To pop the blackhead or not – that is the first question that comes to mind when we see a blackhead no matter where it is. When the blackhead is on us, we are more than delighted to squeeze its guts out. But what happens if your dog suddenly develops a blackhead or two on its nipples. Are they safe to pop?
Blackheads on dog’s nipples – what are they, and what can be done? Blackheads are clogged pores and can develop anywhere on the body. They can be a sole issue or a red flag indicating something more serious is going on. Popping blackheads may sound and look fun, but if your dog is prone to developing blackheads, it is best advised to see a vet and get to the bottom of the problem.
In this article, we will talk about blackheads on dogs (on nipples and elsewhere on the body). We will discuss the reasons blackheads form and give tips on what to do as a management form. Finally, we will answer the common question – to pop them or not?
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are, in fact, clogged pores or hair follicles. When a pore gets clogged, it progresses and can develop into a pimple or a blackhead. The medical term for blackheads is comedones.
Blackheads can occur on their own or as a part of a more serious underlying issue. The underlying issue can be skin-related or occur elsewhere in the body. Blackheads can develop anywhere.
How Do Blackheads Form?
As mentioned, blackheads are clogged pores or hair follicles. Hair follicles are the birthplace of hair and are located in one of the skin’s layers. Just underneath each follicle, there is a small so-called sebaceous gland (a gland that produces oil).
Normally, the sebaceous glands produce small amounts of sebum or oil, which oils the skin, thus making it softer and nourished. However, if the oil production increases, the excess amount of oil cannot be soaked into the skin and accumulates within the hair follicles.
Eventually, as the clogging continues, the pore becomes clogged. The oil content is mixed with dead skins, and as a result of the air exposure, it turns black, thus transforming the pore into a blackhead.
How Do Blackheads Look on A Dog?
Blackheads on dogs look pretty much the same like they do in people. They are small dark spots usually prominently above the surface of the skin.
However, compared to humans, blackheads are harder to spot on dogs because of their dense coats. Generally speaking, blackheads are easier to spot on the dog’s belly and other less furry areas such as ears, nipples, armpits, and groins.
Why Is My Dog Covered in Blackheads?
There are several reasons dogs develop blackheads. Do not forget that just like in people having a few blackheads occasionally is completely normal and nothing to be worried about. However, if they are a frequent issue and present in larger numbers, blackheads are a cause for concern. Here are some of the most common causes of blackheads in dogs.
Cause number 1: Increased oil production
The increased oil production by the sebaceous glands in dogs is medically termed seborrhea. Seborrhea can be caused by various issues. Among the most common causes of seborrhea in dogs is excessive bathing (giving the dog baths too frequently) and using inappropriate bathing products (shampoos and conditioners formulated for humans as they are too harsh for the dog’s sensitive skin). The most characteristic thing about a dog with seborrhea is the distinct and rather unpleasant smell.
Cause number 2: Demodicosis
Demodicosis is a specific skin infection in dogs caused by the tiny parasite named Demodex. The Demodex mites burrow tunnels into the dog’s skin and inhabit the holes. The presence and activity of the Demodex mites result in several skin changes, which can vary from blackheads to secondary bacterial infections. Demodicosis is more likely in young pups, but older dogs can get it too, especially if suffering from compromised immune systems. The treatment for demodicosis is lengthy and often expensive but successful.
Cause number 3: Hormonal imbalances
Hormonal imbalances are not uncommon in dogs. Most hormonal issues result in various changes, including skin issues. The most common hormonal imbalances in dogs are:
- Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) – increased production of adrenal gland hormones, like corticosteroids
- Hypothyroidism – decreased production of thyroid gland hormones.
In both cases, the affected dog will manifest an array of additional symptoms. In fact, if your dog is suffering from a hormonal imbalance, there will be more accented red flags long before you become aware of the presence of blackheads.
Cause number 4: Schnauzer Comedone Syndrome
Also known as Schnauzer bumps, the Schnauzer comedone syndrome is a genetic condition occurring strictly in Schnauzers. Interestingly, it only occurs in Miniature Schnauzers. The condition is more likely to become apparent in young pups and middle-aged dogs. In such cases, the blackheads tend to appear on certain body areas and are most densely distributed on the neck, back, and rump. More often than not, the blackheads lead to secondary issues such as bacterial infections, crusts, itchiness, pimples, bald spots, and hair loss.
Cause number 5: Hairless dog breeds
Hairless dog breeds (Mexican hairless, Inca Hairless Dog, Chinese Crested Dog, and American Hairless terrier) are prone to a specific type of blackheads. Namely, lacking actual hair, hairless dog breeds have distorted or abnormally functioning hair follicles. Their follicles fail to grow proper hair shafts which results in the hair getting stuck within the follicle. Over time as the oil accumulates, it is very likely to get clogged, causing blackheads. This is one of the reasons hairless dog breeds require special hair care routines.
Are Blackheads on My Dog’s Nipples Bad?
It depends – finding a blackhead or two on your dog’s nipples (or anywhere on the body) every now and then is not a big issue. However, if your dog’s nipples and other body areas are covered with blackheads, and it seems like every day, a new blackhead emerges, you need to get proactive and schedule a vet visit.
It is important to remember that blackheads are a symptom – they are not a disease on their own. Therefore, it is imperative to determine what is causing them and why your dog is covered with the annoying black spots. Some blackhead causes are bad, and others are benign. However, you cannot tell until a vet sets a diagnosis.
Can Dogs Get Pimples on Their Nipples?
Yes, dogs can get pimples on their nipples. In fact, dogs can get pimples anywhere on their body. However, before you assume the black dots around or on your dog nipples are pimples or comedones, you need to rule out certain issues. For example, pimples and comedones are often confused with the following issues.
Issue number 1: Accumulated dirt
Sometimes, instead of causing a clog and transforming into a blackhead, the excess oil from the sebaceous glands can make the area around and on the nipples oily and attract dirt. Over time, as more dirt gathers, it will give the nipple an overall darkened appearance. This is a common issue among dogs (both male and female). Keeping your dog’s hygiene on a good level will help with this problem.
Issue number 2: Lentigines
Lentigines are, in fact, not an issue at all – they are natural skin pigmentation. The more common term for Lentigines is freckles. Most veterinary books agree that in dogs, lentigines are exclusively found the belly area. Since they are considered normal, there is no necessary treatment. However, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your dog’s lentigines in case they undergo some worrisome changes (the same as moles in people).
Issue number 3: Flea poop
As disgusting as it sounds, if your dog is infested with fleas, it is safe to assume that soon it will have flea poop all over its body. Fleas suck blood and then poop small black dots filled with digested blood (if you crush the poop against a white surface, you will see blood speckles). When dealing with flea poop, your dog will have such black spots all over its body, not just around the nipples. Plus, the spots will be mobile and easily removable, while actual blackheads require popping.
Can I Pop My Dog’s Blackheads?
No, you should not pop your dog’s blackheads. While dog blackheads look the same as human blackheads, they are not the same. As tempting as popping blackheads sounds, the risks of the action outweigh the benefits.
Namely, squeezing the blackhead out will traumatize the dog’s skin and cause harm. Plus, popping the blackhead will not solve the issue (as already mentioned and described, blackheads are not a disease, they are only a symptom).
Additionally, a popped blackhead can easily transform itself into a severe and hard-to-manage skin infection. Skin infections in dogs are a nightmare as their treatment takes quite some time. Last but not least, the mere popping actions are quite painful and will make your dog uncomfortable, at least.
Therefore, if your dog has blackheads refrain from traumatic popping and squeezing and instead, schedule an appointment with your trusted veterinarian.
What Do I Do About the Blackheads on My Dog’s Nipples?
The best thing you can do is leave the blackhead alone. Just like in people, blackheads in dogs tend to resolve naturally after some time. Blackheads are nasty-looking, but they are neither painful nor harmful on their own. Therefore, letting time solve them is all they need.
However, things are a bit more complicated when the blackheads are not a sporadic occurrence or if your dog has a lot of them. In such cases, it is best to seek veterinary help to determine the underlying cause.
In such cases, the treatment will depend on the underlying trigger. In the meanwhile, until the treatment takes effect, it is highly advisable to give your dog baths with special shampoos.
If some of the blackheads have already turned into a local inflammation or even infection, the vet will probably prescribe a topical antibiotic or antifungal cream to manage the situation before it gets worse. In very rare situations, oral antibiotics may also be prescribed.
Summing Up: Blackheads on Dog’s Nipples
A single blackhead on your dog’s nipple is not something you should be worried about. However, if the nipples are covered with blackheads, your dog has blackheads on the nipples and elsewhere on the body, or even shows additional worrisome signs and symptoms, it is highly advisable to schedule an appointment with your trusted veterinarian.
Since blackheads are a symptom, the vet will need to determine the underlying cause and suggest appropriate treatment. Most underlying issues are manageable, but some require a more complex approach than others. Therefore, the sooner you seek veterinary help, the sooner your dog will be back to its normal self and free from nasty blackheads.