Also known as impetigo in young dogs, pyoderma can effectively be defined as a bacterial skin condition. However, as its name suggests to veterinarians, it typically refers to the involvement of bacteria that can lead to dogs developing abscesses or other skin lesions filled with pus.
In today’s article, we are looking at everything you should know about pyoderma, from its causes and diagnosis, to how it is treated and whether or not you can do anything to prevent it.
Types of pyoderma
Pyoderma can be simple or complex. The first refers to an infection that’s caused by just one factor, such as the dog having a lot of fleas that inflict damage on their dermal surface. The second involves at least two factors and usually leads to recurrent pyoderma cases, where treatment is obviously made much more difficult.
Both complex and simple skin infections can affect the superficial layers of the skin or can go deep, where they produce damage to the secondary dermal layers, not just the epidermis and the hair follicles.
Bad cases of furunculosis are pretty challenging to treat, especially if they are caused by bacteria that may be resistant to certain antibiotics.
What causes pyoderma in dogs?
Because pyoderma means a skin infection that leads to a lesion that produces pus, the most common culprit for this type of condition is a Staphylococcus germ. Dogs can pick it up from some of their canine friends at the park or even carry it on their skin – the most common species that is transmitted in this way is Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, whereas in humans, the most prevalent type of bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus.
So, the dog should first come in contact with this microorganism. It then needs to find an entryway on the skin in order to produce the infection.
Such factors can range from the normal biology of the dog, especially if they are a breed like a Chow Chow or Shar Pei, whose skin does not get enough exposure to air – in the first case, because of the very generous coat and in the second, because of all the layers of the skin and folds where bacteria can reside and reproduce.
For any of the other dogs that do not have such skin features, the bacteria can easily pierce through the superior skin layers whenever they sustain a scratch, a puncture, or anything else that produces minor damage to the integrity of their epidermis.
As a consequence, dogs that are prone to developing allergies and scratch their skin, those that have severe external parasite infestations, or those with seborrheic conditions are much more likely to develop pyoderma.
Symptoms of pyoderma in dogs
The clinical signs can vary a lot from one animal to the next depending on whether they have a simple or complex infection or if it has affected the superficial or deep layers of the skin.
But here are some symptoms that pet parents may be able to notice:
- Alopecia across their dogs’ bodies (their hair randomly falls out)
- Very small lumps and bumps (papules or pustules)
- A strange and pungent skin scent
- The lesions may produce pus or might continuously break and cause small hemorrhages
Pyoderma is likely to show up in body regions that do not get enough air, which means that these infections can show up in places such as between your dog’s digits, under and around their ears (especially if they have floppy ones like those boasted by the Cocker Spaniel), under their chin, or in their elbow or shoulder areas.
How is canine pyoderma diagnosed?
The diagnosis is rather complex in this case as the pathogen needs to be discovered so that the treatment is administered correctly.
The vet will collect samples from the dog’s skin – both from the top layers and from the deeper ones.
Skin cytology can also be used to determine the degree to which the damage has been done, and it can also be useful in discovering whether a Malassezia co-infection is present.
Can pyoderma in dogs be treated?
Yes, but it depends on every case.
Dogs that have been administered medications inappropriately, such as short therapies involving antibiotics, have a higher risk of developing a drug-resistant skin infection.
An antibiogram is mandatory as a part of the diagnostic process as it can reveal just which antibiotic the germs might be sensitive to. Owners have to administer the treatment correctly, whether that means giving their dogs antibiotics for a week or, sometimes, for two.
The majority of dogs that are diagnosed with pyoderma have underlying health conditions that have acted as a predisposing factor. As such, the patient needs to receive treatment for the cause, not just for the skin infection – and that can range from severe external parasite infestations to hypothyroidism or atopic dermatitis.
Topical treatments may also be necessary if skin lesions are present or if the pyoderma case is deep and involves the other layers, too, not just the epidermis. The most common disinfectant used for this purpose is chlorhexidine, but there are plenty of other creams and gels that can be applied to the lesion so as to stimulate scarring and healing.
Even if the patient is not diagnosed with any underlying health condition, it is highly recommended that they receive immunomodulators or supplements that can improve their immune response (especially during antibiotic treatment).
Is there any way to prevent canine pyoderma?
While all dogs can come in contact with dangerous microorganisms, whether from their environment, the park, or other animals, so as a pet owner, you may not have complete control over this process, paying attention goes a long way.
Check your dog every day or at least once two to three days for any new lumps, bumps, or lesions, especially in areas that aren’t well-ventilated (their shoulders, belly region, and under-hip region).
If your dog is predisposed to recurrent otitis, check their ears once a week – see whether they have any discharge, discomfort, local pain, or itchiness, as well as any pungent smells coming from the ear canal.
Do not bathe your dog frequently, as this can negatively influence their skin microflora and can make it more likely for pathogens to attack the epidermis (especially if they find an entryway). In the summer, you can give your dog showers without using shampoos or other cleaning agents.