Does Your Dog Suffer From Skin Infections?
Skin infections in dogs are extremely common. Some breeds of dogs and certain lifestyles make skin infections more likely, but they can occur in any dog. Skin infections typically respond extremely well to treatment, but usually don't clear up on their own. If you think your dog might have a skin infection, it's important to have them diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Here's what you need to know about skin infections in dogs, including the most common infections dogs suffer from and how they are diagnosed and treated.
Why Do Dogs Develop Skin Infections?
It's perfectly normal for bacteria and fungi to live on your dog’s skin. Most of the time, populations of fungi and bacteria are controlled by your dog’s immune system, never causing any problems.
However, under certain conditions or if the immune system is compromised in some way, infections can develop. Which sort of infection develops depends on the dog and the situation. Some breeds are particularly prone to yeast infections. These include poodles, cocker spaniels, and dachshunds. Dogs with allergies to food, medications, or anything in the environment, whether or not it is targeting the skin, may also develop skin infections.
As dogs get older they are more prone to developing skin infections since the immune system gets weaker with age. Frequently, when dogs suffer from one kind of skin infection or irritation, they will lick and scratch at the area, which opens up opportunities for other skin infections to develop. Therefore, it's quite common for a dog to be suffering from more than one kind of skin infection simultaneously.
Types of Dog Skin Infections
- Staphylococcal Infection. This is among the most Common of all skin infections. It’s caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus sp. It can be transmitted from dogs to humans and humans to dogs, which means that treating it promptly and effectively is important. It can also affect the upper respiratory tract, although it is more common in the skin.
- Yeast Dermatitis. It's normal for the fungus that causes yeast dermatitis, Malassezia pachydermatis, to be on your dog's skin. However, when the fungus is excessive, it can cause the skin to become infected and inflamed.
- Pyotraumatic dermatitis. This is a bacterial infection that can develop very quickly, sometimes almost overnight. Also known as hotspots, this infection is common on the lower back and at the base of the tail. These infections are extremely itchy, so dogs often make them worse by scratching them.
- Intertrigo. This bacterial infection is specific to the skin folds often found in dogs with short muzzles , like pugs, English bulldogs, and French bulldogs.
- Mucocutaneous pyoderma. In this bacterial skin infection, too much mucus is produced, causing irritation of moist areas like the lips and nose.
- Callus pyoderma. This infection can be difficult to diagnose because it presents as a callus rather than more classically infected skin. You'll see dark, thick skin over pressure points, often on the elbows.
Diagnosing Dog Skin Infection
Many types of dog skin infections are quite recognizable. Symptoms of dog skin infection include excessive itchiness, moistness or dryness, inflammation, hair loss, and pus. If your dog has a skin infection, you probably know that something is wrong.
However, determining exactly what bacteria or fungus or combination of the two is resulting in your dog's discomfort is not nearly as easy. Dog fungal skin infections can look very much like bacterial skin infections in dogs. Determining exactly which organism is causing the problem is even more challenging.
Your veterinarian will take a sample to determine what is causing the problem. A skin scrape, biopsy, or cotton swab sample may be taken depending on the nature of the infection. These samples will then be sent to the lab so the exact nature of the infection can be determined. Without these kinds of tests, it's not possible to know what's causing the problem and treat it appropriately
Skin infections in dogs are often secondary to another problem such as allergies or a compromised immune system. More testing needs to be done to rule out any underlying problems. After all, there's not much point in treating a skin infection without treating what’s triggering symptoms. Furthermore, skin infections may be a visible symptom of an otherwise invisible serious issue. Compromised immune systems that result in skin infections may indicate more systemic problem that requires treatment.
Therefore, a blood count, urine analysis, biochemistry profile, and other tests might also be required. Exactly which additional tests are needed depends all the nature of the infection end the likely underlying cause.
Treatment for Dog Skin Infections
Most of the time, treatment of dog skin infections is quite simple and non-invasive. On the other hand, commitment to the medication protocol is required for treatment to be successful. Good grooming and hygiene is also essential.
Oral or topical treatments or both may be utilized. It often takes months for the infection to clear up entirely, which means that the liver must be monitored carefully to ensure that the drugs don't have unwanted side effects. The most common treatment is an antibacterial shampoo and topical cream.
The use of gloves for handling the dog is a good idea. Treating a dog for a skin infection can be frustrating. Sometimes a different infection will crop up in the course of treatment, requiring an entirely different drug or treatment plan. Sometimes the infection doesn't respond to medication as expected and the end of the treatment needs to be adjusted.
The most common problem is that pet owners have a hard time sticking to the treatment regimen. Topical treatments or medicated shampoos often have to be applied frequently, even multiple times a day. As pets improve, many owners become lax about the treatment and the infection takes hold again.
Can Dog Skin Infections be Treated at Home?
Dog skin infection treatment is quite straightforward at home, provided the proper tests have been performed and medication prescribed. Since there are often problems that need to be resolved in the course of treatment, the treatment protocol may vary and require adjustment.
Without the guidance of a veterinarian to perform the necessary tests, prescribe the right medication, and monitor your dog's process, it is unlikely that you will have success in treating dog skin infections at home. DIY treatments often attempt to treat all potential causes of a skin infection, both bacterial and fungal.
This means that your dog is being exposed to a lot of medication they don't need, medication that may have negative side effects. Furthermore, since do-it-yourself home treatment techniques for dog skin infections don't take any underlying conditions into account, the skin infection is likely to recur even if treatment is effective.
While dog skin infections are typically not considered to be dangerous unless highly advanced, they are extremely uncomfortable. Furthermore, the longer an infection goes untreated, the more likely it is that your dog licking and scratching at the area will contribute to a secondary infection. It's much better to have your veterinarian test to find out what is causing the problem, look for any underlying conditions resulting in the infection, and prescribe the proper medication to clear up the issue.
Can Dog Skin Infections be Prevented?
Sometimes, there's nothing that can be done to keep a skin infection from developing. Dogs that are immunocompromised are likely to develop skin infections from time to time. However, there are things that can be done to prevent some types of dog skin infection.
Keep Your Dog Clean and Dry
Infections often develop in places where moisture accumulates. A common cause of skin infections is overproduction of oil in the skin. While there's not much you can do to control how much oil your dog's skin produces, you can prevent moisture or oil from resting on the skin and fur and causing infections to develop.
If your dog has areas where moisture accumulates or oil production is higher, make sure these areas are cleaned often. Around the eyes and nose and in any skin folds are classic problem areas. Around the pads of the feet and at the base of the tail are also common moisture accumulation areas.
Allergies often precede skin infections, so treat any allergies your dog has, even if they seem quite mild. Many dogs benefit greatly from a small dose of Benadryl or another antihistamine every day or when allergies are particularly problematic. Many people don't realize that even allergies to food or respiratory irritants can result in skin infections, so if your dog has these kinds of allergies, don't overlook treatment.
Take Care of Your Dog’s Skin Infection
Dog skin infections can be very uncomfortable, as well as leading to secondary infections and issues. It’s unlikely that your dog’s infection will clear up on its own, so contact OKC Vet Campus to get treatment started if you suspect that your dog is suffering from a skin infection.