Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
What Is Acne and How Did My Dog Get It?
Just like in people, acne is a problem when dogs develop swollen and infected hair follicles. In dogs, it is usually on their chin.
Young Pugs and adolescent Rottweilers are a few of the dogs affected, and although they do not spend too much time in front of the mirror checking for socially unacceptable bumps, their owners usually notice the acne and want to do something to relieve their dog's suffering. We also see it a lot on dogs with short hair chins like Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, and German Shorthaired Pointers.
In some dogs, it can become crusty and itchy, but it is usually easy to clear up with a combination of time and traditional medicine. If it does not, there might be another cause like a demodectic mange infection, ringworm, or an allergy.
Trying to clear this up at home is fine. It is not an emergency, and if your dog does not get better, you can treat him differently. If you want to take your dog to the vet right away, the diagnosis and treatment are pretty simple. Clearing it up should be a fairly straightforward process. Here are some alternatives that you can try at home.
How Can Canine Acne Be Treated?
The most important part of treating acne in your dog is really the easiest, although it will take a little bit of time each day. You need to take a warm washrag and hold it on your pet´s face for a few minutes and then use a mild soap to clean the chin and remove all of the pus.
If you take your dog into the vet at this point, most veterinarians are going to recommend washing the face with benzoyl peroxide and the application of an antibiotic cream.
Antibiotic creams are usually worse than the original problem. Here are some natural remedies:
- Aloe vera gel is a natural treatment you can use after washing with soap and water. Aloe vera has been used for a few thousand years, and besides killing the bacteria it also controls any fungal infections and cools the skin. You can purchase the gel or keep an aloe vera plant and just break off a small portion to use each day. It grows back and is a lot easier, safer, and cheaper than buying antibiotic in a tube.
- You can also try a herbal tea made out of nettle leaves, but you will probably have to buy the leaves and prepare the medication at home so it is more of a headache.
- If the acne is severe (get a second opinion on this because any acne is going to look severe to a concerned owner) you can use a herb to help strengthen your dog´s immune system. Garlic, Reishi mushrooms, Echinacea, and Cats Claw (a herb from Peru) are all known for their ability to stimulate the immune system. If you choose to use garlic as an immune stimulant, you can give one clove for each twenty pounds of weight.
Other Alternative Acne Treatments
Your dog might respond to the antibacterial effects of coconut oil but the aloe vera is easy to use. An essential oil with antibacterial effects might also help, but the safest treatment would be the aloe vera.
None of the herbal immune stimulants I have listed have scientific studies behind them to prove their effectiveness, and since they are not backed by large pharmaceutical companies, they never will. The aloe vera plant has been used for a long time by several indigenous peoples, and it does work.
What If It Does Not Go Away?
If the alternative therapies do not work, you will need to look into other causes of your dog's acne. If it smells bad and has a lot of pus ,it could actually be a case of demodectic mange. When your vet scrapes the skin, it will reveal the little cigar-shaped demodex mites. If it does not improve but does not grow worse, it may be irritation from an allergy to a food bowl. You can try putting your dog under a black light and the vet may end up pulling a few hairs to culture for ringworm.
If nothing else works, you can try to culture the chin and put the dog on a long course (maybe eight weeks) of antibiotics.
What happens if you just ignore it? Usually not much. You will not have to worry about your dog complaining about her social life, but she might take her pus-covered chin and rub it all over your couch. I prefer wiping up the aloe.
- A traditional approach to managing canine acne.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Dr Mark
Alma Olsen on September 23, 2013:
Thank you for this I have been wondering what was going on with my Pug. I will give this a try!
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:
I don't know of any numbers showing it worse in intact or altered dogs. I have seen it in both. It is a lot less severe than human acne so there are probably alternatives like Vitamin E that have not even been tried.
As far as the aloe vera goes, we grew up with it at home and when anyone had a scratch or burn my Dad would cut off a piece and apply it fresh. In college the drug companies control treatment options and something like aloe vera is never even considered.
Thanks for reading the article. It is such a mild problem that I do not expect many readers but I thought I would put an alternative out there for those willing to give it a try.
Melissa Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 16, 2012:
I love your hubs DrMark. I love how you take the natural approach. Aloe Vera has indeed been used for thousands of years, and it's antiseptic properties are not as well-known as they should be. I've found vitamin E works WONDERFULLY on human acne. I assume it would work well on dogs. My puppy is about to hit this adolescent period, so I'll try both aloe vera and vitamin E.
Just out of curiosity, is acne worse in those animals that are intact? I would assume a neutered or spayed animal wouldn't have as much of a problem with acne as one that didn't.