Preventing and Treating Blackheads in Dogs – Ultimate Guide

Dogs, much like humans, can also be afflicted by various skin issues, including blackheads. These tiny, dark blemishes are the result of hair follicles that have become clogged, usually with a combination of excess oil and dead skin cells.

Although blackheads are not a severe health concern, they can lead to discomfort and, if left untreated, may evolve into more serious skin conditions. This comprehensive guide aims to explore the causes, prevention strategies, and treatment options for blackheads in dogs, equipping you with the knowledge to maintain your pet’s skin health.

Comedones, or blackheads as they are commonly known, are a form of acne that occurs when a dog’s hair follicles are blocked with sebum (natural oils), keratin, dead skin cells, and other debris. These can manifest anywhere on a dog’s body, but they are most frequently seen on their back, neck, chest, and occasionally, nipples.

In contrast to humans, blackheads in dogs often stem from mites or seborrhea, a condition characterized by an overproduction of keratin that clogs the pores. More serious conditions such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, and cancer can also lead to pore blockage.

Thus, if you observe dilated pores on your dog filled with black material, it’s likely a blackhead. However, unlike in humans where clogged pores are typically a transient phase during adolescence, in dogs, it often indicates a more significant issue.

Understanding canine skin discoloration corresponds with preventing and treating blackheads in dogs, as discussed in the linked comprehensive guide.

Causes of Canine Blackheads

Causes of Canine Blackheads (1)

Several factors can contribute to the formation of blackheads in dogs. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Canine Acne: Dogs often develop comedones and papules on the chin area. This is a common area for clogged pores, bumps, or cysts to form.
  2. Primary Seborrhea & Genetic Problems: Certain breeds sometimes develop primary seborrhea that may cause blackheads. This condition is caused by a fault in how the skin, claws, or hair follicles produce keratin, leading to scaliness or dandruff and sometimes making the coat greasy, clogging the pores.
  3. Secondary Seborrhea: This condition occurs when an underlying issue disrupts the balance in the skin and causes symptoms similar to primary seborrhea. It may or may not be itchy. Hormonal imbalances, allergies, mite infestations, nutritional deficiencies, immune-system diseases, and certain medications can all lead to secondary seborrhea.
  4. Pressure sores (calluses) & Friction Blackheads: These blackheads are often found on a dog’s elbows or hocks, areas where your dog may be pressing on hard ground when lying down. This causes calluses to develop or hard spots that may have comedones or infected hair follicles.
  5. Obesity: Being overweight can also cause many skin issues in dogs, including blackheads. Obese dogs have more circulation issues and tend to have generally unhealthy skin. They are also more prone to issues like diabetes, which can cause secondary seborrhea and blackheads.

Addressing the issue of excessive weight in dogs aligns with the comprehensive approach to preventing and treating blackheads, as detailed in the linked ultimate guide.

Recognizing The Signs

Recognizing The Signs

Blackheads in dogs usually appear as small, dark spots on the skin. They can be found anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, particularly around the lips, chin, and muzzle. In some cases, blackheads may also appear on the back, neck, chest, and even nipples.

It’s important to note that dog dermatology is complicated, and sometimes one disorder can look like another. For instance, if you spot a blackhead on your dog’s belly or privates, the problem may be folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicles caused by bacteria or yeast.


Preventing and Treating Blackheads in Dogs - Ultimate Guide (1)

If you notice blackheads on your dog, it’s crucial to consult with a vet to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. Here are some steps you can take to address your dog’s skin problems:

  • Do blood tests on your dog for underlying conditions such as Cushing’s, diabetes, lupus, or hypothyroidism.
  • Have your vet rule out demodectic mange.
  • Ask for ELISA testing and start testing for possible allergens. These could be in your dog’s environment, like pollen or food allergies.
  • Ask your vet to examine your dog for any suspicious lumps or signs of cancer-related skin issues.
  • Ask your vet about shampoos for flushing the follicles in oily seborrhea.
  • Bathe any hairless breed with a gentle shampoo and skin moisturizer every one-to-two weeks to prevent oil build-up.
  • Look to add fish oil supplements and aim for at least 20mg of EPA per pound of body weight daily. You can also increase vitamin E to about 300 IU per day. Speak to your vet about possible zinc supplements.
  • Speak to your vet about retinoids and other topical treatments for seborrhea. Retinoids should help the skin purge comedones.



Preventing blackheads in dogs primarily involves maintaining good hygiene and a healthy diet. Regularly bathing your dog with a gentle shampoo can help keep their skin clean and prevent the buildup of oil and dead skin cells that can lead to blackheads.

However, be careful not to overwash your dog as this can strip the coat of natural oils and create dry skin problems.

A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can also contribute to healthy skin and coat. Specifically, diets low in protein, B vitamins, zinc, and the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, often cause skin issues like seborrhea.


Can I use human acne treatments to treat my dog’s blackheads?

While it might be tempting to use human acne treatments on your dog, it’s not recommended. Dogs have different skin pH levels and sensitivities compared to humans, and some ingredients in human acne treatments can be harmful or irritating to a dog’s skin. Always consult with a vet before applying any treatment to your dog’s skin.

Are certain breeds more prone to developing blackheads?

Yes, certain breeds are more prone to developing blackheads due to their skin type and genetic predispositions. Breeds with oily skin or those that are prone to skin conditions, such as Bulldogs, Dobermans, and Boxers, may be more likely to develop blackheads.

Can diet affect the development of blackheads in dogs?

Yes, diet can play a role in the development of blackheads in dogs. A diet lacking essential nutrients like protein, B vitamins, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can lead to skin issues, including blackheads. Feeding your dog a balanced diet can help maintain healthy skin and prevent blackheads.

Can blackheads in dogs lead to other skin conditions?

Yes, if left untreated, blackheads can potentially lead to other skin conditions. The clogged pores can become inflamed and infected, leading to conditions like acne, folliculitis, or dermatitis. Regular grooming and early treatment can help prevent these complications.

Can blackheads in dogs be a sign of an underlying condition like diabetes or Cushing’s disease?

Yes, in some cases, blackheads in dogs can be a sign of an underlying condition. Hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by conditions like diabetes or Cushing’s disease, can lead to skin issues, including blackheads. If your dog develops blackheads along with other symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a vet.

How long does it take for blackheads in dogs to clear up with treatment?

The time it takes for blackheads to clear up in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the treatment used. In mild cases, blackheads may clear up in a few weeks with regular bathing and topical treatments.

However, in more severe cases or if the blackheads are due to an underlying condition, it may take longer, and additional treatments may be necessary. Always consult with a vet for the best treatment plan for your dog.


Blackheads in dogs may seem like a minor issue, but they can be a sign of underlying health problems. Therefore, it’s essential not to ignore them. If you spot blackheads on your dog, be sure to take your dog for a check-up. With proper care and attention, you can help keep your dog’s skin healthy and free from blackheads.