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Bacterial Infection (Pyoderma) of the Skin in Dogs

When a dog's skin is cut or wounded, there is an increased risk of infection. Pyoderma refers to an infection of the skin and can be bacterial, fungal or parasitic (mites). Pyoderma in dogs—and pyoderma in cats—is very common; it’s one of the most common reasons that people bring their pet to the veterinarian. Redness, itchiness and in some cases, partial hair loss, often characterize the infection. Pyoderma treatment in dogs is typically given on an outpatient basis, and the prognosis is excellent.

Symptoms and Types

  • Itchiness

  • Reddened skin

  • Pustules

  • Crusted skin

  • Small, raised lesions

  • Loss of hair (alopecia)

  • Dried discharge in affected area

The infection can occur on the superficial layers of the dog's skin, or if there is a deep wound due to trauma, mites or some diseases, in the inner folds of the skin. The latter infection is referred to as deep pyoderma.

Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs

When the skin is disrupted through a wound, scrape, flea bite or other irritation, your pet will scratch or chew at the area. This further disrupts the natural balance of healthy skin bacteria and allows yeast and bacteria to overgrow. This is itchy, causing your dog to scratch and worsen the infection.

Some yeast and bacteria on the skin is healthy and normal; it is when there is too much microbial activity that it becomes a pyoderma.

While this dog skin infection can occur in any breed, there are a few types that are predisposed to developing pyoderma, including:

Pets have a higher risk of developing an infection when they have a fungal infection or an endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism, or have allergies (such as to fleas, food or environmental allergens).


In most cases, the condition will be examined and treated accordingly. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a minimally invasive test such as an impression smear or tape sample of the skin lesion to make sure she selects the right treatment.

In the event that the pyoderma appears to be deeper in the dog's skin, then skin scrapings, skin biopsies and an examination of bacterial cells (smear) may be performed to see if the condition is a result of a more serious underlying medical condition.


The dog skin infection typically responds favorably to medical treatment. Treatment is generally done on an outpatient basis and will involve cleaning the infection in the clinic, external (topical) pet skin and coat medications to apply at home, as well as oral antibiotics for dogs for the infection.

Antifungal medication for dogs may also be prescribed if there is an abundance of yeast in the infection. It is very important to finish all of the antibiotic and antifungal medications as prescribed by your veterinarian to reduce the likelihood of an antibiotic-resistant infection occurring.


For most pets with chronic or recurrent pyoderma, managing the underlying cause is key to improving your pet’s health. Dogs with skin folds should have those areas cleaned daily. Depending on the location and deepness of the folds, either a clean, damp cloth or medicated wipe is recommended.

If your pet has allergies, managing those allergies will greatly reduce the number of skin infections he gets. Talk to your veterinarian about allergies to determine the best treatment plan—including over-the-counter or prescription pet medication, diet change, different prescription flea and tick prevention, prescription shampoo and other tools.