Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs

Skin infections in dogs are typically caused by bacteria, genetic factors, or health problems. An infection then forms as a dog’s immune system attempts to rid the bacteria from the body.

Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs Explained

Pyoderma is a term used to for common bacterial skin infections in dogs. When a dog has an infection of the skin, the wound becomes swollen, itchy, warm to the touch, and forms bumps that are filled with pus. Hair loss can accompany a skin infection as well.

Any dog can develop a skin infection, but there are certain breeds that are predisposed to infections. One such breed is the German shepherd, particularly those with shorter coats. Breeds of dogs that are wrinkly and have a lot of skin folds or pressure calluses are also more likely to get skin infections.

Causes of Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs

There are many reasons a dog can develop a bacterial infection of the skin. When a dog is injured and has a wound that wasn’t kept clean, an infection will develop to rid the dog’s body of antigens that invaded the dog’s body through the skin. Many of the bacterial infections are caused by Staphlococcous intermedius and E. coli.

Allergies, endocrine disorders, hot spots, parasites, fungal infections and other illnesses can also lead to a secondary bacterial infection of the skin. An endocrine disorder, such as hypothyroidism, can cause a dog’s wounds to heal slower than normal and make his immune system weaker, making him more susceptible to a bacterial infection.

Diagnosing a Bacterial Skin Infection

When a veterinarian examines a dog with a bacterial skin infection, he first completes a physical exam and asks the pet owner about the dog’s history of symptoms. To get a good idea about what type of bacteria a dog is fighting, a veterinarian will remove pus from inside a pustule or bump that’s developed from the infection. The sample will be examined under a microscope and a vet will find an elevated number of white blood cells, neutrophils, if an infection is present.

A vet may also look for parasites by taking a small sample of a dog’s skin. This is done by gently scraping off some of a dog’s dry, flaky skin or by placing a piece of adhesive tape on the skin and peeling it off. Skin samples will show the presence of parasites, like mites. Ringworm, which causes a fungal infection, can lead to a secondary infection in a dog’s skin.

A veterinarian will also perform blood tests to see if allergies or an imbalance of hormones are the cause of a dog’s discomfort. In more extreme cases, cancer can cause a dog’s immune system to become weaker, making him more vulnerable to a bacterial skin infection.

Once a veterinarian has determined the cause behind a dog’s bacterial skin infection, he can begin treatment to eliminate the antigens from the dog’s body. Bacterial infections of the skin are treatable and the earlier they are taken care of, the sooner the pup in pain will feel better.