Impetigo is a skin condition that occurs due to infection with a bacterial culture, and which you may already be familiar with if you have children, as the condition can occur in humans as well as dogs, and generally, affects young children much more commonly than adults.
It is highly contagious between puppies once the condition has been introduced into the local population, and will quickly spread between puppies from the same litter, within the same household, or through meeting an infected dog while out on walks.
Impetigo can be difficult to diagnose at a glance, as it looks relatively similar to puppy acne, which again, tends to affect younger dogs. However, puppy acne isn’t contagious, whilst impetigo is, and so if more than one dog or puppy are sporting spots, it is highly likely to be impetigo.
In this article we will look at impetigo in puppies in more detail, including what it is, how it occurs, and what can be done about it. Read on to find out more.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection, of which various different strains can be found. The most common variant to affect puppies and dogs is a staphylococcus strain, a name you may have heard of before referred to as a “staph infection.” However, there are a huge range of different staphylococcus bacterial strains, all of which have different actions-one strain of staphylococcus is highly antibiotic resistant and can be hard to treat as a result of this, but this is just one of the many possible variants, and generally, not the form that impetigo takes.
Impetigo leads to the development of fluid-filled blisters that are known as pustules, and which can occur on any area of the body, but most commonly present on the face, groin and inside of the back legs. The pustules themselves are generally very itchy but not painful at the blistering stage, but they are also very fragile, and will break open very easily when your puppy scratches themselves to relieve the associated itching. After the pustules rupture, they tend to be very sore and inflamed, and will likely make the pup very uncomfortable and unhappy, due to the pain that they cause.
Burst pustules ultimately scab over to form crusty spots, and the stage at which the pustules have ruptured and are leaking fluid, or have formed scabs, is the most highly contagious stage.
This means that a puppy affected with impetigo must be isolated from contact with other dogs and puppies, to reduce the risks of transmission to others. Separate food bowls, bedding and other accessories must also be used for the affected dog, and these should either be thoroughly disinfected or replaced after the impetigo has cleared up on the puppy itself.
Like many contagious conditions, puppies are at higher risk of contracting infections like impetigo, as their immune systems are not fully developed, and so do not provide the full protection that adult dogs possess.
While adult dogs can and sometimes do catch impetigo too, this is less common, although elderly dogs and those that are immune-compromised are at higher risk.
Impetigo will usually resolve itself on its own given time, as the immune system of the puppy responds to fight off the infection. However, treatment with antibiotics is generally advisable, in order to shorten the recovery time for the condition, both to reduce the pup’s pain and irritation, and to reduce the chances of the condition spreading further through the local dog population.
However, in severe presentations of the condition, such as can occur in very young puppies, those that are immune-compromised, or if for some other reason the pup has problems fighting off the infection or does not receive treatment, impetigo can spread across the whole body of the dog, and as well as proving very painful and uncomfortable, can actually prove fatal.
First of all, you should isolate your puppy away from any other dogs that you own, and not allow them to come into contact with other dogs outside of the home to reduce the risks of transmission. Arrange an appointment with your vet as soon as possible, and take your puppy in to get a formal diagnosis and advice on how to proceed.
Generally, your vet will provide plenty of advice on how to keep your puppy isolated from other dogs, as well as explain to you how to use a range of shampoos and topical creams and ointments to tackle the pustules themselves, and they may also provide you with oral antibiotics and possibly, anti-inflammatories and painkillers too if your puppy is really suffering.
While impetigo can usually be cleared up within a week or so with the appropriate antibiotics, it can be challenging to treat in some cases as it is so contagious, and in some cases, may recur or take a long time to properly go away.