Pyoderma in dogs can make your poor pup itch constantly.
Pyoderma is a bacterial infection that affects all types of dogs.
Unfortunately, it is not a disease you can easily detect.
Most pet parents assume the early signs of pyoderma as a normal itch that will go away.
But the itch is persistent and can spread to other parts of your dog’s body.
If pyoderma in dogs is not detected early, it can end up damaging your dog’s coat.
This is why you should always be aware of the types of skin infections that can affect your dog.
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What is pyoderma?
Pyoderma affects both humans and animals. In humans, Pyoderma results from an autoimmune disorder.
People with inflammatory diseases, like arthritis, are at high risk of contracting pyoderma.
Pyoderma in dogs is a whole different case.
The disease is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.
This bacterium resides in the mucous membrane and dermis layer of your dog’s coat.
In low numbers, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius bacteria is harmless.
But when this bacterium multiplies to abnormal levels, it can trigger pyoderma in dogs.
Which begs the question.
💡 Did You Know…?
Some dogs are more susceptible to pyoderma than others? Pyoderma highly affects toy and medium-sized dogs.
Dogs with skin folds on their face or coat are vulnerable as well.
What causes pyoderma in Dogs?
Several factors trigger the rise of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius bacteria in your dogs. They are;
- An autoimmune skin disease
- Food allergies
- Weak immune system
- Skin damage
1. Autoimmune skin disease in dogs
Common autoimmune skin conditions in dogs include;
- Discoid lupus erythematosus
- Bullous pemphigoid
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Pemphigus complex
You should not vaccinate a dog, or cat, that has an autoimmune condition. Vaccination is only allowed under special conditions approved by a vet.
2. Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
Discoid lupus erythematosus is a skin condition that commonly affects dogs.
Cats too are susceptible to this condition but in rare cases.
Border Collies are among the top dog breeds affected by DLE (hence the nickname Collie nose).
Other dog breeds affected by Discoid lupus erythematosus include;
A common symptom of discoid lupus erythematosus is loss of pigmentation around the nose, eyes, lips, and ears.
The texture of the affected surface changes as well.
In dogs, DLE causes the skin or coat to feel smooth, flat or shiny. Sometimes ulcer sores can form on the skin.
3. Bullous pemphigoid
This autoimmune skin disease causes a large fluid-filled swelling on a dog’s skin.
The area around this swelling is constantly itchy and causes discomfort.
Other symptoms of Bullous pemphigoid include
- Ulcers in the mouth, armpit, and groin
- Red bumpy spots or welts
4. Systemic lupus erythematosus
This is a hard disease to detect because it mimics the symptoms of other diseases.
Systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus can affect several body organs at once.
The symptoms are sudden or periodic and can be chronic to treat.
Symptoms of this condition include;
- High fever that does not respond to medication
- Hemolytic anemia
- Limb lameness or stiffness
- Low white blood cell count
- Symmetrical dermatitis or butterfly lesion
5. Pemphigus complex
This autoimmune condition is as dangerous as lupus.
It is described as a cluster of five autoimmune attacks that target the dog’s skin.
These autoimmune attacks are classified as;
- Pemphigus foliaceus – scabs and ulcers form around the mouth, nose bridge, ears, eyes, groin, and footpad. Some medication can cause this condition
- Pemphigus erythematosus – causes red blemishes, scales, crusts, and hair loss around the nose
- Pemphigus Vulgaris – causes blistered or swollen lips, mouth, eyelids, and nostrils. Also causes blisters in the anal region.
- Paraneoplastic pemphigus – this is a dangerous form of pemphigus complex disease. It causes tumors all over a dog’s body.
- Pan Epidermal pustular pemphigus – causes chronic pustules that ooze pus. Lumps and lesions also form in the body.
6. Food allergies
Prolonged food allergies can weaken a dog’s immune system. Interestingly, some food allergies trigger symptoms similar to those of pyoderma in dogs.
Dogs become allergic to certain foods. Common ones include
- Dairy products
- Rabbit meat
Food allergies in dogs can cause chronic diarrhea, gastrointestinal issues, ear inflammation, and bloating.
Some dogs develop itchiness on the coat and around the rear.
Dogs that get skin allergies from food are more vulnerable to pyoderma.
7. Weak immune system
Diseases like cancer, liver or thyroid diseases weaken a dog’s immune system.
Medication like Prednisolone suppresses a dog’s immune response.
These factors increase the chance of a dog contracting pyoderma.
8. Skin damage
Skin damage caused by excessive scratching can lead to pyoderma in dogs.
Some dogs also suffer a damaged coat due to urine scalding or chemical burns.
Parasites like mange, ringworms, and bugs also cause skin damage in dogs.
What are the symptoms of pyoderma in Dogs?
Pyoderma in dogs exhibits a variety of symptoms.
These symptoms often mimic those of other bacterial infections such as staphylococcal dermatitis.
The most common symptom of pyoderma in dogs is the presence of pustules on the dog’s skin.
Pustules appear like red pimples or blisters filled with pus.
These pustules affect areas with less hair like the nose, paw pad, belly, and groin area.
The second common symptom of pyoderma is itching. An infected dog will scratch at the affected areas relentlessly.
This will cause the pustules to burst and ooze.
When the pustules dry up, they leave behind flaky or crusty skin.
Other symptoms of pyoderma in dogs include;
- Skin inflammation
- Hair loss from excessive scratching
- A bad odor from the puss
- Skin sensitivity
- Swelling of affected areas
There are bacterial and fungal infections in dogs that cause similar symptoms.
They are Staphylococcal dermatitis and yeast infection.
For staphylococcal dermatitis, you should look for additional symptoms such as;
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory infections
Yeast infection has all the symptoms of pyoderma in dogs.
It can be hard to tell them apart save for the presence of hives when it is a yeast infection.
Also, these dog breeds are more vulnerable to yeast infection;
- Lhasa Apso
- Cocker spaniel
- Basset hounds
- West Highland Terrier
- Australian Terrier
- Silky Terrier
- Shetland sheepdog
How do you treat pyoderma in dogs?
The best way to diagnose pyoderma in dogs is by ruling out other bacterial infections.
Also, there are ways to diagnose pyoderma at home.
But if you are not up for the task, then a professional vet can do the diagnosis for you.
The type of treatment given depends on the severity of the condition.
Pyoderma affects three areas of your dog’s body. These are.
- The skin surface – this is called surface pyoderma which only affects the dermis layer of your dog’s coat.
- The hair follicle and epidermal layer – also known as superficial pyoderma, this type often leads to hair loss because it affects hair follicles.
- The hair roots – also known as deep pyoderma and is the most advanced of the three. It causes hair loss and further affects the coat.
Pyoderma that only affects the top part of the skin is easy to get rid of. If the infection is deep-rooted, then medical attention is required.
The first step of curing pyoderma in dogs is correctly diagnosing the disease.
Remember there are bacterial and fungal diseases that mimic pyoderma.
A professional vet will rule out all the doubts that your dog has pyoderma.
There are four ways to diagnose pyoderma in dogs;
- Skin scraping
- Bacterial culture
- Fungal culture
- Blood tests
- Allergy test
1. Skin scraping
This is the easiest way to detect pyoderma in dogs.
You can choose to do it at home or take your dog to the vet for the skin scrape test.
The skin scraping test should be carried out with steady hands. It is easy to puncture the pustules and cause more pain to a dog.
Skin scraping helps get skin samples of the affected area.
Use a strip of tape over the pustules then gently pull. Some of the dead skin on the dog’s coat will be caught on the tape.
Another option is using a blunt object to scrape away at the affected area for dead skin.
Ensure you scrape an area with dried dead skin.
Take the sample to a vet to determine if your dog has pyoderma.
Not all pet parents are for the idea of scraping away at dead skin.
This is okay especially if you fear to hurt your dog when taking a sample.
Take the dog to a vet clinic to have the sample taken.
The sample is then observed under a microscope for bacteria or parasites.
If parasites like mites are present in the sample, it rules out the possibility of pyoderma.
Bacteria is much harder to view under a microscope especially because of their transparent bodies.
More samples may be taken to determine if a colony of bacteria exist.
A bacterial colony is easier to detect. Fungal infections can be spotted without the need for a microscope.
2. Fungal culture
A fungal culture helps find out if the pyoderma symptoms are due to a fungus and not bacteria.
If there is the presence of yeast or ringworm in the sample, then your dog is not suffering from pyoderma.
3. Bacterial culture
A bacterial culture is necessary if the results from the microscopic test are not convincing enough.
The sample is then stored in temperatures conducive for bacteria to grow.
By the end of the culture test, the results will show the exact bacteria causing the skin condition.
4. Blood test
The vet will only order a blood test if results from the bacterial culture test are not conclusive.
A blood test helps determine if the skin condition is from an internal problem.
Blood tests also help determine the severity of the condition; say if the bacterial infection is in the blood as well.
5. Allergy tests
Allergy tests are performed on the dead skin samples.
It is easy to diagnose allergies and clearing them usually takes a short while.
Your vet will recommend antibiotics to clear the pyoderma.
A cocktail of drugs may be required for a condition that is too severe.
Do not attempt to give your dog antibiotics at home. Bacteria develop resistance to drugs. This means the condition may worsen if drugs were administered without a proper diagnosis.
There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that can help clear pyoderma in dogs.
Popular ones on the market include;
6. Metronidazole for dogs
Metronidazole fights internal infections that may cause pyoderma symptoms.
This antibiotic drug alleviates gastrointestinal issues.
Metronidazole also comes in handy when treating dental problems in dogs.
This drug has side effects as well. In dogs, metronidazole can cause;
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Blood in urine
7. Cephalosporin for dogs
Cephalosporin is administered orally to dogs. It is FDA approved and helps clear skin infections in one dose.
Cephalosporin is a strong drug and is generally recommended for large dog breeds.
This drug is taken with or without food.
Though it clears bacteria within days, this comes at a cost.
Cephalosporin can cause the following side effects;
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen tongue and face
- Blood in urine
- Bleeding and bruising
8. Enrofloxacin for dogs
Enrofloxacin cures pyoderma at the skin level.
It will clear bacteria on skin and hair follicles.
Vets also recommend this drug when treating bacterial infections in the respiratory or urinary systems.
Enrofloxacin is an oral drug.
The correct dosage for dogs is 50mg per 10 kg of body weight for medium dogs.
For large dogs, the dosage is upped to 150mg per 10kg of body weight.
This drug has side effects as well. Some of them are;
- Decreased appetite
- Mood swings
- Vomiting and diarrhea
9. Amoxicillin for dogs
Amoxicillin cures skin infections as well.
Besides alleviating the symptoms of pyoderma, this antibiotic also comes in handy when treating wounds or respiratory issues.
It is ideal for pyoderma caused by initial skin issues in a dog.
Vets administer amoxicillin orally in a dosage of 5mg per pound of body weight.
This drug is FDA approved and should be harmless.
However, some dogs will develop side effects from the drug.
Amoxicillin side effects include;
- Unsettled stomach
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Disrupted breathing
- Swollen face
10. Clindamycin for dogs
Clindamycin is effective in treating bacterial infections in dogs.
It addresses problems in the bones and soft tissues like skin.
Vets recommend this drug for dental problems as well.
Clindamycin dosage for dogs will depend on the specific issue being addressed.
For bacterial infections like pyoderma and staphylococcal dermatitis, the recommended dosage is 5mg/lb. taken daily for up to 28 days.
For wounds and dental infections, the dosage is 2.5mg/lb. to 15mg/lb. administered daily for 28 days.
Side effects include;
- Mild jaundice
- Stomach pains
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Low blood pressure
Are there natural ways of treating pyoderma in Dogs?
Antibiotics effectively cure canine pyoderma.
But the ride to full recovery is not always smooth for our canine friends, which is why some pet parents seek holistic ways of treating the condition.
Fortunately, it is possible to cure pyoderma without relying too much on antibiotics.
There are home remedies that are proven to cure or alleviate the symptoms of bacterial infections in pets.
And these healing ingredients are right in our kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Some of them are;
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
These home remedies are only recommended for surface pyoderma. They help alleviate skin symptoms but will not cure internal bacterial infections.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is a natural antibiotic. When mixed with water in a 1:1 ratio, apple cider vinegar will treat infected skin.
Not only does it kill bacteria, but it also brings back the luster of your dog’s coat.
For this treatment, you will need;
- Apple cider vinegar
- Cotton balls
For the procedure;
- Mix the vinegar and water in the suggested amounts
- Use warm water instead of cold water. It is more soothing
- Slightly dip the cotton balls or swabs in the solution and dab at the infected skin
- Dab gently over pustules to prevent pain and bursting
Within four days, you will start to see positive changes in your dog.
Coconut oil for dogs
Coconut oil is described as nature’s moisturizer.
It is perfect for dry, scaly, or flaky skin. Coconut oil also carries antibiotic properties to kill surface bacteria.
Also, coconut oil relieves an itchy skin providing relief to your dog.
For the coconut oil remedy, you will need;
- Pure coconut oil
- Cotton balls or swabs
Use the swab to gently dab coconut oil on the affected area.
Apply Vaseline after to hold the coconut oil so its healing properties can kick in.
Your dog’s coat will look shiny and healthy as the bacterial infection clears.
Other benefits of coconut oil for dogs
- Reduces odor especially from ruptured pustules
- Prevents allergic reactions
- Can treat yeast or fungal infections
- Is a remedy for general dermatitis
- Heals wounds
Pyoderma in dogs can cause a great deal of discomfort in your dog.
Fortunately, this condition is easily cured with over-the-counter medication.
To avoid the side effects of commercial drugs, you can always use coconut oil and apple cider vinegar to clear bacterial infections in dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Vets recommend regularly bathing your dog to prevent surface pyoderma. Bathing your dog two to three times a week with pet-approved antiseptic soap. This should help prevent any further spread of skin pyoderma. You also have to feed your dog a high quality diet to strengthen their immune system.
Pyoderma affects three areas; the skin surface, the hair follicles, and the hair roots. Pyoderma that affects the skin alone is referred to as surface pyoderma. It is a mild infection and sometimes clears on its own. But it is still good to have your dog checked by a vet to be sure.
Pyoderma is not contagious to humans or other animals. Dogs contract pyoderma when the level of bacteria in their bodies multiply to harmful levels. The condition is more internal and cannot be passed from a dog to human beings.