Why Your Dog’s Chin is Bleeding and How to Help Them Heal

Introduction

Dog sores under the chin, also known as canine muzzle folliculitis or furunculosis, is a common skin condition in dogs where sores and scabs develop on the chin and muzzle area. The sores may ooze, causing bleeding, and can be quite painful for dogs.

Muzzle folliculitis affects approximately 10% of the general dog population. It is more prevalent in short-haired breeds like Boxers, Bulldogs, and Pit Bulls. The condition usually occurs in adolescent and young adult dogs, between 1-4 years of age.

Signs of muzzle folliculitis include:1

    dog with red irritated sores on chin

  • Red bumps or pustules on the muzzle/chin
  • Crusting and scabbing of lesions
  • Hair loss around the lesions
  • Bleeding, oozing, and pain if lesions are rubbed or scratched

Causes

There are several potential causes for dog sores under the chin that are bleeding or oozing fluid:

Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of skin irritation and sores in dogs. Dogs can be allergic to things like pollen, mold, dust mites, certain foods, and more. These allergies cause inflammation and itchiness. Excessive scratching and licking can then lead to sores and raw spots under the chin. According to this source, allergic skin conditions are very common in dogs.

Infections

Bacterial and fungal skin infections can also lead to sores and irritation under the chin. Staph infections, ringworm, and yeast infections often cause redness, oozing, crusting, and hair loss on the skin. Licking and scratching can then worsen sores. Chin folds and facial wrinkles provide an ideal environment for infections to develop.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases like pemphigus can also be behind chin sores in dogs. With this condition, the immune system attacks the skin cells, causing blisters and sores. These may initially look like burns or raw hives on the skin. Pemphigus often affects the face, head, and feet of dogs.

Allergies

Food allergies are a common cause of skin issues and sores under the chin in dogs. Some dogs can develop allergic reactions to ingredients in their food, often proteins like chicken, beef, dairy, or eggs. Food allergy symptoms tend to develop slowly over time and result in itchy skin, rashes, and irritated sores on the chin, mouth, ears, paws, armpits, and groin.

Environmental allergies can also lead to itchy skin and sores under the chin. Pollen, mold, dust mites, and other airborne allergens can cause skin irritation and inflammation in dogs. Seasonal allergies are most common in the spring and fall when pollen levels are highest. Symptoms often worsen when dogs go outside.

Common allergy symptoms leading to chin sores include excessive licking, scratching, biting, and rubbing of the skin, redness, scabs, pustules, hair loss, and recurring skin infections. The chin area is especially vulnerable due to its thin skin and constant contact with blankets, bowls, grass, and other irritants.

To help diagnose allergies, vets may recommend an elimination diet or allergy testing. Treatments include managing environmental allergies, switching foods, medications, and soothing ointments to relieve itchy skin. Identifying and avoiding allergy triggers is key to resolving chin sore issues caused by allergies.

Infections

Infections are a common cause of sores under a dog’s chin that can lead to bleeding. There are several types of infections that may occur:

veterinarian examining dog's infected chin sore

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial skin infections are a frequent cause of chin sores in dogs. Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria often infect the hair follicles and pores, leading to a condition called bacterial folliculitis. This causes pimple-like sores, crusting, and inflammation of the skin (Falls Road Animal Hospital, 2020). Bacterial infections usually require antibiotic treatment prescribed by a vet.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections like ringworm are less common but can also cause sores and hair loss on a dog’s chin. Fungal infections are highly contagious between dogs and other animals. Oral or topical antifungal medication may be needed (Falls Road Animal Hospital, 2020).

Viral Infections

Viral skin diseases in dogs, including canine papilloma virus, can lead to wart-like growths on the chin that may bleed or become ulcerated. Viral infections usually resolve on their own, but may require treatment if they persist or become problematic.

Autoimmune Diseases

Some autoimmune diseases that can cause sores under a dog’s chin include pemphigus and discoid lupus erythematosus.

Pemphigus is an autoimmune disease where a dog’s immune system attacks its skin cells, causing blistering and sores. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “Pemphigus foliaceus typically causes hair loss, scabs, and ulcers (open sores) around the head, face and ears. These lesions may become more widespread over the body.”

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is another autoimmune disease that affects dogs. According to Veterinary Partner, “Discoid lupus is a form of lupus that is confined to the skin and is substantially more benign because of this confinement. Discoid lupus, or DLE, is almost exclusively a disease of dogs.” The source goes on to state that, “Dogs with DLE develop crusting and scabbing of the skin, most commonly starting around the nose.”

Common symptoms of these autoimmune diseases include:

  • Sores and lesions on the chin, nose, ears, and other areas
  • Hair loss
  • Crusting and scabbing of skin
  • Redness and irritation

Diagnosis

A veterinarian will typically diagnose dog acne through a physical exam and review of your dog’s symptoms. Tests they may perform include:

  • Physical exam – The vet will look for typical signs of acne like red bumps, pustules, hair loss, and swelling on the chin, lips, and muzzle area.

  • Skin scraping – Using a scalpel blade, the vet takes a sample of the skin lesions and examines it under a microscope for mites, yeast, and bacteria.

  • Biopsy – The vet may take a small sample of the affected skin and have it analyzed by a lab for abnormalities.

  • Blood tests – Bloodwork helps rule out any underlying infections or hormonal imbalances contributing to acne.

Once the exam and tests are complete, the vet will determine the cause of the acne and recommend the best treatment plan.

Treatment

The treatment for dog sores under the chin will depend on the underlying cause. Some options include:

If there is a bacterial or fungal infection, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication. Common antibiotics used include cephalexin and amoxicillin-clavulanate. Topical antibiotics like mupirocin may also help treat infected sores on the skin surface. It’s important to finish the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if the sores appear to be clearing up.

For autoimmune diseases, the vet may prescribe immunosuppressants or immunomodulatory drugs to calm the overactive immune system attacking the skin. Common options are cyclosporine, azathioprine, and oral glucocorticoids like prednisone. These help reduce inflammation and skin lesions.

Anti-inflammatory medication can provide relief from itchiness and pain caused by inflamed sores. Common OTC options suitable for dogs include Arnica gel, calendula cream, and tea tree oil. Stronger prescription anti-inflammatories may be needed for severe cases.

If there is an underlying allergy, the vet will recommend avoiding the allergen. Medication like antihistamines and immunotherapy shots can also help manage allergic reactions.

Keeping the skin clean and using topical creams prescribed by the vet will be important. Antibacterial and antifungal shampoos or wipes may be recommended. Any weeping or bleeding sores should be kept covered. Don’t try to pop or drain the sores, as this can worsen infection.

Home Remedies

There are some simple home remedies that can provide relief for dogs with sores under their chin.

Cold compresses can help soothe inflammation and provide comfort. Wrap an ice pack or cold compress in a towel and apply to the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time. The cold temperature helps constrict blood vessels and reduces swelling.

applying cold compress to dog's sore chin

Oatmeal baths can also be soothing. Add a cup of colloidal oatmeal to a warm bath and let your dog soak for 15 minutes. Oatmeal contains natural anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties that can relieve itchy and irritated skin [1].

Applying aloe vera gel to the sores can aid healing. Aloe vera has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and can reduce inflammation and speed up wound closure. Gently rub the aloe vera gel directly onto the affected area 2-3 times per day [2].

Prevention

There are some steps you can take to help prevent your dog from developing sores under their chin:

Avoid known allergens – If you know your dog has allergies to certain foods, plants, or other substances, avoid exposing them to those allergens as much as possible. This will reduce the risk of an allergic reaction that could lead to sores.

Maintain healthy immune system – Keep your dog’s immune system strong by providing a nutritious diet, plenty of exercise, and minimizing stress. A healthy immune system can help fend off infections.

woman feeding dog nutritious food for health

Routine vet exams – Take your dog to the vet regularly for checkups and preventative care. The vet can examine your dog’s skin for any signs of problems. Early detection of issues can allow for quicker treatment.

When to See a Vet

Although most cases of dog acne are mild and can be treated at home, there are certain signs that warrant a trip to the vet. These include:

Open Sores

If the sores under your dog’s chin are not healing or appear ulcerated and weepy, this requires veterinary attention. Open wounds are prone to bacterial infection and need medication to resolve properly.

Signs of Infection

Infected acne sores may exhibit pus, redness, swelling, and be warm to the touch. Your dog may constantly paw at their face. Antibiotics will likely be necessary to clear up infection.

Excessive Bleeding


While mild bleeding from irritated acne bumps is normal, excessive blood warrants an exam. Bleeding that doesn’t clot on its own could indicate an underlying blood disorder.

Changes in Behavior

If your dog seems persistently uncomfortable or distressed from their chin acne, take them to the vet. Severe acne can be very itchy and painful. Your vet can provide relief.

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to have your vet examine any skin condition that persists or worsens despite home treatment. They can rule out any underlying problems and provide medical therapies to get your dog’s acne under control.

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