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December 10, 2020

Pyoderma in Dogs: What You Should Know

Pyoderma in Dogs

Key Points

  • Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection in dogs.
  • The most common signs of pyoderma in dogs are red bumps or pimples on the skin of your dog.
  • Often, pyoderma is caused by an underlying medical condition such as environmental or food allergies.
  • The treatment for pyoderma in dogs includes oral antibiotics and topical antibacterial shampoos. In addition, the underlying cause of the pyoderma should be addressed.

What is pyoderma in dogs?

Pyoderma is an extremely common skin condition diagnosed by veterinarians. It is a bacterial skin infection that creates rashes and lesions on your dog’s skin. Many times, there is an underlying reason your dog has developed pyoderma. There are multiple forms of pyoderma in dogs.

Superficial Pyoderma

This is one of the most common types of pyoderma seen in dogs. Superficial means that the bacterial infection is only on the outer layers of the skin. Because it is more superficial, it may take less time to treat than deep pyoderma.

Deep Pyoderma

Deep pyoderma in dogs occurs when the bacterial infection is occurring within multiple layers of the skin. Deep pyoderma infections may take longer to treat because the infection is occurring deep within the layers of the skin. Pyoderma gangrenosum is an extremely rare form of pyoderma that has been reported in dogs. There have only been a few reports of this condition in dogs.

Puppy Pyoderma

Puppy pyoderma, as the name suggests, is a bacterial skin infection that occurs in puppies. This is typically a superficial skin infection that results in red bumps and pimples on your puppy’s belly.

What causes dog pyoderma?

Merck Veterinary Manual reports that Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is the most common bacterial organism causing pyoderma in dogs. This bacteria lives and grows on the skin normally, but an infection occurs when this bacteria overgrows. This can be common in moist and warm areas of the skin such as armpits, lip folds, or facial folds.

 

Often, there is an underlying cause for the bacterial overgrowth. The most common predisposing factors for pyoderma in dogs are:

  • Environmental allergies (atopy)
  • Food allergy
  • Flea allergy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Dogs on high doses of steroids

What are signs of pyoderma in dogs?

Pyoderma dogs have skin lesions that can vary in appearance. Sometimes a dog with pyoderma has itchy bumps filled with clear liquid. Other times, these bumps are red and don’t itch. According to veterinarians at VCA specialty hospital, the most common symptoms of pyoderma in dogs include:

  • Pustules (pimples)
  • Papules (red bumps)
  • Epidermal collarettes (circular crusts)
  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Redness of the skin

How do you diagnose pyoderma in dogs?

The first step in diagnosing dog pyoderma is to visit your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your dog and can often diagnose pyoderma on visual inspection of your dog’s skin. Your veterinarian may wish to perform skin tests to look for bacteria and yeast under the microscope. In addition, they may perform a skin scrape to look for evidence of mites. Veterinarians may wish to perform a culture of the skin if the bacterial infection is recurring or if it does not resolve with antibiotic therapy.

Is pyoderma in dogs contagious to humans?

Typically, most forms of pyoderma in dogs are not contagious to humans. That being said, there have been reports of humans developing skin infections from dogs. The highest risk of getting infected occurs if you are immunocompromised. If you are concerned, I recommend speaking with your veterinarian and medical doctor.

How do you treat pyoderma in dogs?

The superficial pyoderma dog treatment usually consists of an oral antibiotic and a topical antibacterial shampoo. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions on the duration of antibiotic therapy. The rule of thumb is to give oral antibiotics for 7 to 10 days past resolution of clinical signs. This usually means that you will be giving oral antibiotics for 3 to 6 weeks on average for a superficial infection. Deep infections may take 8 to 12 weeks to heal. 

 

The most common antibiotics used to treat pyoderma in dogs include:

  • Cephalexin
  • Cefpodoxime (Simplicef)
  • Clindamycin

 

If the infection returns after your dog stops antibiotics, your veterinarian may wish to do additional tests or treatments to determine the underlying cause of the infections. Often, recurrent skin infections are caused by some type of allergy. Dogs with allergies may also be extremely itchy and have recurrent ear infections. If your veterinarian suspects your dog’s pyoderma is caused by allergies, your dog may need to be placed on a long term allergy medication like Cytopoint or Apoquel. In addition, fatty acid supplements may be helpful in reducing the itchiness that your dog is experiencing from allergies.

Best Dog Food for Pyoderma

If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy as the underlying cause for the pyoderma, they may recommend a food trial with a low allergen dog food. The most common dog allergies are to proteins including chicken and beef. Contrary to popular belief, grains are not common causes of allergies in dogs. Prescription veterinary diets contain low levels of allergens or a unique protein. The pet foods I use most often for food trials in dogs include:

  • Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d

Will pyoderma go away on its own?

Unfortunately, pyoderma will not usually go away on its own. The body can not fight off bacterial infections like pyoderma without some assistance from antibiotics. If you suspect your dog has pyoderma, I recommend taking your dog to a veterinarian. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe oral antibiotics to treat the bacterial skin infection.

When should I visit the vet?

Anytime your dog is experiencing a new or unusual symptom, you should visit your veterinarian. If your dog has any skin lesions or is itchy, it would be a good idea to visit your veterinarian. Skin infections will often heal faster if they are treated promptly. If a skin infection is left untreated, it will often get worse.

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