Dogs are just like people when it comes to acne. They tend to get acne as teenagers, but the only difference is that they are not self-conscious about it in the same way that people are. Generally, acne is not a major health problem for dogs as most of it will clear up once they have reached adulthood, but it can reoccur at times. Most acne will be pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads that appear along the chin, lips, chest, or genital area. If the area is irritated, then there may some bleeding or pus that can be expressed from these blemishes.
The causes of dog acne
Dog acne can be caused by a number of things, depending on the dog and their living environment. Acne is a normal part of adolescence for dogs, so some breakouts will occur regardless of what you do as a caretaker. Other times it may be related to hormonal changes, an allergic reaction to a food or product, bacteria, or poor hygiene. Some breeds, like Great Danes, boxers, and Doberman pinschers, are more prone to acne than others, but it can and does occur in all breeds of dog.
Solutions for dog acne
Unless the dog is still in adolescence, most acne problems are caused by poor hygiene and bacteria. Regular bathing once a week or at least a few times per month will help the dog stay clean. Some of the acne around the mouth can be caused by poor dental hygiene, so brushing the teeth a couple of times a week or providing an edible dental treat can help as well. Look for any type of new food or product that may have been introduced recently to see if one of those items caused the problem.
Visit your local pet store to find an antibacterial or medicated shampoo designed for dogs. Dog shampoos that contain aloe vera or echinacea can be especially helpful in treating skin problems. Dogs should be bathed with products specifically made for dogs because human shampoos, creams, and ointments are not appropriate for them as they are too harsh. Be careful to notice whether or not the shampoo you are using is making the problem better or worse, because some of these products can be irritating to the skin or cause allergic reactions in some dogs.
Let nature take its course
Although it may be tempting to pick with the acne, it is not a good idea and it could even make the problem worse. Picking with the bumps can actually cause the acne to spread or even cause a more serious infection. The most that you can do is apply a warm cloth the area to reduce swelling, but the rest should be left to a licensed veterinarian. Sometimes the acne may clear up on its own anyway.
Visit your veterinarian
If the acne seems to be getting worse or if the area appears to be infected, then it is best to visit a veterinarian for treatment. More serious cases of acne can be treated by prescription ointments, oral medication, or medicated soaps. Talk to your veterinarian for professional advice and treatment options.
Acne is a normal part of life for dogs, especially if they are still growing up. Mild cases are common in adolescent dogs, but if there seems to be a large outbreak or bleeding then it may be cause for concern. The most you can do at home is keep the dog clean through regular bathing, good dental hygiene, and the use of a medicated shampoo. Any other concerns or questions additional treatment options should be directed to your veterinarian.