Causes of Staph Infections in Dogs

Staph infection in dogs is a major skin disease caused by the bacteria staphylococci. Staphylococci are a group of bacteria generally found in the skin. They can cause inflammation of the skin, which is also known as dermatitis. These bacteria are generally present in the skin of animals and humans but, as long as the skin is healthy, they remain dormant. However, when the skin is irritated, they invade the area and proliferate, causing infection.

Symptoms of Staph Infection in Dogs:

  • Red lesions on the skin with bald spots at the center and crusty edges
  • Pimples and scabs around the lesions
  • Blisters, lesions and itchiness in areas such as the abdomen, feet, nose, chin and ears
  • Blisters filled with pus or blood
  • Rapid hair loss 
  • Lethargy

Causes of Staph Infection in Dogs

The bacterium, staphylococcus, is the direct cause of staph infection in dogs. These bacteria, however, only proliferate and settle in the skin pores due to a weakened immune system or some irritation on the skin. Allergies caused by fertilizers, grass seed, pollen grains, food or insect bites can cause the immune system to weaken and cause staph infection to flare up.

Dogs will often have an allergic reaction to household chemicals or pesticides, and this causes the infection. Dust or fleas can also trigger a staph infection. A sick dog, or pets suffering from hypothyroidism or hormonal problems are more susceptible to this infection. Environmental stress and neglect are other causative factors.

Diagnosis of Staph Infection in Dogs

The root cause of the infection needs to be identified before treatment can commence. The vet has to study the history of your pet and review any previous skin infections to arrive at a diagnosis. A physical exam and tests such as skin scrapings and complete blood counts as well as allergy tests are diagnostic tools that are generally used by the vet to confirm that your pet has a Staph infection.

Microscopic tests of cells from the skin can identify whether the infection is bacterial or fungal, and the diagnosis can be confirmed with a skin biopsy.

Treatment of Staph Infection in Dogs

The staphylococcus bacterium is sensitive to oral antibiotics such as erythromycin, enrofloxacin, amoxicillin, lincomycin, oxacillin and dicloxacillin. These antibiotics need to be administered over a period of 3 to 6 weeks to prevent recurrence of the infection. Antibiotic shampoos and ointments help bring the infection under control. To treat sensitivity to the staph bacteria, injections of staph are prescribed. These injections contain minute amounts of the bacteria and need to be administered over a long period of time in order to program the dog's immune system not to overreact to it.

A nutritious diet, regular bathing to remove allergens from the skin and supplements that contain omega 3 fatty acids can help heal and prevent future staph infections in your pet. Your pet's environment should be kept clean and regular visits to the vet should be maintained.