Pet Wellness Guides > Pimples on a Dog - What Do They Mean? - Pet Insurance Review

Pimples on a Dog – What Do They Mean?

Posted: 11/28/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

People and dogs have a lot in common: we both enjoy naps and eating junk food (though neither of us should eat it!). We don’t like going to the doctor or loud noises. We both even get pimples! But what do pimples on a dog mean and how can you get rid of them?

What Causes Pimples on a Dog?

Benischio, via Wikimedia Commons

While it is typically a hormonal imbalance that causes pimples on teenagers and even adult women, pimples on a dog is caused by, you could say, their way of engaging with the world. We usually see dog zits in pups between the ages of three and 12 months. Yes, older dogs can and do get pimples as well, but they’re usually found on puppies. And the most common place for these pimples to pop up is around their lips and muzzle. 

When you think of how puppies engage with their environment, they use their mouth to investigate everything. And all of that chewing, biting, sniffing and rubbing gives their muzzle a real workout! Research has now shown that all of that rubbing causes damage to the short hairs on their muzzle. Should these short hairs break off below the surface of their skin, the sharp bristles can cause the hair follicle to become inflamed. And once the hair follicle is inflamed, it gives bacteria easy access. Before you know it, your pup has a muzzle full of zits!

Should the pimples get big enough, they can eventually rupture and become a weeping sore. Your pup will find this itchy and irritating, so they will scratch and rub, which will cause more broken hairs and more bacteria to infiltrate, and the vicious cycle continues!

What Breeds are Predisposed to Pimples?

Science suggests that short haired breeds are the ones who wind up developing pimples on their muzzles. Some of the breeds who tend to have the worst luck with dog acne are:

  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • English Bulldogs
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • Great Danes
  • Weimaraners
  • Mastiffs

Should You “Pop” the Pimples on Your Dog?

As teenagers, most of us had the urge to pop our pimples, even though our mothers and dermatologists told us not to. Some people even have the urge to pop other people’s pimples (though the idea makes the writer gag.)

This begs the question, ‘is it okay for you to pop your dog’s pimples’ and the answer is unequivocally “NO.” Just like with our skin, popping zits usually does more harm than good and can cause scarring.

Treating Pimples on a Dog

If you discover pimples on your dog, you’ll definitely want to take her in to see the vet. The truth is, regular pimples can often look similar to other health conditions that can be more complex to treat. In addition, a weakened immune system is often seen in dogs with acne, so your vet will want to investigate to make certain nothing else is going on.

Some examples of conditions where acne is merely a symptom and not a diagnosis on its own include an allergy, ringworm or Demodex mites. A correct diagnosis by your vet will ensure your pup gets the right treatment.

If it turns out your dog does simply have pimples, there are a variety of treatment options:

pimples on a dog


If your dog’s zits have become very red and inflamed and your vet suspects a severe infection, she will likely prescribe an antibiotic. A broad-spectrum antibiotic will take care of the most common bacteria that causes dog acne, which is the Staphylococcus variety. 

In many cases, one round of antibiotics is all it takes to clear up the skin. In those cases where the pup continues to get flare-ups, the vet may suggest swabbing the dog’s muzzle to collect a sample of bacteria for culture. This allows her to treat the infection with the absolute best antibiotic for the job. 

Follicle Flushing

Your vet may recommend you flush your pup’s follicles to ensure no bacteria is allowed to live in there ever again. This will help reduce the likelihood of pimples forming in the future. Your vet will most likely recommend using a medicated shampoo that contains benzyl peroxide. While this ingredient is also used in human-grade shampoos, never use those as it is too strong for dogs and can burn and further irritate your dog’s skin. 


If your dog can’t stop itching the area, your vet may prescribe a steroid to help reduce the inflammation. The steroid may be either a topical gel, an injection or pill.

Pet Insurance Can Help with Routine Checkups, Too!

Pet insurance can help you pay for all kinds of healthcare, not just accidents and illnesses. Many providers also offer policies that cover routine checkups, vaccinations and spay and neuter, as well as medications such as antibiotics and steroids.

If you’ve been thinking about getting your pup enrolled in a health insurance plan, the sooner the better. Take 2 minutes to get a free customized quote

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  1. Barnette, Catherine, DVM. “Acne in Dogs.” VCA Hospitals. 2017.
  2. Spiegel, Ian B., VMD, MHS, DACVD. “Just Ask the Expert: How Do You Manage Canine Chin Acne?” dvm360. Feb. 1, 2011.
  3. Moriello, Karen A., DVM, DACVD. “Overview of Pyoderma.” Merck Veterinary Manual.

The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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