Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that causes pustules or papules to form on the skin of the dog, which can look similar in appearance to adolescent spots or acne in people. While the condition is not generally hugely serious or life-threatening, pyoderma can be uncomfortable, itchy and cause localised pain in affected dogs. It is important not to write off little spots or patches of what appears to be acne as simple pimples, particularly when they present in young dogs and puppies, as they might potentially be indicative of pyoderma, and require veterinary treatment.
Read on to learn more about pyoderma in dogs.
Pyoderma is caused by a bacterial infection of the skin, which can happen if the skin has been grazed, cut or otherwise broken, allowing bacteria to enter the wound. The skin can also become injured or weakened and so more susceptible to infection due to chronic moisture exposure, imbalances in the normal levels of the skin’s good bacteria, or if the immune system of the dog is generally suppressed. Poor circulation and blood flow to the blood vessels of the skin can also create a more hospitable environment for infection with conditions such as pyoderma.
Pyoderma sometimes arises as the result of a secondary infection connected to allergic dermatitis, where the abrasions caused to the skin due to the dog continually scratching the itchy areas allow the bacteria to take a hold.
Pyoderma is a condition that affects puppies more commonly than adult dogs, which is known as “puppy pyoderma,” in areas with thin, fine hair such as around the groin and armpits.
Dogs that have wrinkled skin or skin folds around the face, such as the Shar Pei, the Pug and the Boxer dog are slightly more likely to develop the condition than others, as the folds of wrinkled skin can harbour and propagate bacteria and moisture if they are not thoroughly and adequately cleaned and dried.
The most obvious indication of pyoderma infection in the dog is the development of the signature pustules or papules that develop on the skin. These look somewhat like particularly large spots related to acne, being inflamed around the edges and with red borders, with a raised, pus-filled centre. Some pyoderma spots have crusting around the edges of each spot, and they may come accompanied by generalised dry, flaky-looking skin, hair loss around the affected areas, and lots of scratching and itching!
Sometimes, the presence of the condition can cause the hair of shorthaired dogs to appear proud or protruding, which can cause the condition to be confused with other skin problems such as ringworm or hives. The coat of the dog in general will normally appear to be in poor condition, with rough hair and possibly bald patches.
Your vet will take into account your dog’s veterinary history, any injuries or grazes that might have allowed the bacteria to enter the skin, and a physical examination of the affected areas.
If the pyoderma is related to an initial onset of allergic dermatitis, your vet may also run tests to try to find out the root cause of the allergenic trigger, which caused the initial dermatitis and the secondary pyoderma infection.
If your dog has an underlying condition that might be significant in the development of pyoderma, such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism, your vet may also run some skin cultures and fungal cultures to pinpoint the problem too.
The normal treatment for canine pyoderma is antibiotic medications for a period of between two and six weeks, which usually proves successful. However, if this is not your dog’s first bout of pyoderma or the condition appears to be recurrent or particularly severe, your vet may run additional sensitivity tests to find out why the condition has recurred, and what can be done about it.
As well as medication, treatment for pyoderma usually includes the topical application of medicated sprays and shampoos, in order to keep the skin clean and free of bacteria. If is also important to thoroughly disinfect your dog’s bedding, to prevent re-infection with the condition after treatment.
Generally, pyoderma is fairly simple to address, and the condition responds well to antibiotic treatment. Pyoderma, while irritating and sometimes sore, is rarely a serious condition, and is unlikely to develop into further conditions or later complications. It is important however to ensure that you do seek veterinary treatment for affected dogs, as the condition will not go away on its own.
Left unchecked, pyoderma will become incredibly sore and itchy, lead to loss of fur across much of the coat, and potentially lead to infected sores from your dog’s constant scratching.