Everyone knows of acne as a human condition often suffered by unfortunate adolescents, but it is in fact quite common in certain breeds of dog too. The most susceptible breeds are young adult Boxers, English Bulldogs, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes and Rottweilers.
The condition starts at puberty around five to eight months of age. Most dogs improve with age; the condition typically resolves after one year of age, though some dogs can develop chronic acne.
How Do You Diagnose Canine Acne?
Dogs with canine acne develop multiple comedones (blackheads) on their chin, lips, and muzzle. Plugs of debris made of natural substances such as keratin and sebum block the hair follicles, causing focal swellings that can rupture to form scabs. These usually do not bother the dog unless a secondary bacterial skin infection develops. This can cause pain and itching, leading the dog to scratch at his/her face or rub it along the carpet.
Diagnosis is usually straightforward – the characteristic appearance described above in one of the known susceptible breeds is usually sufficient. Your vet may decide to take a skin biopsy for confirmation, which can be done under sedation, local or general anesthetic and then sent off to a histopathologist for analysis.
How Do You Treat Canine Acne?
Canine acne cannot really be cured, but it can be controlled. Mild cases are usually not treated.
The first step is always to rule out other conditions such as demodicosis (Demodex mite infestation), ringworm and puppy strangles (juvenile cellulitis). The latter also causes anorexia and depression, so if your dog is bright with a good appetite, it is unlikely to be the cause.
It is also important to uncover any predisposing factors such as underlying allergies. Some of the breeds mentioned above, such as Boxers, are particularly susceptible to food allergy. Regular cleaning with anti-acne products like benzoyl peroxide, or mild anti-seborrheic shampoos, will be required to decrease the bacterial load of the skin and remove cellular debris that could contribute to blocking the pores.
If pustules have ruptured and a secondary bacterial infection develops, your dog will need to take antibiotics for three or four weeks. Most broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective, but to avoid any resistance problems, a bacteriology swab is advisable so that a suitable antibiotic can be chosen with certain efficacy against the bacterium in question. If a dog is scratching at its face a lot, an anti-inflammatory drug may be considered by your veterinarian to alleviate the discomfort.
In most cases, canine acne is a condition that resolves in maturity. If you have any questions on this condition, ask one of our professionals today.