Do Dogs Get Pimples?

Close up of sleeping dog's nose.

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Ever wonder if it's possible, or normal, for dogs to get pimples? Yes, dogs can get pimples just like we can get pimples. The reasons behind them, though, aren't always the same as our hormonal zits and a lot of the over-the-counter zit creams and salves you might use for yourself may not be the best option for your pooch. Learn more about why your dog gets pimples, what underlying issues they could be facing, and when to worry.

Pimples on Dogs

Fur follicles are actually very similar to our own hair follicles in that both possess something called sebaceous glands. The main function of these glands are to produce an oil, called sebum, that protects the hair and keeps the skin resilient. When these glands become clogged the sebum can't be excreted as it normally is. Instead, it collects in the gland, forming a pustule, aka a pimple.

Just like us, dogs can get whiteheads, blackheads, and enclosed pimples as well. Regardless of the type of pimple, though, the cause is always a blocked fur follicle. The differences arises in the degree the follicle is clogged and how deep the clog is located. The most common locations for your dog to break out in zits are the muzzle, chest, and genital area.

Why Do Dogs Get Pimples?

While hormonal change is the most common reason we get pimples, it's actually not the most common reason dogs get them (although hormones can be a contributing factor). Certain breeds are just genetically predisposed to getting pimples. Boxers, English bulldogs, and Great Danes are just a few breeds that break out a little more frequently than other dog breeds.

Hygiene can be another cause for your pup's pimples. Dirt and debris on your dog's skin can clog their pores and cause a breakout. Keeping your dog clean, especially in the muzzle, chest, and, yes, nether region, can help prevent pimples forming for this reason. If you are seeing frequent break outs on your dog's muzzle/chin area, make sure to switch out their food and water bowls for stainless steel or ceramic if they are plastic. Plastic has a tendency to retain dirt and oil, which can definitely exacerbate a pimple problem.

Trauma, whether from a play fighting session or a tussle with another critter in the house, may cause fur to break off near the follicle. This can result in follicular inflammation. The inflammation can cause clogging of the sebaceous gland and, thus, pimple formation.

How Can I Help My Pimply Pup?

More often than not, your average, run of the mill canine acne is easily treated with a topical product. Your veterinarian can point you in the right direction of what would be best for your dog. A lot of the products on the market to help with our own acne breakouts may be irritating to your dog's skin, so never use your own skin care product on your dog without first checking with your vet.

There are certain instances where your vet may want to treat your dog's pimples with something more than just a topical to dry out the pimples. If your pup's skin is appearing to be more inflamed, if there is scabbing on the skin, or if they are licking and chewing their fur off, your vet may want to prescribe additional medications. These may include shampoos, topical antibiotics, topical steroids, and even, if the case is severe enough, oral antibiotics.

Even though your at-home acne treatments may not be the best treatment protocol for your dog, there is one thing that holds true for all pimples, regardless of person or pooch: don't pop them! Popping pimples can cause more inflammation and trauma to the area, which can increase the likelihood of more pimples forming on your dog. If your dog is getting breakouts in a specific area more frequently and you can identify a cause, try to decrease your dog's exposure to it. For instance, if your dog is prone to break outs on his muzzle and you've already switched out their bowls for non-plastic, be on the lookout for behaviors such as scratching at the muzzle or rooting around in the dirt outside. Both of these activities can cause follicular trauma in addition to introducing dirt to your dog's follicles.

Pimples can be a headache for anyone, but your dog's pimples don't have to be. If your pup is breaking out, contact your vet to help get your dog's skin looking clean and clear in no time.