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Pyoderma In Dogs: A Treatment Guide

Pyoderma In Dogs

Having your furry friend greet you excitedly when you come home gives you one of the best feelings in life. Naturally, you’d want your pet to be in tiptop health so they have the best quality of life at all times. But the fact is, your beloved dog is susceptible to many diseases. One of the most common and easily observable condition is pyoderma in dogs. Here’s everything you need to know about this condition.

What is Pyoderma?

Pyoderma, which literally means “pus in the skin”, refers to any fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infection of the skin. One of the most common causes of visits to the vets, this condition is also referred to as impetigo in puppies. Dogs who live in warmer climates are more susceptible to this condition as microorganisms thrive well in warm and moist environments.

What Causes This Condition?

When there’s a break in the skin of your pooch due to flea bites, wound, or scrapes, the area could be the likeliest spot for bacteria, fungi, or parasites like mites to flourish. Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which resides in the skin of your furry friend is the most common culprit behind the progression of pyoderma, along with other resident pathogens like streptococci, Acinetobacter, and Micrococcus sp.

Under normal circumstance, these microorganisms are harmless to your pet. The problem occurs when there’s an overgrowth of these bacteria and the natural defense mechanism is impaired due to underlying diseases like dermatitis, Cushing’s disease, fungal infection, autoimmune disorder, and allergy.

The overgrowth of these microorganisms would make that specific spot very itchy, which would lead to vigorous scratching that will just worsen the condition. In addition, blood flow to the area will also be impaired. It’s a vicious cycle that makes the condition worse unless treated immediately.

Is My Pet Susceptible to This Condition?

While pyoderma is a very common disorder, dogs are more at risk of this skin infection than cats. Dogs of all ages can suffer from pyoderma, although some breeds as well as those with other underlying medical condition have increased risk of contracting this disease.

Breeds with lots of skin folds like Shar-Peis, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers are more predisposed to this infection. The warm and moist environment in those hidden spots beneath the skin folds are just excellent area for increased microbial activity.

Pets that are taking immunosuppressive medication and steroids also have a higher risk of developing pyoderma.

What are the Different Types of Pyoderma?

This kind of infection can be classified as surface, superficial, and deep, as well as simple and complex. Here’s how you can differentiate between these types.


In surface pyoderma, there’s a proliferation of bacteria in the skin, which in turn would trigger an immune response. Though there’s an overgrowth of pathogenic microorganisms, this type of pyoderma does not invade the underlying tissue of the skin. Infection of this type includes “hot spots” and fold pyoderma.

Due to unknown reasons, German shepherds are also predisposed to another kind of surface pyoderma known as mucocutaneous pyoderma, which commonly affects areas like the anus, vulva, and lips.


Superficial pyoderma affects the superficial epidermal part of the skin, the layer that is situated underneath the outermost skin and includes upper portions of the hair follicles. When you notice your pup display symptoms of a skin infection, it’s most likely suffering from this type of pyoderma. This type includes infection like puppy pyoderma and bacterial folliculitis.


If superficial pyoderma has not been treated promptly, your four-legged friend could run the risk of having deep pyoderma, an infection that affects the hair follicles and deep layers of the skin where blood vessels are found. German Shepherds are known to have increased risk of this type of infection due to genetics as well as dogs suffering from mange. If not managed effectively, this infection could lead to cellulitis, boils, and rupture of the hair follicles.

All three types of pyoderma can be categorized as simple or complex. Simple infection is prevalent in puppies and a single trigger like an open wound or flea infestation causes it. Complex infection, on the other hand, refers to recurring infections, usually brought about by underlying medical conditions like allergy or dermatitis.

How to Prevent This?

Sanitation and prompt treatment of underlying condition are keys to preventing this infection. Make sure that your pal’s living area is clean and well ventilated. Treat open wounds and scrapes immediately. In case of a flea infestation, wash your dog’s bedding thoroughly and obtain prescription treatment from your vet. If you have a wrinkly pal, you’ll have to give extra care to those skin folds. You need to clean those hidden spots regularly with medicated wipes, if necessary.

To prevent recurrence, identify what triggered the infection and resolve that. For instance, if your pet has allergies, consult your vet for a suitable treatment plan. It may require diet and lifestyle changes for your fur baby, along with prescription medication. Or if your pet has severe mange, you will have to give medicated baths and spay your pet as hormone fluctuations could trigger flare-ups, which in turn, could cause recurring infection. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For?

Pyoderma, depending on the type, comes with a wide range of symptoms. The most common signs are lesions on your pet’s skin that may or may not contain pus. These raised blisters have similar appearance to pimples in humans. Other signs of this condition include:

  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Flaky and crusty skin
  • Hive-like protrusion in the affected area

If your dog suffers from deep pyoderma, you will notice bloody discharge due to blood vessel damage. In some instances, the sores may have a foul odor.

Commonly affected areas include the armpits, neck folds, facial folds, and feet as these are where bacteria thrives well. Elbows are also prone because of repeated pressure on this area especially if the dogs don’t have proper bedding.

How is This Diagnosed?

To examine the condition of your pet and determine the underlying cause of the issue, the vet may perform some of the following diagnostic tests:

Adhesive tape preparation

The vet or his assistant will place adhesive tape on the affected area to allow cells, microbes, and other debris to stick to the tape. After a few seconds, the vet will remove the tape and examine it under a microscope to check for any abnormalities in the cells as well as the presence of fungi, bacteria, or parasites.

Skin scrape and hair plucks

Using a dull scalpel, the vet may scrape some tissue and pluck hairs in the affected area. The vet will examine these samples under the microscope to determine any abnormalities.

Microbial culture

The vet may also request a microbial culture to see which type of bacteria or fungi are present so that they can better decide on which antibiotic or antifungal medication can be used to effectively treat the infection. Swabs of skin and strands of hair from the affected area will be sent to the lab to do this.

Blood test

A blood test will reveal the internal medical issue that may have lowered the skin’s natural defense mechanism that caused microbial growth go unchecked. This would also help the vet check for underlying issues like thyroid problem or hormonal imbalance.

Allergy test

If the possible underlying cause of your four-legged pal’s pyoderma is an allergy, the vet may conduct a food trial, a skin test, or both. These will determine if your pet has an allergy and identify the allergen that it is sensitive to.


If your dog has deep pyoderma, the vet may request a biopsy. The biopsy will reveal most insight on any cellular abnormalities and the possible underlying issue that could be causing it. To conduct a biopsy, the vet will administer local anesthesia or give a sedative to your pet before removing skin tissues from the affected area. The samples will be sent to the lab where a veterinary pathologist will examine them.

How is Pyoderma Treated?

If it is a simple infection, treatment can be very straightforward. Typically, they will shave the infected skin and its surrounding area to clean it thoroughly and so that they can apply the topical medication directly to the affected tissue. Your dog may also need a bath using a specially-formulated antibacterial shampoo. Antibiotics can be applied topically, given orally, administered through an injection, or a combination of those.

As this is mostly an outpatient procedure, the vet will prescribe an oral antibiotic that you will have to give to your pet. Make sure to finish the medication as prescribed to avoid antibiotic-resistant infection. Furthermore, the vet may also instruct you to give your dog a medicated bath regularly. You have to follow through with the treatment plan even when the blisters and other signs are no longer visible to reduce the likelihood of a recurring infection.

However, if the infection is a complex one, the perpetuating factor must be addressed. Treating your pet’s primary disease will also take care of the skin infection given the proper medication.

How About Home Remedies for Pyoderma?

Some pet owners are wary of filling their dog’s system with prescription medication and would rather use homeopathic medicine. If you want to go this route as well, apple cider vinegar is the most common alternative to antibiotics because of its well-document antibacterial property.

Other dog parents can attest to the efficacy of coconut oil and vaseline. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and it is a natural moisturizer that can prevent dryness and itching. Vaseline is applied on top of the coconut oil to seal in the moisture.

How to Help My Dog Recover Faster?

Your furry friend may experience side effects from the medication. So after the visit to the vet, make sure that your pooch rests in a clean and quiet environment with access to plenty of water and food. Common side effects to antibiotics include lack of appetite, faintness, swelling of the tongue or face, upset stomach, shortness of breath. Make sure that you discuss this with the vet beforehand so that you’ll know what to expect.

To ensure maximum absorption of the topical medication, your beloved pet may have to sport an E-collar for a while to prevent it from licking off the ointment. There’s no need to isolate your pooch if you have other pets in the house as pyoderma is fortunately not contagious in dogs. However, you have to ensure that your other pals don’t lick off the medication from the infected area.

Generally, the prognosis for simple pyoderma is excellent. Sure, looking at your furry baby suffer is never fun for any dog parent. But with meticulous follow through of the treatment plan, your dog will be back on its feet in no time.


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