Why do dogs and cats develop acne and how to treat it?

Dog hiding face

Believe it or not, acne in pets is as common as in human teenage years. Canine acne is an inflammatory ailment of the sensitive mouth area on the lips, chin, and the muzzle’s skin. 

Acne tends to develop at puberty, from five to eight months, and disappears by the time the dog approaches one year of age. Both dogs and cats are susceptive to this condition. 

In mild acne cases, dogs will develop bumps or pimples (zits) on their skin. Dog acne can lead to extended swelling of the lips and muzzle, bleeding scars, or crusts on the face in more severe cases. When left untreated, acne can result in permanent scarring.

Why do dogs, cats, and other pets develop acne?

The underlying condition of dog and cat acne is not fully understood. It was believed to be linked to human acne as induced by the body’s hormonal activity; however, recent studies have implied that this is not the case.

Genetic inheritance, however, is deemed to play a significant role in the apparition of acne in dogs. Breeds that are known to show a predisposition to zits include :

  • Boxer
  • Bulldogs
  • Great Danes
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Weimaraners
  • Mastiffs
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers

The prolonged use of muzzles can lead to scratches on the skin’s surface, leading to hair follicle ruptures and inflammation. When the hair follicle breaks, its contents go into the skin, building further inflammation within the skin. Bacteria will now quickly colonize the broken skin leading to infection.

Dog acne can also be associated with other underlying skin conditions. A visit to the vet will ensure that these causes are found and the right treatment is given to reduce the unpleasant effects of skin inflammation and even treat the disease from its root.

Allergies to food or environmental factors could also trigger acne’s apparition, and managing the allergies may decrease acne. 

Dog acne symptoms

Dog and cat owners can easily diagnose acne by sight due to the presence of red bumps or whiteheads. It may seem more a cosmetic matter to owners as it’s typically not painful and will fade over time; however, if it causes pain to a pet, owners should take them to a vet.

Dogs may experience intense pain and itching.

Typical symptoms of acne in dogs :

  • Red bumps or whiteheads will appear on the skin
  • Your pet might start scratching its face against carpets or furniture to get relief from itchiness
  • The lumps could swell and become sore
Cat hiding face

Cat zits symptoms:

In cats, acne can develop at any age due to excess skin oil that seals pores. The development of lumps may also result from allergies (diet changes, environmental) or underlying epidermis conditions. Excess keratin can also block the pores and induce acne.

Cat acne ordinarily appears on the sides of the lips or underneath the mandible.

If your pet has developed acne, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ill. In most cases, the symptoms and lesions will disappear with time without the need for a veterinarian-prescribed treatment by simply managing the situation at home through a high standard of cleanliness.

How to treat dog and cat acne

First of all, owners should avoid the temptation of squeezing the spots as this can increase the level of bacterial infection, inflammation and cause long term skin lesions/

A vet or a veterinarian pharmacist may recommend the use of benzoyl peroxide, a topical treatment that reduces the spread of bacteria. The benzoyl peroxide can be either presented as a shampoo or as a cream.

If the inflammation is severe, the vet might recommend steroids to decrease it. An in the worst cases, the use of antibiotics could also be prescribed by the doctor.

Unlike people, pets won’t feel embarrassed by blemishes, but that doesn’t mean you should pay less attention to acne. Practice good hygiene by shampooing your pet regularly. Pat dry its skin to avoid excess humidity that rapidly can become a thriving environment for bacteria.

Remember that any treatment should be given according to a doctor’s advice, and most definitely, the use of products made for human skin is to be avoided. Consult a vet if your pet shows signs of distress and the acne seems to expand.