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Impetigo in Dogs

dog getting a shampoo

What is Impetigo in Dogs?

Does it look like your dog has pimples or red marks all over their body? They may be suffering from a condition called impetigo, which is also known as pyoderma. It’s a skin infection that can cause discomfort, itching, and hair loss. Impetigo primarily affects puppies and resolves with appropriate treatment.

Causes of Impetigo

Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that often occurs with other skin conditions, such as dermatitis. The skin may be compromised in some way, such as being scratched open, bitten by fleas or ticks, or having the beneficial mix of bacteria disrupted, or the dog may be immunocompromised. Internal parasites can also contribute to impetigo.

The exact bacteria that infects the skin may vary from case to case, and in most situations a veterinarian can use a broad-spectrum antibiotic that’s applicable in fighting many common types. With that being said, Today’s Veterinary Practice reports that Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, one of the bacteria frequently behind impetigo, has a resistance to antibiotics in the methicillin category. This resistance means that your dog would need to have a different course of antibiotics, or they may need a different medication combination to effectively treat the bacteria.

The primary reason it impacts puppies more than older dogs is due to the covering in areas that have thin skin. They don’t have as much hair covering their groins and bellies, so it’s more likely to end up with abrasions.

Puppies that are housed with other dogs in conditions that aren’t hygienic are at higher risk of developing impetigo, as the bacteria thrives in that type of environment and immune systems may be stressed. Pet stores, animal shelters, breeders, doggy daycares, and boarding facilities that have dogs in communal environments represent some of the riskier places to contract impetigo. The three to six-month-old age range has the highest number of cases, according to Veterinary Practice Journal.

Signs and Symptoms of Impetigo

The first symptom you’ll likely notice of impetigo is the pimple-like lesions on the skin. They’re red bumps and you will see a white substance inside them. This is pus. The skin may be dry and flaky overall, with patches of hair missing. This condition is uncomfortable for dogs, so they try to relieve their symptoms through itching the spots that bother them or rubbing against rough and textured surfaces.

Your veterinary will go through several types of diagnostic tests to determine whether your dog has impetigo. These symptoms are shared with other conditions, including hypothyroidism and allergies, so the veterinarian will determine whether it’s impetigo or something else causing the skin problems.

The most common tests that are ordered for impetigo in dogs include blood tests, skin and fungal cultures, allergy testing, and antibiotic sensitivity evaluation. Your veterinarian may be able to run these tests in-house, but some of them may take some time to produce results.

Treatment Options for Impetigo in Dogs

Your veterinarian has several options for treating impetigo in dogs. They need to fight the bacteria that’s causing these skin lesions, so your dog may take oral or topical antibiotics as the first course of treatment. If they are suffering from multiple skin conditions, such as an allergy, steroids or antihistamines can be incorporated into the treatment plan. It’s important to give your dog the entire course of antibiotics, even if the impetigo symptoms start to disappear long before the pills run out. Antibacterial shampoo is commonly used, which requires bathing your dog multiple times per week.

The dog’s environment must stay clean and disinfected to reduce the risk of additional bacterial infections occurring on the skin. Use soft bedding to help them feel more comfortable while their skin starts to heal and minimize their stress so their immune system can work as efficiently as possible to fight the bacteria. Improvements in the cleanliness of the dog’s environment and the quality of their diet can make a significant difference in the recovery time associated with impetigo.

How Long Does it Take a Dog to Recover from Impetigo

Basic impetigo treatment lasts up to four weeks for a course of oral antibiotics, antibiotic topical spray, or medicated shampoo. More complicated cases may require testing several types of antibiotics to determine the one most effective to combating the skin infection. This process could take several months, over which time the skin clears up and your dog regains the comfort levels they previously enjoyed.

You’ll notice your dog scratching less and the red marks on their body healing up. If they had hair loss due to impetigo, it will begin growing back in as the recovery progresses. Impetigo is not typically a life-threatening condition, but it typically requires medical intervention to resolve it.

Some dogs have chronic impetigo, which requires a long-term approach to treatment. These cases often have underlying allergies involved or another recurrent risk factor. Treating allergies may require changing the type of food they eat, the detergent you use for their bedding, the bedding material, and many other environmental factors.

It might be startling to see a dog suffering from impetigo, especially if it’s a case that covers a significant portion of their body. However, while it’s uncomfortable, it’s not a severe condition and the prognosis is good to great. Discuss your concerns with your veterinarian and ask plenty of questions if any part of the conversation is unclear to you.

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