How to Treat Skin Infections in Dogs

Skin infections that occur in dogs are called "pyoderma" and are bacterial.
How to Treat Skin Infections in Dogs
Ana Díaz Maqueda

Written and verified by the biologist Ana Díaz Maqueda.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Skin infections in dogs are more common than you might think. If they don’t get the correct treatment, these infections could spread from your dog’s skin to their other organs. They could even cause septicemia and be fatal. 

These infections are known as pyoderma and can take different forms. These include surface pyoderma, superficial pyoderma and deep pyoderma. The first two types only develop in the epidermis tissue, which is the outermost layer of the skin. The last type can damage the dermis or the deeper tissue.

The most common symptoms of surface and superficial pyoderma are red or peeling skin, papules, pustules, scabs, alopecia, and an itchy rash. Deep pyoderma rarely presents with an itchy rash, however, it can leave more painful skin lesions. In most cases, deep pyoderma produces ulcers, furuncles (boils) and nodules that can secrete blood and other infectious fluids.

It’s best to be very careful of skin infections in dogs. In most cases, these infections are zoonotic, meaning humans can also contract them. Staphylococcus intermedius and Staphylococcus aureus are the two bacteria that most commonly cause these infections.

Using special shampoos to treat skin infections

It’s best to treat pyoderma both topically and systemically. For a topical treatment, shampoos are your best option, given that these absorb well into the skin. The most common shampoos contain:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Ethyl lactate
  • Chlorhexidine
  • Povidone iodine

Using shampoos helps with removing damaged skin, which in turn helps wounds and rashes to heal, as well as relieving the dog’s pain. It’s best to use these shampoos at least twice a week, although a vet should confirm the frequency of use.

Using fluoroquinolones to treat skin infections in dogs

Fluoroquinolones are a class of broad-spectrum antibiotics. This means that they can combat a wide range of bacteria. These antibiotics are effective at treating 85.4% of skin infections in dogs, but were ineffective in 4.9% of cases. 

The types of skin infections in dogs.

The main problem with using fluoroquinolones is that they can cause bacterial resistance. As a result, after a patient receives treatment, some bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics, even though they were originally treatable. They then begin to multiply at a phenomenal rate, producing new, untreatable infections.

Using rifampicins to treat skin infections in dogs

Rifampicins are another group of antibiotics typically used to combat chronic deep pyoderma. These antibiotics can treat infections in deep tissue. In fact, in the right concentration, they can kill the bacteria completely.

Rifampicins are also a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Therefore, they can also cause bacterial resistance, just like fluoroquinolones.


Infectious bacteria

How can you treat your dog if it has a skin infection?

You can usually determine how to treat a skin infection by what has worked in the past. Depending on the severity of the infection, antiseptics or topical antibiotics can be effective treatments. These include mupirocin and fusidic acid.

Vets prescribe systemic antibiotics only for the most serious cases. However, the widespread use of these types of drugs, without any previous microbiological study, has lead to an increase in bacterial resistance. It has also lead to other antibiotics, such as penicillin and methicillin, being incorrectly used. This can make them ineffective at treating Staphylococcus sp.

If you think your dog might have a skin infection, then it’s best to take them to a vet as soon as possible. Some skin lesions can sometimes cause other illnesses, such as allergies, rabies or leishmaniasis. However, if a vet prescribes antibiotics, it’s very important that you follow the dosage instructions carefully. This will help ensure you see the desired results and avoid bacterial resistances.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.