes it can be as easy as a quick removal, or it could require radiation therapy. Every situation is unique. 

Can Food Help With Dog Acne ?

A quality diet can always bring some health benefits to your pet’s digestive system and overall quality of life. 

Diet is especially important for dogs who have skin issues and allergies, which canine acne falls under.  

Though there aren’t any hard facts as to what causes this acne, there is a hygienic component to it. 

  • Making sure your dog has regular baths can help keep their coats clean
    • Especially if you have a dog with lots of skin folds or one who loves to roll their face in the grass and dirt. 
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth as often as possible
    • Dental hygiene goes a long way in overall immune system strength! 
  • Keeping their diet clean
    • Clean meaning no sugary or fatty snacks
    • Be strict with their dog food and incorporate meal additives that include canine health benefits 
    • Bananas, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, apples, and flaxseed are all tasty meal mixers that provide quality nutrients. 

Can Supplements Help With Acne? 

Canine acne can be treated through prescribed veterinary medicine. If and only if you are told by your veterinarian that specific over-the-counter products can be helpful, then it would be safe to try.

Otherwise, we would strongly advise you not to give your dog any type of supplement. 

The Bottom Line

Canine Acne is a real thing, and it’s relatively harmless.

If you notice bumps or scabs on your dog’s face or body, don’t assume that you know what it is. 

It is always safest to get a professional medical opinion first. 

Photo of author
Rachel Wood

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