Dog Skin Infection
Recognize and
Treat The Symptoms

A dog skin infection can either be bacterial or yeast related but both are easily treated. Yeast infections are very common in warmer weather so are often misdiagnosed as allergies.  If your dog is bothered by itchy ears and paws, and is scooting across your floors, then you're likely dealing with yeast.  See here for more on how to treat yeast infections in dogs.

On the other hand, bacteria infections are often secondary infections to allergies as they frequently occur when your dog breaks the skin from lots of scratching. 

And, of course, you need to know which one you're dealing with to get the right treatment plan.  But when you do, both types are fairly easy to treat.

Here's how I can help.  Take a few minutes to review the symptoms chart to get a clearer idea of what type of skin infection your dog may be suffering from.

Then, read on, as I've included some great treatment plans for both further down the page.

Symptom chart for dog skin infections.
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Common Causes

You may be wondering how on earth your best pal contracted a skin infection, but it's not that uncommon for them.  Especially if they fall into one of the most common categories below:

Shar-pei dogs prone to bacterial skin infection.

The most common causes for a dog skin infection are:

  1. Dogs that already suffer from allergies
  2. Dogs that scratch or lick at their skin a lot (usually because of allergies)
  3. Dogs that have floppy ears (especially the heavy, pendulum-type ears)
  4. Breeds that have lots of skin folds, such as a Shar-Pei, or a Bulldog

Skin infections in dogs are not solely restricted to these causes though, any dog can get one, so learning about the different types, causes, symptoms, and treatment, is always good to know.

You can usually tell which type of infection your dog is suffering from based on the visual symptoms (see above table).  This is, however, more difficult when the infected area is the ears as the visual symptoms are the same - shaking the head, scratching the ears, holding the head to one side, etc.

Having said that, if itchy ears is accompanied by lots of biting and licking of the paws, then a yeast infection is more likely the cause.

If your fur-baby is suffering with ear infections, she really will be suffering, it's painful.  That's why ear infections should always be checked by your veterinarian, she can give quick relief.  

You can find more information  on Dog Ear Problems.

Your veterinarian will be able to determine the type of infection by taking a swab from the ears and analyzing this under a microscope.  Once you know the type you can treat accordingly.


Bacteria Infections

Bacterial infections are frequently a secondary condition to allergies caused by the dog itching and constantly scratching. The more the dog scratches with allergies, the more chance there is of him breaking the skin, which can lead to a dog skin infection.

You can get a better idea of how allergies can affect canines by clicking on the relevant links below:

Dog skin allergies
Dog allergy symptoms
Dog allergy treatment plans

A dog that loves to play in muddy puddles or just enjoys swimming is prone to a dog skin infection.
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If you have a dog that loves to play in muddy puddles or just enjoys swimming, then you may be no stranger to skin infections.  Dogs that spend a lot of time being damp and dirty are pretty good candidates for bacterial or fungal skin infections.


Treatment

Bathe your dog with a good quality medicated shampoo that contains an antibacterial agent. Baths should be given twice a week for the first 2 weeks, then scale down to once a week for a month and finally just once a month.

Antibiotics and/or ear-drops prescribed by your veterinarian.

Keep your eye on a bacterial infection as occasionally it can become deep rooted.  In this case you'll likely see oozing sores, hair loss, and even abscesses, which can all become extremely painful for your dog and a trip to your vets will be necessary.


Fungal/Yeast Infections

Have you noticed a rather pungent "yeasty" smell coming from your dog?.....Even after bathing her? If this is the case, then you are most likely dealing with a yeast (fungal) infection.

Moisture contributes greatly to fungal infections and dogs with floppy ears or folds of skin are more prone. Particularly in the warmer months.  See here for more details on treating yeast infections in dogs.


Treatment

Weekly baths with an antifungal shampoo. A gentle rinse will also help, especially in stopping the skin from drying out.

Your vet may prescribe medicated antifungal drops, if your dogs' ears are affected.

An important note here, even If your dog's skin infection seems to ONLY affect your her ears, you will still have to bathe with an antifungal shampoo. Otherwise, the problem usually comes right back as soon as the ear drops stop.

Tess's Story

Golden retriever in top condition after treatment from fungal yeast infection.

This is Tess, my Mum's Goldren Retriever.  Every summer Tess would radiate a particular rancid smell that would get worse and worse as the summer wore on, no matter how many times my Mum bathed her in regular dog shampoo.

The smell seemed to be coming from her ears but really, was coming from all of her.

My Mum took her to the vets on numerous occasions and they would clear her ears out and give my Mum some drops, which would help for a while, but then it always came back. It seemed to be worse each time but would then subside during the winter.

Eventually my Mum decided to change her vets. The new vet checked her symptoms, checked her ears, paws, and belly and diagnosed a yeast infection of these areas caused by excess moisture. Admittedly, Tess does run and swim A LOT, so is prone to skin infections.

A yeast infection in dogs can be aggravated by swimming, especially a dog ear infection.
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This is Tess enjoying a swim with her pal Millie!


I will note here, that Tess did not display the other characteristic symptoms of a fungal infection, such as shaking her head or even scratching that much.  This is why it took so long for the vets to accurately diagnose the condition.

The vet prescribed some ear drops (nothing new there) but told her she needed to regularly bathe Tess in an antifungal shampoo to control and stop the yeast spreading. At first my Mum had to bathe Tess twice a week, then once a week, and eventually once a month. The ear drops stopped after two weeks (and the ears were clear) but this time the smell had gone completely and did not return the whole summer. Now, as soon as the weather gets warm, my Mum bathes Tess in antifungal shampoo twice a month. She doesn't need to put drops in her ears at all. Although she does keep her eye (or nose) on her symptoms!

One final point with Tess, it's really important that her ears are dried thoroughly after swimming and bathing as moisture contributes greatly to yeast infections.


Acne & Impetigo

Got a pimply puppy? No, I don't mean "spotty" like a Dalmatian - I mean a truly pimply puppy.

Dalmatian puppy.

Well, if you do, your puppy maybe suffering from acne or impetigo.

That's right. Just like our youngsters, puppies can get acne and impetigo (Puppy Dermatitis).

Puppy dermatitis is a dog skin infection that targets puppies under one years old.


These are mild surface dog skin disorders with impetigo being present on the abdomen and groin area and acne showing on the face. Impetigo is characterized by pus-filled blisters on the affected areas and is usually the result of unsanitary conditions.

Acne is not the result of unsanitary conditions but can occur in any puppy. It usually appears on the lower lip and chin at about 3 months of age. It looks like purplish red spots and blackheads. These will frequently burst and drain pus.

Both impetigo and mild acne can be treated topically with bathing in a Benzoyl Peroxide shampoo (OxyDex or Pyoben) twice a week for a few weeks. A severe case of acne may require a trip to your vets who can prescribe an oral antibiotic to help clear this up. Acne usually clears up once the dog reaches sexual maturity.

As long as you stay consistent with the treatment, a dog skin infection is usually quite respondent to treatment and can heal fairly quickly.


Other pages you may also like....

Hot spots are common in dogs.
Dry skin is common in dogs during wintertime.
Dog dandruff can be easily treated with the right shampoo.
Dogs rolling in the grass is a common sign of skin allergies.

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