Skin conditions are a common source of concern for pet owners. When you find something unusual, it's natural to wonder if your pup needs medical attention. Pyoderma in dogs is one skin issue that will only worsen without a veterinarian's help.
But what is pyoderma? What are the symptoms, and how is it treated? Read on for these answers and more.
What Is Pyoderma in Dogs?
Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. Pyo- refers to pus, a white or yellow discharge composed of proteins and dead cells. The condition ranges from mild to severe and can also affect hair follicles. Usually, pyoderma is not contagious to people or other animals.
Like their gut, your dog's skin has a microbiome full of friendly bacteria. However, pyoderma can occur when pathogenic microbes invade and take over.
Bacterial families involved in pyoderma may include:
- Staphylococcus pseudintermedius
Of these, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is the most common.
Other conditions like fungal infections and allergies can weaken the skin barrier, making it easier for pyoderma to develop.
What Causes Pyoderma?
In dogs, pyoderma usually happens after the skin barrier is weakened or broken (1).
The most common skin issues leading to pyoderma include:
- Chronic, excessive moisture from matted hair or skin folds
- Inflammation from allergies
- Suppressed immune system
- Hormonal disorders
- Genetic conditions affecting the skin or hair follicles
Chronic damp skin is a frequent cause of mild pyoderma in dogs. Dirty, tangled, or matted fur can trap moisture against the skin. Areas of skin contact with little airflow, such as the armpits and groin, can also be affected.
Dog Breeds Prone to Pyoderma
Certain dog breeds are more prone to pyoderma than others due to the presence of extra skin folds or wrinkles. These predisposed breeds include Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Pugs, Shar-Peis, and Boxers.
Types of Pyoderma
Generally, there are three main types of dog pyoderma: surface, superficial and deep. Surface pyoderma is the mildest, and deep pyoderma is the most severe.
Surface pyoderma involves only the top, outermost layers of the skin. Hair follicles are not affected. Skin fold pyoderma, puppy pyoderma, and "hot spots" fall under this milder category.
Superficial pyoderma is the most common type (2). Its other name, superficial bacterial folliculitis, comes from its effect on hair roots. In this form, bacteria infect the outer layers of hair follicles.
Deep pyoderma affects the deeper layers of the skin. The skin is the body's primary defense against microbes. Deep pyoderma is dangerous because bacteria can reach the bloodstream, leading to a potentially fatal blood infection (bacteremia). Between the toes is a common and especially painful spot for deep pyoderma, but any area can be affected.
Identifying the correct type of pyoderma is critical for effective treatment. A mild case can become dangerous if left untreated for too long, so contact your veterinarian with any concerns.
Pyoderma Symptoms in Dogs
The signs of pyoderma will depend on the type, cause, and severity. Your veterinarian will evaluate these factors along with your dog's history to decide on a diagnosis.
Symptoms of pyoderma in dogs can include:
- For surface pyoderma: Itchy, red, moist skin patches, musty odor
- For superficial pyoderma: bald spots, hyperpigmentation, redness, welts around hair follicles, scaly skin
- For deep pyoderma: pain, defensive reaction to touch, blood and pus, foul odor, ulcers, scabs or crusts, swelling
Diagnosing Dog Pyoderma
Your veterinarian will perform comprehensive diagnostics to assess your dog's skin condition. This assessment will always include a thorough physical examination and discussion of your dog's medical history. Showing photos of the affected area can help if the skin's appearance has changed over time.
Depending on these findings, your vet may run blood tests to look for underlying allergies or metabolic problems, perform skin scrapings, or collect samples for culture.
Similarly, your dog's treatment will depend on the severity of their pyoderma and what caused it. If matted, dirty fur is the cause, thorough bathing and clipping will increase airflow. Your veterinarian may recommend regular professional grooming to prevent future infections, particularly for long-haired and curly-haired breeds.
Allergy medication, hormonal therapy, and other treatments may be needed if there is an underlying medical problem. If your dog takes steroids, their dose may have to be adjusted. In cases like these, treating the underlying condition is the only way to make sure pyoderma is gone for good.
If antibiotics are prescribed, treatment usually lasts around 3-4 weeks. Severe cases and deep pyoderma can take longer, and medicated shampoos may be prescribed alongside the antibiotic. Failing to finish a course of antibiotics can allow the toughest microbes to regrow later, so stay diligent.
Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that can range from mild to severe. You can reduce your dog's risk of pyoderma by keeping them well-groomed, closely monitoring wrinkly breeds, and treating skin issues promptly.
Remember, it's crucial to communicate with your veterinarian and closely follow their directions. If a pyoderma treatment isn't working, your vet can adjust accordingly. On the flip side, if your dog is getting better quickly, complete the entire course of treatment no matter what. Whether it's antibiotics, medicated baths, or another therapy, finishing the whole regimen will make future episodes less likely and keep your pup feeling their best.