The Scoop on Your Pup’s Pimples. What That Little Bump Could Be


If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed small bumps on your pup’s skin at some point. Though they may look like pimples, these bumps can have a variety of causes. While some are harmless, others may require veterinary care. A 2013 study found that skin conditions affect between 15-25% of the canine population. This article will explore the possible causes of pimple-like bumps on dogs and provide guidance on treatment and prevention.

What the Bumps Could Be

Small bumps on a dog’s skin can have several causes. Some possibilities include:

  • Folliculitis – irritation and inflammation of hair follicles, often from bacterial infections. Folliculitis causes small red bumps, sometimes with pus. (Source)
  • Cysts – fluid-filled lumps under the skin, caused by clogged oil glands or skin trauma. Cysts look like round bumps under the skin and may rupture. (Source)
  • Warts – small, firm bumps caused by a viral infection, often seen around a dog’s mouth. Warts are typically harmless and may disappear on their own. (Source)

There are various other possibilities as well, which may require a veterinarian to diagnose.


Folliculitis is inflammation of one or more hair follicles. It is often caused by bacterial or fungal infections [1].

close up photo of folliculitis skin bumps on a dog

The most common symptoms of folliculitis include:

  • Small red bumps around hair follicles
  • Pustules and crusty sores
  • Hair loss in patches
  • Itching and irritation

Folliculitis is usually treated with antibiotics, antifungal medications, or medicated shampoos [2]. Keeping the skin clean and preventing scratching/licking can help clear up folliculitis. In severe cases, the vet may prescribe oral antibiotics or recommend draining deep sores and cysts.


Cysts are sacs filled with fluid or other material. There are several types of cysts that can develop in dogs:

pictures of different types of cysts on dogs

  • Sebaceous cysts – formed in the sebaceous glands and contain a cheese-like or oily substance. They are common in dogs, especially on the head, back, and tail. (VCA Animal Hospitals)
  • Follicular cysts – develop in the hair follicles and contain clear fluid. They often rupture and drain on their own. (VCA Animal Hospitals)
  • Dermoid cysts – abnormal growths that contain hair, skin, and other tissues. They may be present at birth. (AKC)

Symptoms of cysts include soft, movable lumps under the skin that may become inflamed and red. They are often rounded, slow growing, and painless. Treatment depends on the type and cause, and may include draining, surgical removal, or antibiotics if infected.


Warts in dogs are caused by infection with papillomaviruses. There are many different types of canine papillomaviruses that have been identified, and each type tends to cause warts on specific areas of the dog’s body. The most common sites for warts include the muzzle, lips, gums, belly, groin, or feet (PetMD).

appearance of warts on dogs

Symptoms of warts include small bumps on the skin that can appear round, cauliflower-shaped, or flat. They are typically firm and raised from the skin. Warts may appear alone or in clusters and can range in size. They are usually not itchy or painful.

Treatments for warts include medications prescribed by a vet, surgical removal, freezing with liquid nitrogen, or stimulating an immune response. Most warts will go away on their own without treatment as the dog’s immune system fights off the virus. However, treatment may be recommended for faster removal, especially if the warts are widespread, growing quickly, or affecting the dog’s quality of life.

Other Possibilities

While folliculitis, cysts, and warts are common causes of bumps on a dog’s skin, there are some less frequent possibilities as well. Two other potential causes of small bumps include:

Histiocytoma: This benign tumor of histiocytes (a type of white blood cell) can cause firm, raised bumps on a dog’s skin. They are usually 1-3 cm in size. Histiocytomas typically develop on younger dogs and may disappear on their own within a few months. However, some may need to be surgically removed if they persist, grow rapidly, or become ulcerated.1

Ringworm: This contagious fungal infection can lead to circular areas of hair loss and scaly skin. It may resemble a ring-shaped lesion with a normal center and raised border. Ringworm often affects puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems. It requires antifungal treatment and can spread to humans.2

When to See the Vet

There are certain warning signs that indicate your dog’s skin bumps require a veterinary exam. According to the AKC, you should contact your vet immediately if the bump is growing rapidly, seems to be causing pain, or changes appearance. Redness, bleeding, pus, a foul odor, and a loss of hair around the bump are also causes for concern.

Some key reasons to schedule an exam with your veterinarian include:

  • The lump has been growing quickly over a few days or weeks
  • There are multiple lumps appearing at the same time
  • The lump seems to be interfering with your dog’s movement or causing visible discomfort
  • You notice any swelling, redness, bleeding or pus
  • Your dog is frequently licking, scratching or biting the lump

Veterinarians have the proper tools and knowledge to diagnose skin lumps and bumps. Your vet will first do a visual exam and feel the lump. They may take samples for biopsy or cytology to analyze the cells. Diagnostic tests like blood work and imaging may also be used. Getting an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible enables prompt treatment if necessary.


There are a few ways to help prevent bumps and skin issues from developing on your dog:

Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Feed them a high-quality diet rich in omega fatty acids to promote skin and coat health. Supplements like fish oil or evening primrose oil can also help. Regular brushing spreads natural oils throughout the coat and removes dirt and debris.

Practice good grooming habits. Bathe your dog regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo. Check for fleas, ticks and other parasites during grooming. Trim hair around eyes, ears, paws and rear to prevent matts and debris buildup.

Clean skin folds carefully. Use a damp cloth to gently wipe deep skin folds on breeds like Bulldogs to prevent irritation. After bathing, thoroughly dry fold areas.

Avoid skin irritants. Switch to gentle, hypoallergenic grooming products if your dog has sensitive skin. Don’t allow them to roam through tall grasses or thick brush where they can pick up stickers, foxtails, etc.

Visit your vet regularly. Wellness exams allow your vet to check for skin issues early before they become problematic. Keep vaccinations up to date to prevent some viral infections that can cause skin lesions.

With proactive prevention methods, you can help keep your dog’s skin healthy and bump-free!

Home Remedies

There are several natural home remedies that may help soothe and reduce bumps on your dog’s skin. Some options to try include:

natural home remedies to treat dog skin bumps

Apple cider vinegar – The antifungal and antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar can help treat skin infections causing bumps. Mix a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water and apply it to the affected area with a cloth 2-3 times per day. Be sure to dilute the vinegar to avoid irritating your dog’s skin [1].

Coconut oil – Coconut oil moisturizes dry skin and has anti-inflammatory effects. Gently rub a small amount onto the bumps 2-3 times per day. Be sure to use virgin coconut oil [2].

Oatmeal baths – An oatmeal bath can soothe irritated skin. Grind 1 cup of oatmeal into a powder and add to bath water, or place an oatmeal sachet directly in the bath. Bathe your dog for 15-20 minutes as needed.

Chamomile tea – Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Brew a strong chamomile tea, let cool, and apply it to the bumps with a cloth several times a day.


In summary, small bumps on a dog’s skin like pimples can be caused by several conditions including folliculitis, cysts, warts, and other possibilities. While some bumps may be harmless, others can indicate more serious medical issues. It’s important to monitor the bumps and see your vet if they persist, change, or become irritated.

To help prevent bumps on your dog’s skin, focus on good nutrition, gentle grooming, avoiding excessive bathing, and using gentle shampoos. Natural remedies like coconut oil, oatmeal baths, and aloe vera may help soothe some mild bumps. But see your vet if home treatments don’t resolve the bumps or if they appear infected.

By understanding the possible causes for those small skin bumps on your dog and getting veterinary help when needed, you can keep your dog’s coat and skin as healthy as possible. Be attentive to changes and contact your vet with any concerns.

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