Wait, My Dog Has Acne? (Yes, Dogs Get It Too.)

Yep, dogs (and even cats) can develop acne during “puberty.” Did you know that? Keep reading to learn about symptoms, treatments and a list of precautions.

My dog has acne
“My dog has acne!” Yes, dogs (and cats) can suffer from acne.

When we think of acne breakouts we usually envision anguished teenagers, but dogs can get acne too.

Acne is a fairly common condition in dogs and usually affects the lip, chin, muzzle, backside and groin areas. Canine acne is most common in young dogs and can be painful in severe cases.

Some believe acne is predisposed to neutered males, but it is also common in some breeds such as Bulldogs, Dobermans, weimaraners, bull terriers and more.


Acne can occur in all dog breeds — and even cats. Acne typically starts at puberty (sound familiar?) and resolves itself at maturity (around one year of age in canines), although it can be a constant problem.

What Causes Dog Acne?

Some conditions are mistaken for acne and are usually ruled out first, such as ringworm, cellulitis or an overgrowth of mange mites. The possible causes of dog acne vary:

  • Poor hygiene (lack of bathing or dental brushing)
  • Bacterial infection
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Trauma

Dog Acne Symptoms

Besides the obvious pimple, there are other signs and symptoms that your pet is suffering from acne. You might notice one or many of these dog acne symptoms:

  • Red bumps
  • Black heads or white heads
  • Elevated bumps under the skin
  • Small lesions filled with pus
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Blistering
  • Hardened patches of skin
  • Scarring
  • Pain when touching the afflicted area
  • Rubbing on carpet or furniture

Diagnosing and Treating Dog Acne

Treating dog acne
Photo: Vet-Aid

Diagnosis is usually done by inspecting the affected area and reviewing the dog’s history, breed and age. The veterinarian may extract a sample or use skin scrapings to view under a microscope to identify the condition.

Samples may also be sent to a lab for further testing or if the initial treatment is not effective. Cultures can be grown from the sample to better identify which antibiotic would be most effective.

While the underlying cause may not be determined, treatments are available. A review of your regular hygiene would be beneficial to see where improvements can be made, if any. The affected area should be cleaned regularly, and you may be directed to bathe the dog with medicated shampoo.

Topical treatments can help in treating dog acne; these include creams and ointments provided by your vet. Some of these topical treatments may be antibiotic or steroid treatments. If it is a steroid treatment, you will need to use gloves to apply it to your pet.


Antibiotics are typically used for severe cases but may be added if topical treatments are unsuccessful in treating dog acne. Antifungal medication may be added if there is evidence of a secondary yeast infection. Neutering may be recommended for long-lasting cases.

During the treatment process it is important to minimize any scratching or rubbing of the area (or you may opt to have a cone placed around your dog’s neck).


There are several precautions when treating dog acne. Please keep these in mind before treatment:

  • Don’t use peroxide made for humans on your dog. A dog’s thin and sensitive skin is better treated with a weaker version (your vet can usually provide this).
  • Never use acne treatments designed for humans. While products like Clearasil or Proactiv may work wonders for you, they might make your pet’s condition much worse.
  • Resist the urge to pop the pimples. Squeezing or popping affected areas might rupture the subsurface hair follicles, spread a bacterial infection or cause inflammation. It can also cause pain and discomfort to your dog.

Some or all of the above treatments may be necessary. Discuss with your vet which course of action is right for your pet, and ask about possible side effects. Some cleansers can dry out or irritate skin, so have a plan in place to handle these possibilities.

Top photo: Tim Dorr/Flickr

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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