Pyoderma in dogs

Pyoderma in dogs 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. There are many different types of pyoderma; superficial pyoderma is the most common.

Most cases of pyoderma are straightforward to diagnose and treat. However, if the underlying cause is not found or treated, pyoderma can become a recurring condition. Any age, breed or sex of dog can be affected by pyoderma. Pyoderma is rarely a life-threatening disease, and the prognosis is usually excellent.



What is pyoderma in dogs?

Every dog harbours regular, “healthy” bacteria on their skin. Pyoderma occurs when these bacteria breach the skin barrier and trigger an infection.

  • Pyoderma in dogs 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.
  • There are many different types of pyoderma in dogs. The most common is superficial pyoderma, which is when the infection is only in the upper layers of the skin. Other types include skin fold pyoderma, puppy pyoderma, hot spots, and deep pyodermas.
  • With pyoderma in dogs, there is almost always an underlying cause.
  • Common underlying causes include fleas, mange, poor nutrition, food allergies, environmental allergies, endocrine disease (hypothyroidism or Cushing’s), some medications, and hormonal factors.
  • Most mild cases clear up in 1-3 weeks; a course of antibacterial medication is often needed. Some mild cases, such as puppy pyoderma, may even clear on its own.
  • Deep infections may take much longer, up to 8–12 weeks with oral antibiotics.


Pyoderma in dogs 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 dog.



Symptoms of pyoderma in dogs

The most common signs seen with pyoderma in dogs include:

  • Itchiness: not all dogs get itchy with pyoderma, but some show excessive scratching, biting, and licking
  • Spots: often with a whitehead
  • 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 darkening skin, moist skin or draining pus, lethargy and pain.



Are some dogs more at risk of pyoderma than others?

Any dog, regardless of age, breed or lifestyle, can develop pyoderma. However, there are some increased risks:

  • Skin fold pyoderma: breeds at higher risk include Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Shar-Pei and Spaniels (lips)
  • Dogs with allergies (flea, food and environmental) are more likely to develop pyodermas
  • German Shepherds are prone to a type of deep pyoderma



How is pyoderma diagnosed in dogs?

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 dogs?

Antibiotics are usually needed for the treatment of pyoderma in dogs. Mild cases of puppy pyoderma might clear on its own with time.

  • For mild and localised pyodermas, topical antibiotics are used. 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 dog with pyoderma at home

You can help your dog with pyoderma at home by:

  • Making sure they have clean and dry bedding
  • Giving medication at correct dose and frequency, as advised by your vet
  • Using topical treatments such as medicated shampoo and 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 dogs

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

  • Bathing regularly (every 7–10 days) with medicated shampoo can help dogs that are prone to pyoderma.
  • For dogs with skin fold problems: keep the folds as clean and dry as possible. Try to use antibacterial wipes daily for this.
  • Keep your dog 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 dog with pyoderma

Seek an appointment with your vet if:

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

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

  • Your puppy has developed any spots
  • You want any advice about bathing your dog
  • You need help choosing parasite preventative for your dog
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