Pyoderma in Dogs: Causes and Treatment

Pyoderma in dogs is a painful bacterial skin infection that leads to the development of pus-filled lesions. While it can be a result of bacterial overgrowth on the skin, it is commonly a secondary condition originating from an underlying illness. Therefore, diagnosing the primary condition in your dog is crucial to alleviating their symptoms.

Skin Issues in Dogs

You might assume that dogs have it easy since they don’t need a morning skincare routine and don’t worry about skin problems as humans do. However, despite their lack of daily routines, dogs are susceptible to skin infections and discomforting conditions, just like humans. Dogs can experience various skin problems, including oily skin, itching, pustules, acne, and inflammation. Pyoderma is one such condition affecting both humans and dogs. It’s a bacterial skin infection characterized by symptoms such as odor, crusting, hair loss, pus-filled lesions, and more.

Understanding Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is one of the most prevalent skin diseases in dogs. It refers to a bacterial skin infection, literally meaning “pus in the skin.” It’s more common in dogs than in humans due to their thinner skin with a higher pH, making it more susceptible to bacterial overgrowth. Typically, pyoderma is a superficial skin condition and often results as a secondary infection linked to various underlying issues like allergies and parasites. Immediate treatment is essential as it can cause discomfort, pain, and unsightly symptoms, including odor and skin crusting.

Types of Dog Pyoderma

There are two primary types of pyoderma in dogs: simple and complex. Simple pyoderma occurs in young animals as a one-time event, often triggered by factors like flea infestations. In contrast, complex pyoderma is recurrent and typically a sign of an underlying health condition. The depth of the infection further classifies these types:

  1. Surface Pyoderma: Affecting the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, surface pyoderma exhibits symptoms like pink, inflamed skin, and hair loss. It may resemble alopecia due to similar symptoms. Examples include hot spots and skin fold infections, leading to greasy skin and an unpleasant odor.
  2. Superficial Pyoderma: Affecting the layer beneath the epidermis and part of the hair follicle, superficial pyoderma presents as crusty skin, bumps, hair loss, and inflammation. Types include impetigo (puppy pyoderma), superficial bacterial folliculitis (SBF), and mucocutaneous pyoderma.
  3. Deep Pyoderma: Affecting the lower skin layer, deep pyoderma exhibits significant symptoms such as draining infection tracts, redness, crusting, and hair loss. Common examples include furunculosis, acne, lick granuloma, and callus pyoderma.

Symptoms of Pyoderma in Dogs

While the specific symptoms of pyoderma can vary depending on its type, common indicators include:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Itching
  • Crusts
  • Flakiness
  • Hair loss
  • Lesions

Dogs with pyoderma may scratch themselves to relieve itching, potentially leading to infected lesions. Surface and superficial pyoderma are typically not painful. In contrast, deep pyoderma can cause discomfort, crusting, and an unpleasant skin odor. It may also result in the discharge of pus or blood from the lesions.

Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is typically a secondary condition caused by an underlying illness. Common culprits include:

  • Infections
  • Inflammation due to allergies (such as skin, environmental, and food allergies) or flea infestations
  • Cancer
  • Endocrine disorders

Bacterial infections are the primary cause of pyoderma in dogs, with Staphylococcus pseudintermedius being a common culprit. This bacterium usually resides on the skin but can become problematic if the skin barrier is compromised. Factors such as chronic moisture and certain skin conditions can also contribute to pyoderma development.

Diagnosing Pyoderma in Dogs

Diagnosing pyoderma often involves a physical examination, with visual skin signs aiding in the diagnosis. Additional tests are conducted to determine the presence of pyoderma and its underlying causes. Diagnostic methods include:

  • Skin scraping
  • Skin Cytology
  • Culture
  • Biopsy
  • Allergy testing
  • Bloodwork

Identifying the underlying condition is essential to prevent pyoderma recurrence.

Treating Pyoderma in Dogs

Treatment for pyoderma depends on its cause. Vets often prescribe antibiotics, considering the growing resistance of bacteria. Oral antibiotics are common, with some dogs receiving injectable antibiotics lasting up to two weeks. Topical treatments, such as medicated shampoos and ointments, can help alleviate symptoms such as itching and discomfort. Anti-itch medication and anti-inflammatory steroids may be used, although they may not address the root cause of pyoderma.

Post-Vet Care for Your Dog

After diagnosis, your vet will develop a treatment plan that includes antibiotics and home care products. The duration of treatment varies based on the pyoderma type and severity. Regardless of improvement, it’s crucial to follow your vet’s instructions until the treatment is complete. Pay attention to grooming, and using medicated shampoos to limit bacterial growth. Following treatment is essential to ensure the condition doesn’t recur.

Pyoderma in Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is pyoderma in dogs contagious? Pyoderma is not typically contagious between dogs. It is a secondary condition resulting from underlying illnesses. However, the underlying issues that lead to pyoderma may be contagious among dogs.
  2. Will pyoderma go away on its own? Pyoderma does not resolve without treatment, and untreated cases can lead to more severe health complications.
  3. What does pyoderma look like on a dog? Pyoderma appears as red, inflamed skin with pustules, often resembling human acne. The skin may also become crusty and flaky, with patchy hair loss.

In Conclusion

Pyoderma is a painful condition in dogs that requires prompt treatment. If you observe signs of red, inflamed, itchy skin or oozing lumps on your dog’s skin, seek veterinary care to address pyoderma. Timely treatment can help identify and manage underlying health issues, ensuring your dog’s well-being. If you suspect your dog has pyoderma, consult with a vet for diagnosis and treatment. We can help diagnose and treat pyoderma in dogs, reducing their symptoms and discomfort.