Dog Acne: 5 Tips for Healthy Dog Skin

6 Minute Read
Updated March 6, 2020

Oh no, your dog's got zits! Can dogs even get pimples? As it turns out, dogs can, and do, get pimples. Fortunately, dog acne is quite common and easily treatable using our 5 tips for clearing your dog's skin.

Acne in dogs is unpleasant to look at, but in most cases, very easy to treat. To help you get started, let’s talk about what’s causing your dog’s pubescent skin issues and find out how you can get rid of it for good.

What is Dog Acne and Can Dogs Get Pimples?

So, we know that dogs get pimples, but is it the same kind of acne that we suffer from? Much like acne in humans, dog acne can present in a few easily recognizable ways:

  • Red Bumps
  • Blackheads
  • Pustules
  • Swelling or redness around the muzzle

More severe cases of dog acne can lead to infection, which can present more painful and oozing sores, especially for dogs that are scratching or rubbing the area to try to soothe their discomfort.

Early signs of acne can easily go unnoticed, so scratching or face rubbing is a simple tell-tale sign to keep an eye out for.

But Really, What is Dog Acne?

But Really, What is Dog Acne

While the physical presentation can vary, dog and puppy acne is the result of a clog or build-up of oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells in a hair follicle. This build-up causes the pore to clog and create a sore at the surface of the hair follicle.

The oil, called sebum, is naturally produced by your dogs’ skin to protect your dog's skin and coat. Inflammation in the follicle, bacteria, or hormonal changes can cause sebum to overproduce.

Often, when bacteria are trapped in the follicle, their body’s natural defense response is to release white blood cells to protect the infected area. This results in the nasty puss that can ooze from the pimples.

Yuck, right? In turn, there are many treatment options and preventative measures to consider.

What Causes Dog Acne?

We know what it is and what to looks for, but why do some dogs have it and others don’t. Well, just like people, many factors can contribute to acne. Some causes of dog acne aren’t entirely understood, like genetics and hormonal changes, we do know that some external factors are at play too.

Let’s look at a few things that might be contributing to your dog’s pizza face:



Acne is much more common in puppies than in older dogs. This indicates that hormones may very well be a factor. Most puppies who experience acne start to show symptoms between the ages of 5-8 months.

Acne can be very temporary or could last beyond 12-18 months in some cases. For many cases of adolescent dog acne, the conditions are mild and will go away on their own as they reach adulthood. 

Poor Hygiene

Poor Hygiene

The other very common contributor to dog acne is hygiene. Your dog’s personal hygiene is important. For breeds with extra wrinkles and skin folds around their face, hygiene tends to be compromised. Many breeds with short bristly muzzle fur are at risk, too.

Some of the most common breeds to suffer from acne are ones that fall under both categories, like:

  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs

This is because those folds and crevices are a breeding ground for bacteria and dirt. In addition to collecting bacteria quickly, their short and coarse fur can easily irritate the skin in these areas.

Hygiene applies to more than just their bodies. Toys, beds, food, and bowls can all supply an unhealthy number of bacteria to your dog’s face. Your dog may not seem to mind his smelly, dirty toys, but his pores do.

Earthbath Facial Wipes

Other Factors

While age and hygiene are the most common causes for your dog’s acne, there are other contributors to keep in mind too:

  • Allergies – both food and environmental allergies can contribute to inflammation and skin irritation.
  • Mange, or other parasites – Many parasitic reactions can look quite like pimples.
  • Fungal infections – fungus can create lesions and sores that can be mistaken for acne. Ringworm is a common zit-looking infection.

5 Dog Acne Home Remedies

Dog acne can often be treated at home, but before you try to fix it yourself, it’s important to check in with your vet. Diseases, infections, and other illnesses need to be ruled out before you start treatment.

If you have been given the all-clear from your vet, then there are a few things you can do to get rid of your dog’s acne and keep it from coming back.

1. Daily Face Wash

Keep your dog’s face clean. If you do have a wrinkly dog, then be diligent about cleaning the folds daily. Try to stick to warm water and a soft washcloth whenever possible. Frequent use of soaps and scented shampoos can dry out the skin, leading to more irritation.

If you're on the go, pet wipes come in handy. Opt for unscented ones whenever possible. 


2. Keep Him Dry

Keep Him Dry

Dark, moist places are the perfect environment for bacteria to run rampant. Try to keep your dog’s muzzle dry to reduce bacteria populations.

Keep a dry towel handy to wipe his face after he drinks or eats. This is especially handy with extra drooly dogs.

3. Brush His Teeth

The bacteria in your dog’s mouth can easily transfer to his snout and muzzle; again, this is especially true with drooly breeds. Keep his oral bacteria in check by brushing your dog’s teeth every day.

Dental care products like food or water additives can also help to control bacteria in their mouth.

Bluestem Oral Care

4. Topical Treatments

Topical Treatments

Like our own acne, using a topical treatment can be useful in reducing symptoms and irritation. Talk to your vet about a topical gel or ointment that uses Benzoyl Peroxide. This ingredient is found in many human acne treatments.

We advise against buying a human product for your dog. Other ingredients, dosages, and formulas can be harmful to your pet, so talk to your vet about a pet-specific product.

If you are looking for some more natural topical remedies for dog acne, then maybe these will be a better fit for you:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Aloe Vera
  • Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar*

*Apple cider vinegar is great for its antibacterial properties, but should not be used on open skin, as it will sting.

5. Clean Toys and Bowls

Toys, bowls, and beds should be regularly cleaned. Look for beds that have removable, washable covers that can be cleaned or replaced when needed.

Most toys can be cleaned routinely to reduce bacteria and preserve the life of the toys. Check out How to Clean Dog Toys for tips on how to limit your dog’s exposure to nasty bacteria.

While bowls should, of course, be cleaned regularly too, that may not be enough to protect your pet. Plastic bowls and fountains retain way more bacteria than ones made of glass, ceramic, or metal.

Tiny cuts, scratches and cracks are a great place for bacteria to hide and grow, so ditch the plastic bowls and switch to something more durable.

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Keep an Eye On Your Dog’s Acne

Most cases of dog acne are easy to treat and go away when your dog becomes an adult, but if you do not see improvement, or if symptoms start to change, then it’s time for a vet visit.

Routine grooming and dental care offer ample opportunity to take note of your progress in treating your dog’s acne. Take pictures to help track success. If you do end up back at the vet, then at least you will have examples and evidence to help your vet determine the best course of action.

Does your dog have acne? Tell us your story or tips in the comments below!

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.


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