Bacterial Infections in Dogs

While many types of bacteria living in our dog's bodies are beneficial, some cause infections in dogs that can range in symptoms from mild to severe. If your dog gets a bacterial infection, antibiotics from your veterinarian are usually the easiest way to get rid of it, though some may go away on their own.

Ear and Skin Infections

Dogs often have many types of bacteria living on their skin and ears and won't get an infection until they have some sort of cut or skin ailment. Bacteria infections of the skin and ears are often a result of untreated allergies that cause dogs to chew on their skin or scratch their ears, providing openings for the bacteria to enter.

Skin infections usually cause itchy skin, crusted or scaly skin, discoloration or small lesions. Ear infections cause itchy ears, odor and discharge from the ears.

These can often be treated with antibiotics but are often caused by underlying illness or allergies that may also need to be treated. If your dog suffers from frequent skin or ear infections, consult your veterinarian about allergy treatment.

Common Bacterial Infections

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through contact with infected urine, stagnant infected water, bite wounds from infected animals or consumption of infected tissue. Because it is so easy to contract, it is often common in shelters or other overcrowded areas. Symptoms include fever, shivering, sensitive muscles, vomiting and dehydration. Dogs can usually overcome the infection in to  7 to 10 days, but in some cases, kidney damage is too severe for full recovery.

Brucellosis is the most common bacteria that infects mothers and their unborn puppies since it is largely passed during breeding through seminal fluids. Mothers usually show no symptoms, but infected litters are frequently aborted. This bacteria can also be passed to humans, so caution should be used when handling aborted fetuses. Brucellosis can cause liver damage and arthritis in humans.

Lyme disease and tularemia are both caused by tick bites. Symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, lameness, swollen joints and lymph nodes, lethargy and loss of appetite. Tularemia symptoms are much milder, including only mild fever, lameness and lethargy. These diseases can be easily prevented with use of tick repellents in areas where ticks are plentiful.

Though rare, bacterial infections can also cause the plague in dogs who can contract the bacteria from infected fleas. Dogs are generally resistant to most symptoms but may develop swollen lymph nodes.

Bacterial infections range in severity based on the type of bacteria, but dogs can recover from most of them, especially with the help of antibiotics. The biggest danger is infections left untreated too long, which can cause permanent organ damage.