How can I tell if my dog has acne?

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Acne is caused by a buildup of normal skin oils in the pores. When the pores become blocked by dirt or debris, a red or black raised bump appears on the skin, usually on the face, around the lips and chin.

Most cases of acne occur in puppies between five and eight months of age, though it can occur in dogs of any age, and usually resolves on its own. Some short haired breeds like boxers and bulldogs are more prone to acne than other dogs. Factors such as genetics and hormones may also contribute.

If your dog has acne, you will notice red, raised bumps on the skin. If it has progressed to a bacterial infection, pustules may appear that are painful to the touch. Some dogs will rub their faces on furniture, scratch at the lesions, or roll on the ground rubbing their heads.

It’s a good idea to have your pet checked out by a veterinarian, even if you suspect it is just acne. Some other disease can develop a similar rash, such as a type of non-infectious mange caused by mites called demodex. Ringworm, which is contagious, can also develop a rash, which should be treated immediately.

To check for demodex, your veterinarian will scrape a bit of the infected area with a scalpel, and transfer it onto a slide to perform a microscopic examination. He or she may also recommend a fungal culture to rule out ring worm.

While the acne will likely resolve on its own, occasionally veterinarians will recommend using acne treatment made for dogs, similar to those used by humans. Bacterial infections may require antibiotics, but in most cases acne is not life threatening and can be managed with good hygiene and a little TLC.

Tip from the Vet:

Younger puppies can develop a disease called “puppy strangles,” which can mimic canine acne but is more serious. It is an immune-mediated disease, and antibiotics alone will not cure it. Fortunately, this is a rare condition, but one more reason that it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian.

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