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Pictures of Pyoderma in Dogs [With Veterinarian Comments]

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This article was updated on September 19th, 2023

In my years of experience as a veterinarian, pyoderma stands out as a health condition that many dog owners struggle to manage. It’s not always easy to recognize or treat without professional guidance and there can be many underlying causes. In this article, I will provide you with an expert insight into this common skin condition; what causes pyoderma in dogs, how to diagnose it accurately, and most importantly – the best ways to treat and prevent this condition from recurring.

Understanding Canine Pyoderma

Pyoderma, a common dermatological condition in dogs, refers to a bacterial skin infection that affects the outer layers of a dog’s skin. It can present in various ways, including papules or pustules on the skin surface, circular crusts scattered across their coat, and dry, flaky patches of fur-less skin. Pyoderma is almost always accompanied by incessant itching.

The bacteria commonly involved in pyoderma infections is Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, a normal skin bacteria found on dogs’ bodies, which can overgrow and become an opportunistic pathogen under certain circumstances. Usually this bacteria exists on our dog without causing harm, but if an underlying cause disrupts the immune response in the skin, it can result in infections like canine pyoderma.

Pyoderma is a broad term that can be broken down into further categories based on where in your dog’s body and which layers of the skin it is affecting. The most common forms of pyoderma are:

  • Superficial Pyoderma: Also known as surface pyoderma, this type affects the outermost layer of the skin. It typically presents as pustules, papules, or small red bumps. 
  • Deep Pyoderma: Deep pyoderma involves infection that extends beyond the superficial layers of the skin and affects deeper tissues and structures. It can lead to more severe symptoms such as draining abscesses, ulcers, thickened skin, and pain.
  • Skin Fold Pyoderma: This type of pyoderma occurs in skin folds, such as those around the face, neck, tail, or armpits. Dogs with facial wrinkles, like Bulldogs or Pugs, are particularly prone to fold pyoderma. 
  • Puppy Pyoderma: Puppy pyoderma is a specific type of superficial pyoderma that commonly affects young puppies. It is characterized by pustules, crusts, and hair loss, primarily on the abdomen and groin area.

What does Pyoderma in dogs look like?

Pyoderma in dogs can manifest in various ways. The symptoms of pyoderma may include:

  • Red and itchy skin: Dogs with pyoderma often experience redness and itchiness in the affected areas.
  • Circular crusts and flakiness: Some dogs may develop circular crusts or flakes on their skin.
  • Hair loss: Pyoderma can lead to areas of hair loss, which may be evident in patches or bald spots.
  • Pustules and pimples: Dogs with pyoderma may develop pustules, which are raised bumps filled with white pus.
  • Scabbing: Scabbing can occur in cases of pyoderma, where the affected areas become covered in scabs.

Photos:

Pyoderma in dog’s foot:

Pyoderma lesion on dog’s body:

Severe rash/pyoderma in dogs:

Inflamed pyoderma in dog skin:

1022269561 Shutterstock

Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs

Since the bacteria that often cause pyoderma are found on your dog’s skin naturally, It’s important for owners to recognise that pyoderma usually doesn’t just occur out of the blue –  there needs to be an underlying cause. 

The most common underlying causes of pyoderma are:

Allergies: Dogs with underlying allergies, such as flea allergy dermatitis or food allergies, are more prone to developing pyoderma. Allergies can weaken the skin’s immune barrier, allowing bacteria to get in and cause an infection. Addressing any underlying food allergies is essential in preventing pyoderma. Medication is also available to prevent your dog’s immune system from overreacting to allergens.

Moisture and Poor Hygiene: Excessive moisture, poor grooming, and poor hygiene can create an environment that promotes bacterial growth and infection. Be sure to bath your dog once every couple of weeks or when they get particularly dirty.

Skin Trauma: Any injury, scratch, bite, or abrasion to the skin can provide an entry point for bacteria and lead to pyoderma. While this can be hard to avoid, addressing the issue and keeping any wounds clean can help prevent a secondary infection like pyoderma from occurring. For any large open wounds be sure to see your veterinarian as antibiotics might be needed to prevent infection from occurring. 

Parasites: Infestations of fleas, ticks, or mites can cause skin irritation and inflammation, making the skin more susceptible to bacterial infection. This highlights the importance of keeping your dog’s parasitic treatments up to date.

Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can affect the health of the skin and increase the likelihood of pyoderma. If your dog is experiencing symptoms like drinking or urinating more, hair loss or weight gain then see your vet; they might want to perform blood tests to rule out an underlying hormonal disorder.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Distinguishing Pyoderma from Other Skin Conditions 

In some cases of pyoderma, dogs might display symptoms similar to other conditions like fungal infections or endocrine diseases, making it crucial for vets to accurately differentiate between these conditions.

Blood tests can help rule out certain hormonal diseases and skin samples can be analysed for different types of infection such as fungal infections. Bacterial culture and sensitivity plays an important role here; it helps identify if Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is present – a bacteria commonly associated with pyoderma in dogs.

Veterinary professionals also use advanced techniques like PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing, which can detect genetic material directly from bacteria involved, including Staphylococcus pseudintermedius.

Diagnosing Pyoderma in Dogs

Dogs showing signs of skin irritation, hair loss, or itching could be suffering from pyoderma. A thorough examination by a vet is the first step in diagnosing this bacterial skin infection. This involves checking for clinical signs and reviewing your pet’s medical history for any likely underlying causes.

If canine pyoderma is suspected, further diagnostic tests such as allergy assessments or analysing skin samples may be required to confirm the diagnosis. A culture and sensitivity can be performed on these samples to determine the type of bacteria present and which antibiotic treatment it should respond to. 

Home Remedies 

Mild cases of pyoderma may be able to be managed with home remedies but if your dog doesn’t respond to treatments in the first few days, it’s improtant to seek professional advice. 

Regular grooming is recommended for maintaining the health of their skin. Brushing your dog on a daily basis assists in removing dead hair and skin cells, which reduces the chances for bacterial overgrowth syndrome.

Bathing with an antibacterial shampoo could also provide some relief for minor cases of superficial canine pyoderma, but remember to use products specifically designed for dogs’ sensitive skin as human shampoos may disrupt their coat’s natural pH balance, leading to further irritation.


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A balanced diet plays an integral role in helping your dog deal with issues like pyoderma. Omega 3 supplements may provide anti-inflammatory benefits while probiotics can help promote a natural balance of bacteria on your dog’s skin.

When to seek veterinary care

While certain home remedies might offer temporary respite from superficial infections, more severe infections will warrant veterinary intervention. 

If persistent itching continues despite using topical treatments including sprays, redness spreads across large areas, lethargy sets in, or appetite decreases – it’s time to seek professional assistance. 

In chronic instances, it may be necessary to investigate further for potential root causes like endocrine diseases or allergies. Persistent cases that don’t respond to at-home treatments will likely require antibiotics.

What will happen at the vet and how much will it cost?

When you bring your dog to a veterinary clinic for suspected pyoderma, they’ll start by conducting an in-depth examination of your dog while discussing your pet’s history. They may ask questions like ‘how long has your dog been suffering with the symptoms?’ and ‘Was there any obvious cause?’

Depending on their findings, the veterinarian might then perform skin cytology tests to determine if there is bacterial overgrowth present. For more severe cases, bacterial culture tests may be necessary to identify what type of bacteria is causing the infection and what antibiotics it should respond to. 

If an improvement isn;t seen after initial treatments, additional testing might be needed. The vet may investigate underlying causes such as endocrine disease or allergies.

The cost of treating dogs’ pyoderma varies depending on severity and cause. For mild cases that only require topical treatments, it could cost between $50-100 to cure their condition. However, costs may be more for more chronic cases or those that require longer courses of oral antibiotics – expect to pay $200-300 in these cases. 

If further testing is required, such as allergy or hormonal blood tests, the cost will be even more still. Be sure to discuss cost estimates with your vet prior to booking an appointment.

FAQs

Are certain dog breeds more susceptible to pyoderma than others?

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, certain dog breeds may be more susceptible to pyoderma than others including breeds such as Spaniels, Pekingese, Pugs, Boxer Dogs, Shar-pei and Bulldogs.

Can pyoderma in dogs be contagious to other pets or humans?

Pyoderma in dogs is generally not considered contagious to other pets or humans. The bacteria that commonly cause pyoderma in dogs, such as Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, are typically specific to dogs and do not pose a significant risk to other species. However, it’s important to exercise basic hygiene practices when dealing with a dog with pyoderma, such as washing hands after handling the affected dog and avoiding direct contact with the infected areas.

What are the potential complications if pyoderma is left untreated?

If left untreated, pyoderma in dogs can lead to chronic pain, scarring and infection spreading elsewhere in the body. 

How long does it typically take for pyoderma to heal with treatment?

The typical healing time for pyoderma with treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the underlying cause, and the type of treatment administered. In general, it may take several weeks to months for pyoderma to heal completely with appropriate treatment.

Is it possible for pyoderma to recur after successful treatment?

Yes it is possible for pyoderma to recur after successful treatment. Recurrence is particularly likely if there is an underlying cause such as allergies or hormonal conditions that have not been addressed. The bacteria that cause pyoderma can also become more resistant to treatments like antibiotics over time, making recurrence more likely. 

Author

  • Dr Alex Crow, Veterinary Surgeon

    Alex Crow, VetMed MRCVS, is an RCVS accredited Veterinary surgeon with special interests in neurology and soft tissue surgery. Dr Crow is currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary Center in England. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 2019 from the Royal Veterinary College (one of the top 3 vet schools in the world) and has more than three years of experience practicing as a small animal veterinarian (dogs and cats).


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