Diagnosing Bacterial Infections in Dogs

Infections in dogs can develop due to both viral and bacterial agents. Bad bacteria are unicellular organisms that survive and multiply in both animals and humans and cause various bacterial infections that develop in different parts of the body. The symptoms of bacterial infections are usually determined by the part of the body that's affected by the bacteria. Bacterial infections should be treated promptly to avoid severe complications and fatal diseases. There are various types of bacteria that cause skin infections, urinary tract disorders and respiratory illnesses in pets. Pet owners should watch for commonly occurring symptoms of bacterial infection in dogs.

Symptoms of Bacterial Infection Include:

  • Infection of the eye, nose or urinary tract
  • Respiratory infections
  • Skin inflammation, redness, skin lesions and abscesses
  • Vomiting, lack of appetite and diarrhea
  • Fever and lethargy
  • Cough

Common Bacterial Infections in Dogs Include:


This condition is caused by bacteria termed as spirochetes. Leptospirosis is contagious in nature and the symptoms include vomiting, fever, inflamed mucous membranes and lethargy. Pets suffering from leptospirosis should be given prompt treatment to prevent severe and permanent kidney damage.

Staph Infections

Staph infection in canines is caused by bacteria termed as staphylococci. The symptoms of staph infection are primarily visible through skin changes. Pets suffer from itchy skin, scaly skin and skin sores along with discharge. Pets also suffer from localized alopecia due to the skin infection present.

Ear Infections

Bacterial ear infections can cause symptoms of itchiness, inflamed ears, ear discharge and foul smelling ears. In order to treat the ear infection, the vet will perform a physical examination of the ear and a laboratory analysis of the discharge.

Lymph Node Swelling

Lymph node swelling may occur due to bacterial infections by certain types of bacteria known as actinomyces. Certain bacteria live in the soil and penetrate the skin through open wounds. In order to provide medical treatment, the vet will perform various diagnostic tests to determine the class or type of bacterial infection present.

Diagnosis of Bacterial Infection in Dogs

In order to determine the type of diagnostic tests necessary, the vet will clinically evaluate the symptoms exhibited.

  • Dogs suspected of leptospirosis are subject to blood tests that reveal the amount of white blood cells present in the blood sample.
  • Platelet count and reduced kidney function are also determined through blood tests.
  • Antibody tests are conducted to detect elevated levels of antibodies in the blood.
  • In order to detect the specific type of bacteria present, the vet will perform laboratory analysis of the urine.
  • Other tests necessary to diagnose bacterial infections include skin scraping tests and bacterial culture tests.
  • The vet will also take a sample of the ear or nasal discharge for examination.

Treatment of Bacterial Infection in Dogs

The treatment involves antibiotic medication, topical solutions and home care to help pets recuperate quickly. Although vaccines are available for several viral diseases, pet owners talk with their vet about the benefits of administering vaccines for bacterial infections such as leptospirosis.

It's important to keep sick pets away from healthy dogs. Leptospirosis is also contagious to humans. Pet owners should thus adopt hygienic measures to avoid contracting the infection.