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What You Need to Know About Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma literally translates to “pus in the skin.” It is a bacterial infection on the skin that typically occurs in response to allergies or parasites, or from the overgrowth of bacteria in certain areas of the body. Pyoderma is common in dogs and usually responds well to antibiotic treatment. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of this skin condition. 

What You Need to Know About Pyoderma in Dogs

Why do dogs develop pyoderma?

The bacterial skin infection associated with pyoderma can be triggered by any of the following:

  • An injury which results in a wound
  • A humid skin environment, such as in lip folds, facial folds, neck folds, armpits, groin area, and paws.
  • Skin irritation caused by allergies and exacerbated by constant scratching 
  • Parasite infestation, such as fleas or ticks 
  • Yeast or other fungal skin infections 
  • Hormonal imbalance, such as with thyroid disease 
  • Certain medications, such as immunosuppressants.  

Pyoderma in dogs can either be a simple infection or a complex infection. A simple infection is common among puppies and is usually a one-time event with a simple cause, such as a flea infestation. 

A complex infection is recurrent and often triggered by an underlying condition, such as an anatomic predisposition (due to skin folds, for example),  allergy, seborrheic issues (which involve oil production), parasitic diseases, or internal diseases (like hormonal imbalances). 

The bacterial infection, whether simple of complex, can be superficial or deep. Superficial pyoderma only affects the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin, and the hair follicles. Deep pyoderma affects the dermis and deep dermis, or causes furunculosis in the hair follicles which leads to abscesses and pus. 

Recurrent pyoderma is often caused by improper or incomplete treatment with the prescribed antibiotics; failure to treat the underlying cause of the pyoderma; or use of glucocorticoid drugs which suppress the immune system. 

What You Need to Know About Pyoderma in Dogs

Symptoms and diagnosis of pyoderma

The symptoms of pyoderma in dogs are as follows:

  • Itchy skin and constant vigorous scratching and licking of the affected area. 
  • Dry or flaky patches of skin
  • Circular crusts on the skin
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Papules or pustules that resemble pimples and which may be red, raised, and filled with white pus. 

Your vet will perform a physical check-up and review your dog’s medical history to narrow down the cause of the pyoderma. He may also recommend performing other clinical tests to make an accurate diagnosis of the underlying condition. These tests may include antibiotic sensitivity tests, skin cytology, and fungal cultures for allergic dermatitis; and blood tests for hormonal issues, such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism. 

Treatment and prevention of pyoderma in dogs

Treatment of pyoderma depends on whether it is superficial or deep. 

Careful grooming is important while your furry friend is undergoing treatment for pyoderma. Whether it’s superficial or deep pyoderma, and especially if your pet has a medium or long coat, it’s better to have a professional groomer clip his hair so that dirt and bacteria will not get entangled in the fur. The affected area should be kept clean and dry to prevent further irritation of the skin. Fido should also have a clean, dry, and padded bedding. 

If your dog has superficial pyoderma, your vet will recommend a shampoo to use. You should give Fido a bath two to three times a week during the first two weeks of treatment, after which once- or twice-a-week baths should be done until the infection goes away. 

Deep pyoderma often requires a medicated shampoo and daily washing of your dog. Dilute the shampoo to one-quarter or one-half strength, or whatever your vet prescribes. You will have to leave the shampoo on the coat for 10 minutes to allow his skin to absorb the medication. It might take two to three weeks of daily treatment with the shampoo before you see any improvement. The medicated shampoo works by reducing itching, odor, and oiliness of the skin and eliminating bacteria, crusts, and flakes. 

What You Need to Know About Pyoderma in Dogs

If the pyoderma is triggered by allergies, Fido will also be treated with an antihistamine or low-dose steroids. 

Lastly, your vet will most likely prescribe an oral antibiotic to effectively kill the bacteria and prevent a recurrence of your dog’s pyoderma. Antibiotic treatment usually lasts three to four weeks for superficial pyoderma, and eight to 12 weeks or longer for deep pyoderma, as well as for long-term or recurrent pyoderma. Topical antibiotics may also be required. Typically, antibiotic treatment is discontinued when all symptoms of pyoderma, except for hair loss and increased pigmentation, have been absent for at least 7 consecutive days. 

It’s important that you strictly follow your vet’s instructions with regards to Fido’s antibiotic treatment. You have to finish the course of treatment even if there are no more physical signs of the pyoderma and it looks like your best bud’s skin has gone back to normal. The bacteria that caused the pyoderma may still be present. If you halt the antibiotic treatment earlier than the prescribed length of time, the bacteria will most likely multiply again and the pyoderma will recur. 

Pyoderma in Dogs - Final Thoughts

Pyoderma is often successfully treated with topical medications and/or oral antibiotics. If your dog’s pyoderma is chronic, it is likely that there is an underlying cause which will also require treatment. 

Overall, pyoderma normally responds well to treatment and does not pose serious health risks. But it’s important that proper treatment is immediately given and is completed to ensure that the condition will not recur.