A Dog with Acne?: Skin Problems we share with our Furry Friends

If you ask any veterinarian or human general practitioner what is one of the most common reasons for a visit, the answer is sure to be some type of skin problem. Think about it. The skin is the largest organ in both the human and dog body, and it is designed to protect the body against all sorts of intruders, including germs or minor injuries.

Skin ailments also lead to a sense of frustration as there are hundreds of causes in both pets and humans. Something such as canine acne or human acne can be the result of an underlying disease, or something as simple as oils from the skin becoming trapped. The more visible the problem, the more likely we are to rush for medical care.

All of us, human and pet alike, have skin the is structured the same way. There is an outer layer, called the epidermis the next layer, called simply the dermis, and an under layer of fat and muscle which is called the punniculus. Together, the two top layers form the cutis, with the panniculus called for obvious reasons the subcutis.

Even thought the epidermis is charged with protecting us from disease, it is relatively thin. It is comprised of building blocks called keratinocytes. Knowing this you can now appreciate that when your skin is scraped or a wound is formed, it leaves the body open to those things that are normally blocked by the outer skin layer. These mechanisms are the same in pets and humans. This is probably why nature saw to it that this skin layer quickly repairs itself. If an area is constantly injured, the repair thickens to provide extra protection for the area.

When infection does try and take hold, a type of cell called a langerhan cell calls in reinforcements from the white blood cells to kill off any bacteria fungus or viral infection. Skin reactions often occur when these cells work too well, and begin to react to every day things in the environment such as plants, shampoo, fabric etc. This immune response results in an allergy to these items, cause some type of skin reaction.

Last, is the issue of sunburn. The mechanism for this is called the photoprotective barrier. In nature, dogs and cats developed coats to limit the amount of sun exposure, particularly since they lived outdoors in the wild. In humans we've adapted though sunscreens, hats, clothing and by staying out of the sun. Our pets can get sunburned just like humans, with the same amount of risk.

Skin tumors in humans and pets are the result of basal cells, the layer of cells between the dermis and epidermis receiving too much sun exposure. This causes these cells to rapidly divide, resulting in a neoplasm or dog skin tumor.

One major difference between humans and our dogs are the hair follicles, as you could have guessed. Interestingly, while humans have one hair per follicle per pore opening, dogs and cats have multiple hairs. These hairs also act to spread pheromones, which help to drive sexual attraction. The hair is also a window into the underlying health of the pet or person, with hair loss in dogs often indicating some type of endocrine related disease (hormonal disease).

Our skin is unique because it is so visible. It is also difficult to diagnose because of the many causes of dog skin and human skin disease. It's also a unique organ in that dog owners and humans alike demand that it be maintained in perfect condition, a high bar for any natural organ. What's wonderful, is that our understanding of skin structure in humans, and treatment approaches, directly applies to with way we address skin problems in dogs and cats.


Dog Skin Conditions, Dog Health Guide

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Sherwin123's picture
Sherwin123 says:

I never knew dogs had the same skin problems as we humans do. Those that mean that they can also get the same kinds of tumor as we do too? I think it is important that we bathe our dogs often so that their dead skin do not pile up and cause them to block their pores. Thanks for enlightening me!

posted on Mon, 02/20/2012 - 1:22am
Peyton's picture
Peyton says:

Interesting stuff. Had no clue dogs could actually get acne. Too bad I'm all too familiar with the human version...:/ oh well. Looks like I'm stuck trying to find remedies for myself. So far only found one good site for preventing acne: Foods That Cause Acne

posted on Tue, 09/25/2012 - 5:35pm
Shana's picture
Shana says:

Cats can get acne, too--my vet told me that it happens a lot if you feed them from plastic bowls for some reason.

posted on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 3:55pm
angelakarina111's picture
angelakarina111 says:

A subtle thought may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value. lung cancer in dogs

posted on Fri, 12/28/2012 - 6:46am
jearuiz0's picture
jearuiz0 says:

You know with the intervention with this part -Skin reactions often occur when these cells work too well, and begin to react to every day things in the environment such as plants, shampoo, fabric etc. This immune response results in an allergy to these items, cause some type of skin reaction.- shopping

posted on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 1:50pm
archermc's picture
archermc says:

Much like in teenage humans, acne is a benign disorder that typically only lasts a while. It occurs when the hair follicles become irritated. Dogs with short coats such as Boxers, Bulldogs, and Rottweilers are the breeds most likely to have this condition. Dogs may also experience intense pain and itching.

Cambridge vet

posted on Sun, 03/10/2013 - 3:12am
zebra667's picture
zebra667 says:

this is so cool i did not know that people and dogs can get acne i thought it was just humans like omg!!!!

posted on Tue, 03/12/2013 - 9:10am
kroemervet's picture
kroemervet says:

Just like humans dogs may develop acne that can have serious health implications on the skin of the dog. The development of pimples on the skin that are characterized by pain and swelling is often considered to be canine acne.

deakin vet

posted on Thu, 03/14/2013 - 5:38pm
stalina dsouza's picture

I have a 9month lab. She has big red bumps all over her chin&muzzle area. she even has some on acne?!?

is there really such a thing? and if it is dog acne can it go to her eye? My other lab/pit mix had one big red bump but on her shoulder! im really worried. But is very fiancial straped and cant afford to take them both to the vet.Is there any home remedies that really work

posted on Tue, 03/26/2013 - 5:06am
Guy Shane's picture
Guy Shane says:


Thanks for this article.This is something I didn't know. Dogs and cats can get acne? Wow!

Here is a good acne face mask...

Strawberry & Lemon Acne Mask:

Strawberries cleanse and tighten the pores while also lightening skin discolorations.

- 1/2 cup strawberries.
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice.
- 1 egg white.
- 1 1/2 tsp honey.

1.) Blend the all of the ingredients together.
2.) Smooth over face.
3.) Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
4.) Rinse with tepid to warm water.

See also these 17 Face Masks for Acne

Guy Shane

posted on Sat, 04/06/2013 - 11:22am
Charlotte Adschernare-Portain's picture
Charlotte Adschernare-Portain says:

Ummm... GROSS!!! I don't think we should be grossed out by this if your not grossed out by YOUR acne problems andd stuff. We have it and so do dogs, BIG DEAL! If your not grossed out by yourself then you shouldn't be of dogs, if that makes sense. Oh yeah, let's not forget that dogs are our BEST FRIENDS!

posted on Sun, 05/19/2013 - 12:22pm's picture

Just never thought that dogs can also have acne! Thanks for the info :) We do love our pets a lot that we are more than willing to spend a thousand bucks to send them to vets. For us human, acne is really distracting. Glad that there are more ways how to cure it.

posted on Wed, 06/26/2013 - 12:07am
luminesce's picture
luminesce says:

Thanks for this tips. It's very useful. luminesce

posted on Fri, 09/20/2013 - 9:41pm
Goldendoodle puppies's picture

It happens to some dog like humans, I don't think is a major problem with dogs.

posted on Fri, 10/04/2013 - 1:52am
DeakinVet's picture
DeakinVet says:

I Have no idea that dogs could actually get acne. Thanks for sharing this article at least as a dog lover I'm aware about this problems.

posted on Sun, 10/13/2013 - 9:54am
ally mcneil's picture
ally mcneil says:

had no idea that my dogs could get sun burned. makes me want to take extra precaution to protect their coats during the summer!

posted on Thu, 01/02/2014 - 11:45am
madison's picture
madison says:

i can not belive that stuff actully happens to dogs i fell so bad. well i hope all the dogs out there get better!!!!

posted on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:19am

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