Pyoderma in cats

Pyoderma in cats is a term used to describe a skin infection of bacterial origin. In most cases of pyoderma, there is an underlying cause, such as parasites or allergies. Pyoderma in cats is not as easily defined into categories as it is in dogs and it’s thought to be less common in cats. 

Pyoderma is typically easy to diagnose and treat in the majority of cases. However, without addressing the root cause, it can recur. Pyoderma can affect cats of any age, breed, or gender. Pyoderma is rarely a life-threatening disease, and the prognosis is usually excellent.



What is pyoderma in cats?

All cats have normal, “healthy” bacteria on their skin. Pyoderma is the result of these bacteria moving through the skin barrier and causing an infection.

  • Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that happens when there is damage to the skin surface.
  • This damage can be due to trauma from scratching, immune problems or changes in the normal skin bacteria.
  • Pyoderma in cats is not easily put into categories, but there are two main types; superficial and deep.
  • With pyoderma in cats, there is almost always an underlying cause.
  • Common underlying causes include fleas, mange, poor nutrition, food allergies, environmental allergies, endocrine disease (hyperthyroidism), injuries, and viral infections.
  • Most mild cases clear up in 1-3 weeks; a course of antibiotics is often needed. Some mild cases may even resolve with topical treatment.
  • Deep infections may take much longer, up to 8–12 weeks with antibiotics.


Pyoderma in cats usually resolves quickly when caught and treated early. However, the infection can worsen and require long courses of antibiotics if not treated appropriately. Our Joii vets are available 24 hours a day if you have any concerns about your cat.



Symptoms of pyoderma in cats

The most common signs seen with pyoderma in cats include:

  • Itchiness: not all cats get itchy with pyoderma, but some show excessive scratching, biting, and overgrooming
  • Small bumps or lumps in the skin
  • Red skin, circular scabs or crusts, or flaky patches
  • Smelly skin
  • Hair loss or hair thinning

Deep pyodermas tend to be more severe, with signs such as open sores, moist skin or draining pus, lethargy and pain.



Are some cats more at risk of pyoderma than others?

Any cat, regardless of age, breed or lifestyle, can develop pyoderma.

  • Cats with skin folds or short hair can be more susceptible to pyoderma
  • Cats with allergic disease are more prone to pyoderma
  • Cats with suppressed immune systems, like those with FIV or FeLV, are more susceptible to deep, non-healing pyodermas



How is pyoderma diagnosed in cats?

Pyoderma is diagnosed by looking at the cells taken from a skin sample under the microscope.

Further tests are usually required to look for underlying causes:


Vet treatment

What’s the treatment for pyoderma in cats?

Antibiotics are usually needed for the treatment of pyoderma in cats:

  • Most cases will need systemic antibiotics. Some mild or localised pyodermas might be treated with topical antibiotics. Topical treatment involves shampoos or solutions containing chlorhexidine and other products.
  • Deep, recurrent or widespread pyodermas will require long courses of at least 6–8 weeks of oral antibiotics. A culture and sensitivity test will usually be needed before starting this course to make sure the correct antibiotic is used.
  • Other medications may be needed to treat the underlying cause, such as anti-inflammatory medications for allergy relief.


Home treatment

How to look after a cat with pyoderma at home

You can help your cat with pyoderma at home by:

  • Making sure they have clean and dry bedding
  • Giving medication at the correct dose and frequency, as advised by your vet
  • Using vet-recommended medicated shampoo or mousse
  • Using a buster collar or pet medical suit to prevent self-trauma leading to worsening of the infection
  • Following up with vet appointments after treatment to make sure the infection has cleared



Tips on how to prevent pyoderma in cats

Follow these steps to help prevent or reduce the frequency of the recurrence of pyodermas in cats:

  • Bathing or grooming regularly (every 7-10 days) can help cats that are prone to pyoderma.
  • For cats with skin fold problems: keep the folds as clean and dry as possible. Try to use antibacterial wipes daily for this.
  • Keep your cat on a good-quality and balanced diet
  • Use regular parasite control
  • Work with your vet to rule out or diagnose underlying allergies
  • Supplements containing omega oils can help strengthen the skin barrier


Is my family at risk of catching pyoderma?

Studies have shown that there is a possible risk of the spread of one of the types of bacteria involved in pyodermas between humans and pets. However, the risk is very low in healthy humans and is reduced further by good hygiene practices.


When to worry

When to worry about your cat with pyoderma

Seek an appointment with your vet if:

  • Your cat is constantly scratching themselves
  • Your cat is on medication for pyoderma and it doesn’t start to improve within 2-3 days
  • Your cat has skin disease but is also lethargic and not eating

Call us and speak to one of our Joii vets if:

  • Your cat has developed any spots
  • You want any advice about bathing your cat
  • You need help choosing parasite preventative for your cat
Consult a vet - £28

Consult your vet online. Anyday, anytime.

Consult a Joii vet online for £28. Or free if you’re insured with one of our partners.

Developed by vets 🩺

QR code to app

How to get an

Join a practice

*It's free*

Download the app to register and become a member of Joii vets. In only a few taps you will have access to digital vet care 24/7 as well as a vet practice

Download the app

We’re writing as quick as we can

This article is currently being written by one of our expert vets. Check back soon.