Pyoderma in Dogs: Here's Everything You Need to Know

by Lila Batiari, DVM
Pawlicy Advisor
Pet Care Blog
Pyoderma in Dogs
Pyoderma is a skin infection caused by bacteria or fungal organisms. It often shows up suddenly and characterizes by pustules and itchiness. But is it serious? Find out more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for pyoderma in dogs.

Pyoderma in dogs is one of the most common reasons why owners bring their pets to a veterinarian. The condition has a wide range of potential causes that necessitate a variety of corresponding treatments, which only your vet can determine. Understanding the signs and symptoms of pyoderma in dogs increases the likelihood of early detection for for the best possible health outcome and swift treatment to alleviate your pet's discomfort.

Here's everything you need to know about this noisome skin infection, including the types of pyorderma in dogs, causes, treatments, costs, and pmore.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: Pet insurance may cover the cost of skin disorders in dogs, including pyoderma, so long as it's not considered a pre-existing condition at the time of enrollment. That’s why it's so important to protect your dog with insurance coverage early on, before an unexpected injury or illness arises.

What is pyoderma in dogs?

Pyoderma in dogs is a very common skin infection affecting hair follicles and the surrounding skin. There are three different categories of dog pyoderma based on the depth of infection within the follicle and the degree of skin involvement.

Types of pyoderma in dogs

  • Bacterial pyoderma in dogs is caused by a superficial infection of the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. This type of pyoderma includes impetigo (also called puppy pyoderma) and superficial bacterial folliculitis.
  • With surface pyoderma, bacteria grow on the surface of the skin causing an inflammatory reaction. This type of pyoderma in dogs includes hot spots, fold pyoderma (also known as intertrigo), and mucocutaneous pyoderma, which often affects German Shepherds.
  • Deep pyoderma refers to dog skin infections far within the hair follicle. Examples include muzzle folliculitis, furunculosis (also known as canine acne), and pressure-point pyoderma.

Pyoderma skin infections in dogs can also be primary or secondary.

  • Primary pyoderma refers to a skin infection that results from transient or non-recurrent damage to the skin. It usually doesn’t recur after adequate treatment.
  • Secondary pyoderma is more common and usually results from a persistent or recurrent problem that decreases the skin's resistance to infection. Typically, the infection responds only temporarily to therapy and will continue recurring until the underlying problem is identified and remedied.

dog pyoderma from yeast infection

What causes pyoderma in dogs?

The most common cause of pyoderma in dogs is a bacterial infection from the species Staphylococcus intermedius, commonly known as a staph infection. Other potential pyoderma causes can include:

Dog pyoderma can also occur in skin that’s injured, exposed to excess moisture, contains altered bacteria, or experiences impaired blood flow. The condition is also more common in dogs with weakened immune systems due to immunosuppressive medications or disease, as well as those with genetics disorders and hormonal imbalances.

Certain dog breeds — such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, and Shar-Peis — are more prone to skin infection due to their deep skin folds that provide a warm, moist environment for bacteria like yeast to breed. In young puppies, impetigo usually occurs in areas with thin hair like the underarms or groin.

What are the symptoms of pyoderma?

The most common symptom of pyoderma in dogs is the presence of pustules that look like red, raised, pus-filled bumps. Other common clinical signs include:

  • Itchiness
  • Dandruff
  • Scaling or flaking skin
  • Hair loss
  • Redness
  • Excessive licking of the affected area
  • Bad-smelling skin
  • Discharge the lesion
  • Fever and inflammation
  • Coat sticking up, especially in short-haired breeds

Keep an eye out for these symptoms and be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian if you begin to notice any.

Is pyoderma in dogs contagious to humans? Other dogs?

In most cases, dog skin infections aren't transmissable, but some underlying causes of pyoderma in dogs are contagious to humans and other dogs. For instance, if your dog’s pyoderma is caused by scabies (a highly contagious skin parasite known as the Sarcoptes scabiei mite), it can be contagious to humans. If your pup's pyoderma is caused by ticks or fleas, these can easily be transferred to other dogs, although the condition itself isn't contagious.

Because there are many possible causes of pyoderma in dogs, it’s best to talk to your vet to determine whether your dog's pyoderma is contagious and what protective measures you should take until it clears up.

How is pyoderma diagnosed?

A diagnosis of pyoderma is often made on the basis of the dog’s symptoms and medical history. Additional tests might be necessary, including:

  • Skin culture
  • Antibiotic sensitivity tests
  • Fungal cultures
  • Skin cytology
  • Allergy testing
  • Blood tests to determine if your dog has an endocrine disease

While the symptoms of pyoderma are usually easy to notice, they can sometimes be mistaken for other skin conditions or infections. That’s why if you think your pet might have pyoderma, the best thing to do is get an accurate diagnosis from your veterinarian and prevent potentially more serious issues in the future.

close-up of oozing pyoderma in dog

How is dog pyoderma treated?

The treatment for pyoderma will depend on the cause. In general, treatment is done on an outpatient basis and involves cleaning the infection, prescribing topical medications to apply at home, and oral antibiotics. Studies have found that topical therapy with 4% chlorhexidine digluconate products (solution and shampoo) is as effective as systemic therapy with amoxicillin-clavulanic acid in dogs with superficial pyoderma.

If there’s yeast in the infection, the dog will likely be prescribed antifungal medications. Some dogs will need medications to alleviate the itching, flea preventatives, medicated shampoos, or other treatments,

The consequences of not treating pyoderma in dogs can cause extreme discomfort. If the skin infection is caused by flea infestation, it can lead to fatal anemia without intervention. Underlying endocrine conditions that cause pyoderma may also be fatal if they go undiagnosed and uncontrolled.

How much does it cost to treat pyoderma in dogs?

Mild cases of pyoderma in dogs cost between an average of $200 and $400 to treat and diagnose. Keep in mind that pyoderma treatment costs will depend on the severity of the infection, its underlying cause, and the diagnostic tests required.

Pro Tip: Some pet insurance providers can cover the cost of medications prescribed to treatment illnesses such as skin infections in dogs. This includes antibiotics and nutraceuticals which are often recommended for dogs with pyoderma.

What is the prognosis?

Early identification and timely treatment of pyoderma will result in overall better outcomes for your four-legged friend.

Most cases resolve with a course of adequate medication and topical therapy prescribed by a veterinarian. Recurrent or chronic cases might require additional testing to determine if there’s an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Regular bathing with properly medicated shampoos can help minimize recurrences.

Pyoderma prevention in dogs

To prevent pyoderma in dogs with skin folds, clean those areas on a daily basis with a medicated wipe or clean, damp cloth.

For dogs with allergies, managing the allergies can significantly reduce the occurrence of skin infections. Consult your vet to determine the best way to keep your pet’s allergy under control, whether it is by using medications, different prescription tick and flea preventative, diet change, a medicated shampoo, etc.

If your dog has recurrent or chronic pyoderma, keeping the underlying cause under control is crucial.

Key Takeaways

  • Pyoderma is a very common bacterial skin infection in dogs, which can involve different skin layers. Depending on the depth of follicle and skin involvement, there are three types of pyoderma: surface, superficial, or deep.
  • The most common cause for pyoderma are bacterial infections, but it can also be caused by parasitic or fungal infections, allergies, fleas, endocrine disorders, diabetes, etc.
  • The most common symptoms of pyoderma include pustules on the skin, itchiness, scaling, hair loss, redness, etc.
  • Treatment of pyoderma can be quite variable, depending on the cause. Most dogs will need a course of oral antibiotics or antifungal medications, as well as topical therapy in the form of special shampoos.
  • If you have any questions or you need more information about this condition, speak to the vet who is treating your dog.

Veterinarian Lila Batiari

About the author

Lila Batiari, DVM

Small Animal Relief Veterinarian -

Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.

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