Help! My Dog’s Has Sores On The Face

Updated April 13, 2021

I want you to see these pictures of severe facial sores in a dog. Note especially how quickly they developed and then went away with the right treatment. This is canine eosinophilic furunculosis.

I will discuss it and other causes of lesions on the face of dogs afterwards.

Canine Eosinophilic Furunculosis

This is a rare condition whose exact cause is unknown, but believed to be hypersensitivity to bite from an insect (e.g. wasp, hornet, bee, mosquito, ant) or spider. In this dog’s case, the cause was probably bull ants.

Raised, swollen sores appear, and enlarge extremely rapidly. They are mostly found on the sides and top of the nose and muzzle, and more rarely around the eyes, on the underside or the legs. Eventually they become ulcerated, moist, crusty or even bleeding.

Dogs may find the sores very painful or itchy. Severely affected dogs can appear unwell and lethargic.

Treatment Of Eosinophilic Furunculosis

Treatment is very successful via anti-inflammatory corticosteroids (‘cortisone’), and antibiotics for secondary infection. However, as corticosteroids can just as easily be the wrong treatment for some skin conditions, it’s best to get a diagnosis first.

Therefore, before starting the prednisolone I took a biopsy; that’s the single stitch you can see in later photos. The speed of improvement was as fast and impressive as the speed that it initially worsened. By the time the results were back, it was already 80% better.

Canine eosinophilic furunculosis is an incredibly dramatic and rare reaction that your vet might not have seen, and (like me) might fear the worst. However, if you recognise what it is, it’s not nearly so bad.

What Else Causes Facial Sores?

Here are three much more common causes of swellings on dogs’ faces.

The lesion below is a solitary, circular and much drier lump we call a granuloma. Sometimes it has a hard crust. They also mostly appear on the nose or face but cause less discomfort and irritation. These granulomas appear to be infections, and respond slowly to antibiotics.

dog nasal infection

Then there’s the classic bee sting. This causes a rapidly developing swelling of the affected area, usually the lips, eyelids and muzzle. There should be no specific sores visible. Such dogs are shown below.

You can read all about the treatment of bee sting here.

dogs and bees

Lastly, there’s the tooth root abscess. These mostly appear underneath the eye like in the picture below, and will eventually burst. Again, you can read more at the link.

dog face lump

There are far too many other causes of facial sores to be able to document them all. Some will be specific to certain parts of the world. That’s why, even if your dog looks like the pictures here, you always need your local vet to confirm the diagnosis.

Here are just a few extra examples:

  • Nasal solar dermatitis (‘collie nose’) in high UV places like Australia
  • Leishmaniasis in South America, the Mediterranean basin and East Africa
  • Autoimmune diseases like discoid lupus erythematosis, pemphigus and uveodermatologic syndrome
  • plus any of the Skin lumps of dogs can also be found on the head

Related: Causes of Ear Tip Sores In Dogs

Much gratitude is due to Alaska’s mum, Kate for taking and sharing these excellent pictures.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.


8 Replies to “Help! My Dog’s Has Sores On The Face”

  1. Hi, I have noticed this on my dogs nose. It doesn’t seem to bother her too much as she is still playful and eating but growls when I try to look closer. She is 7yrs old and a nervous Rottweiler so not vet friendly ! Do I need antibiotics ?
    (will have to send photos separately as can’t attach)

    1. Hi Leanne. I’m afraid it’s impossible to judge skin lesions adequately by photos alone. Please see your vet, as if it is a bull ant bite like in the pictures it will probably relentlessly worsen until treated.

  2. I think my dog might have the first one. He sniffs outside a lot and had a very fast progressing peeling of his nose from black to all pink within 8 days and mild-severe congestion. X-rays and labs were normal. It has stumped his vet and emergency vet. He has not responded to antibiotics. They have not ruled out viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasite. This has prevented next treatment before internist appt next week. His primary now thinks it may be immune mediated due to the progression of nose peeling but both recommend further testing like a swab, ct scan, rhinoscopy, and or biopsy. He is on day 9 and cannot see the internist for another 4 days. If it ends up being this, is this waiting period before treatment harmful?

    1. Hi Ted – the dog we saw made a full recovery, but you could ask for a biopsy to be performed – this was very helpful for us. Good luck.

  3. What about similar spots on faces of cats? Our white cat (indoor only) gets sores on her face and neck and then they eventually scab over then go away, we are convinced she is allergic to fish but not sure if that could cause those types of spots.

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