dog skin infection

Dog Skin Infection:Symptoms and Inexpensive Treatment

Dog skin infection can be a major source of frustration for dog owners and their dogs; dog skin infection manifest in many different forms and is usually caused by fungal, bacteria, parasites and sometimes dog allergies play a part. Some dog skin infections impacts only the surface of the skin while other skin infections may penetrate deep into the tissues.

dog skin infection
Skin infection in dogs

Some skin problems in dogs may also result in dog skin infection since it causes inflammation that makes the dog to scratch which may result in open sores.

If you know that your dog has a skin infection which is confined to a small part of the body and he seems OK, then you may treat the skin infection at home rather than visiting the vet. Anti parasites, antibiotics and anti fungicides agents can be used to treat skin infections in dog.

Bacteria on dog skins at some early stages serve a healthy function of getting rid of parasites and some other related agents but at later stages the bacteria may result in skin related infections in dogs. Because dog skin allergic reactions may seem like a skin infection, it is therefore imperative to visit the vet for proper diagnosis.


Lots of skin infections in dogs are caused when microorganisms that reside on a dog’s skin grow beyond the normal. This may result in a disruption of the balance between the resident fungal and bacteria population on the dog’s skin and the skin’s natural protective measures thereby leading to skin infection.

Skin infections in dogs are:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Skin trauma
  • Allergies
  • Immunosuppression
  • Matting

General symptoms

Dogs have a high tendency of contracting skin infections in two major areas of their body:

  • The first area consists of the lips, mouth and groins which provides a moist and warm environment for bacterial growth.
  • While the second area is located at those parts of the body that is easily ruptured or bruised like the tail, elbow, belly and toes which makes it very easy for infections to penetrate beyond the surface of the skin.

Dog skin infection may look like inflammation that is caused by allergies, fleas, cancerous growth or hormonal imbalance, it is very essential that they are correctly diagnosed by your vet. Surface dog skin infection is characterized by redness, inflammation, hair loss and small bumps but skin infection that penetrate the skin may result is severe pain.

Common symptoms of skin infection in dogs:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin darkening
  • Itchiness
  • Oozing, red sores
  • Pus infected pimples
  • Raised spots on the skin
  • Flakiness
Major causes of canine skin infection fall into one of the following categories:
  • Bacteria
  • Fungus/yeast
  • Parasites
  • Other causes of dog skin infection such as genetics.
Other causes of canine skin infection can be referred to as minor and these include:
  • Environmental: a dog may react to environmental changes such as products used in cleaning the home, insert bites or even the dog grooming tools; a dog that reacts to these sort of environmental changes may suffer from allergic dermatitis which will make the dog scratch intensely. Identifying and getting rid of the allergens is the ideal treatment to this sort of dog skin infection.
  • Changes in season: changes in weather may cause certain reactions in a dog e.g. a dry flaky skin in winter or eczema during the rainy season.
  • Hormonal disorder.
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In the remaining part of this article we are going to take a detail look at the major causes of dog skin infection. This will include the causes, symptoms, treatment and possible prevention.

Canine skin infection caused by bacteria

Skin infection that is caused by bacteria is popularly referred to as pyoderma; it has its root in the Greek words “PYO” which means pus and “DERMA” meaning skin. Pyoderma therefore means a pus-emitting skin infection that is caused by bacteria which is quite common in dogs.

dog skin infection caused by bacteria
Bacteria dog skin infection.

A dog’s skin will normally contain a certain level of bacteria but pyoderma occurs when this measure reaches abnormal levels resulting in the inflammation of the dog’s skin.

Pyoderma may be limited to a specific area on the dog’s skin or it may be wide spread in addition it may either occur on the surface of the dog’s skin or it may run deep beneath the skin.

The likelihood of a dog having a bacteria skin infection increases in situations when the dog has some other skin infection that has not been brought under control or when it has a cut in the skin. In the case of a cut in the skin, it is the bacteria the normally reside on the dog’s skin that are likely to trigger pyoderma. Other causes of bacteria dog skin infection are (pyoderma):

  • Immune disorder.
  • Allergies: e.g. a flea bite or food allergy.
  • Diseases: e.g. cancer, liver disease and kidney disease
  • Irritation as a result of deep folds in the skin of dogs with skin folds.
  • Parasitic infestation e.g. mites and fleas.

Symptoms of bacteria induced canine skin infection (pyoderma):

  • Unpleasant odor.
  • Hair loss.
  • Painful inflammation with redness.
  • Pus discharges.
  • Scabs.

Diagnosis of bacteria induced canine skin infection (pyoderma):

Diagnosis of a bacteria induced skin infection in dogs can be done by the vet; it could be easily identified if it occurs on the surface of the skin but it will require medical examination if it runs deeper than the surface. One of the most important and challenging aspects of this diagnosis is uncovering the root cause of the disease. This will involve different tests such as:

  • Blood test.
  • Dietary test.
  • A skin sensitivity test.

Treating bacteria induced canine skin infection (pyoderma):

Pyoderma responds very well to medical treatment and the first thing to be done is to ensure that the wound is always kept clean. This can be achieved by flushing the affected area with topical antibacterial shampoo and soap and the hair around the wound should be shaved.

Administering antibiotics over a period of time prescribed by the vet will not only help to speed up recovery but also reduces the chances of a possible recurrence.

Types of bacteria induced canine skin infections

The most common type of bacteria dog skin infection is bacterial folliculitis which occurs on the surface of the dog’s skin and it can be visibly seen on short haired dogs as bumps and sores. Dogs with abnormal immune are more likely to get develop this disease.

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Symptoms of bacterial folliculitis skin infection in dogs are:

  • Reddish swellings on the skin.
  • Hair loss.
  • Increased pigmentation resulting in the darkening of the infected area of the skin.

Treatment of bacterial folliculitis will usually involve administering oral antibiotics.

Impetigo is another bacteria dog skin infection that afflicts puppies mostly in the abdomen; it is usually not very serious and in some case impetigo will resolve by itself.

Impetigo is usually limited to a specific area of the dog’s skin but in some few instances the infection may spread to other parts of the dog’s body; it usually contain pus that will eventually bust and form crusts on the dog’s skin.

Treatment of impetigo

Except in severe cases where topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed by the vet, a daily application of benzoyl peroxide or hydrogen peroxide will sufficiently take care of it. Besides certain dog breeds such as Boxers, Doberman Pinschers and the Bulldogs which may experience impetigo beyond puppyhood, most other dog breeds will usually out grow the disease as puppy.

The affected puppy should be bath in shampoo that contains benzoyl peroxide two or three times a week for about three weeks but the frequency should drop as the disease clears out.

Skin infection in dogs caused by yeast/fungus

Trichophyton and Microsporum are fungi species that are responsible for the fungal dog skin infection popularly called ringworm. Fungus and yeast are normally present in certain amount on the skin and ears of dogs but their abnormal growth can result in the inflammation of the skin and they are known to be a major cause both ear and skin infection in dogs.

fungus infection on dog skin
Fungus dog skin infection.

Certain dog breeds such as cocker spaniels, poodles, dachshunds, etc. have a higher predisposition to this disease.

A dog’s skin may experience an uncontrollable growth of yeast when the dog’s immune system is compromised or suppressed by a drug that is being administered for a different purpose. At this point the harmless population of resident yeast on the dog’s skin takes a pathogenic form and becomes a problem to the dog.

There are some other factors besides the immune system that may enhance yeast infection in dogs such as allergies to food and fleas, hormonal imbalance, excessive use of antibiotics, parasites, cancer etc. The dog’s skin will produce more oil as a result of the abnormal growth of yeast resulting in an increase in itching which may lead to sore as the dog scratches.

Symptoms of yeast induced dog skin infection are

  • Skin irritation.
  • Inflamed ears, paws, neck, armpit and the anal region.
  • Foul odor.
  • sores.
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Hair loss.
  • Greasy coat and rancid skin.

Signs of yeast infection in dogs are easily visible when the ears are also afflicted; the dog can also be seen scratching at his ears or rubbing them against the walls or the floor. Other signs yeast infected ears include:

  • Swelling and redness.
  • Head tilting and shaking.
  • Hair loss around the affected ear.
  • Ear discharges.
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Treating yeast infection in dogs

A topical antifungal cream will be ideal if the yeast infection is on the surface of the ears however, if the infection is in the middle of the ear then injections or tablets will likely be the prescription but in some extreme cases it may result in surgery. The vet may also decide to clean out the dog’s ear canal.

Yeast infection on dog skin
Yeast dog skin infection.

A dietary change will help to combat yeast overgrowth in dogs. The diet of a dog suffering from yeast overgrowth may either be promoting the growth of the yeast or enhancing the immune system to fight it.

Feeding anti-yeast diet will deprive the yeast of its essential source of energy: “sugar”. A yeasty dog’s diet should be thorough supervised to ensure that sugar is taken out; even honey should be left out as well.

To feed a sugar-free diet, all carbohydrates such as rice, potato, wheat, corn etc. need to be taken out of the yeasty dog’s food and treats. This sort of diet will help the dog to maintain a balanced and healthy flora (bacteria) level.

Ringworm: this is an infectious dog skin infection that is caused by fungus; it causes circular patches on the dog’s skin which are often seen on the dog’s paw, forelegs, head and ears. The infected areas often experiences hair loss, scaly patches and inflammation.

Dogs that are most vulnerable to ringworm are:

  • Puppies.
  • Malnourished dogs.
  • Dogs with a compromised immune system.

Depending on the seriousness of the ringworm infection, the treatment may be as simple as using a medicated shampoo or the application of oral medication. If the ringworm infection is severe then it may involve the application of oral and topical treatment; the treatment for ringworm infection must not be discontinued earlier than recommended by the vet even if when it is obvious that the infection has cleared up.

Canine skin infection caused by parasites

Fleas and mites are two of the most common dog skin infection caused by parasites; ticks and lice are the other parasites found on dogs. Parasites on dog skin cause severe irritation and it may lead to self mutilation as the dog scratches and bite at the infected areas.

Ear mites: these extremely tiny parasites can be a source of intense itching as the mite feeds inside the dog’s ear canal. A very common behavior of a dog suffering from ear mite is excessive shaking of the head and a relentless scratching of the ears; dark flecks inside the dog’s ears are signs that the dog is suffering from ear mite infestation. Mites are the cause of a severe skin disease called mange.

Fleas: these are tiny insects that feed off the dog by its sucking its blood; flea bites causes misery, serious skin reactions, itchiness and discomfort to the infected dog.

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