Causes and Prevention of Acne in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Causes of Canine Acne

The underlying cause of acne in dogs is not well-understood. Most authorities think that acne is the result of a bacterial infection which is secondary to a trauma or other trigger. Some people suggest that local trauma to the muzzle and face contributes to canine acne, while others theorize that there is a genetic predisposition that contributes to the disorder. Still other experts think that hormones may play a triggering role, because acne is most common in young, growing dogs. Whatever its precise cause, acne involves a build-up of sloughed epithelial cells from the outer, nonvascular layer of skin called keratin, and an oily substance called sebum which is secreted from the sebaceous glands through ducts that open into the hair follicles. This combination of greasy sebum and skin debris causes hair follicles to become plugged, impacted, inflamed, raised and red. As the sebaceous glands continue to produce and secrete sebum, the inflammatory process worsens. Eventually, acne lesions can rupture, making them prone to developing a secondary bacterial infection that makes the pimple ooze pus and come to a head, commonly referred to as a whitehead. Pus is a thick, white or yellow substance that is the by-product of bacterial digestion of body tissues.

Prevention of Acne

Keeping a young dog’s muzzle and chin clean and dry goes a long way towards preventing the onset of adolescent acne. Good grooming and hygiene in the face area is especially important for dogs that have deep facial skin folds, such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs and Mastiffs. However, like acne in human teenagers, acne in companion dogs is common irrespective of how often the animal is washed and thoroughly dried. While it can be difficult to fully prevent, canine acne usually manageable. Fortunately, it almost always eventually resolves on its own as the dog matures.

Special Notes

Owners of dogs with acne should follow the same advice given to humans with pimples, and that is do not pop them. Opening up an acne lesion before it drains on its own can cause the affected hair follicles to rupture beneath the outer layer of the skin, which in turn can lead to massive local inflammation and spread of secondary bacterial infection.

Dog Health Center

Dental Disorders

Learn about Canine Periodontal Disease, including how it affects the health of your dog's overall health, and what options are available to manage this type of dental condition.

Learn more about: Dental Disorders