Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infection in Dogs
Bacterial and fungal infections can have your dog feeling itchy, with skin that appears flaky, crusty or moist. Redness, inflammation and odor may also be a problem, not to mention recurring health concerns when it comes to yeast dermatitis or staph infection.
Skin problems are fairly common for dogs and can indicate underlying health issues. In this post, our Greensboro vets offer some advice about what to do if your dog’s licking, scratching or other symptoms of skin disease are making him - and you - uncomfortable.
Also referred to as Malassezia dermatitis, yeast dermatitis is an extremely common cause of skin disease in dogs. Though the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis is normally found on the skin, if it grows excessively, it can lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation).
Staphylococcal Infection (staph infection)
The most common bacterial skin infection that appears in dogs, staph infection is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus sp. And is a zoonotic risk, which means dogs and humans can transmit the infection between each other, making good hygiene and early treatment a high priority.
This type of infection may impact a dog’s skin or upper respiratory tract, and can be treated using oral antibiotics such as cephalexin, erythromycin or clindamycin. Antibiotic ointments and shampoos can also work.
Symptoms of Fungal & Bacterial Skin Infection in Dogs
Fungal Infection (Yeast Dermatitis)
The most common clinical signs of yeast dermatitis include:
- Thickened skin or “elephant skin”
- Flaky, crusty or scaly skin
- Redness and itchiness
- Musty odor
- Recurrent or chronic ear infections (otitis externa)
The most common clinical signs of staph infection are:
- Excessive itching, licking or chewing
- Eye, ears, skin or respiratory system infections
- Patchy fur with peeling, crusty skin, or moist skin
- Inflamed or red skin
- Pus-filled lesions on the skin
Causes of Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections in Dogs
Many bacteria and fungi live on the skin but are controlled by the immune system and do not cause issues under normal circumstances. But, if skin conditions change or the immune system becomes suppressed, bacterial and fungal infections can result.
Immune deficiencies or an increase in the amount of oils produced on the skin are common causes of yeast infections. While yeast infections are not contagious, they will often recur unless the underlying skin condition or allergy is addressed.
Certain breeds may be genetically predisposed to yeast infections, such as the Lhasa Apso, Poodle, Dachshund, Shetland Sheepdog, West Highland White Terrier, Maltese Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Basset hound, Australian Terrier, Silky Terrier, and Chihuahua.
When it comes to staph infections, skin can become irritated when a dog excessively scratches, chews or licks. If your dog has an allergy to medications, food or environmental factors, or fleas, you may start to notice these behaviors.
Some chronic debilitating diseases, allergies, fungal infections of the blood and other secondary infections may cause staph infections. Any age or breed of dog can be afflicted, but older dogs are more susceptible due to their weakened immune systems.
Diagnosis of Fungal Dermatitis & Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs
Our vets at Guilford-Jamestown Animal Hospital are trained in dermatological veterinary medicine. We treat a wide variety of skin, eye, ear, and nail conditions in pets. We use several techniques to collect samples and diagnose yeast dermatitis, including:
- Impression smear
- Skin biopsy
- Skin scraping
- Acetate tape preparations
- Cotton swab sample
For a staph infection, your pet will need a complete physical examination, and your veterinarian may perform a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, in addition to thoroughly reviewing your pet’s medical history and asking questions such as when you began to notice symptoms.
Skin tests may also be done to find out whether the inflammation is caused by immune-related issues or an allergic reaction. A skin biopsy may be required, during which your veterinarian will swab the skin to determine which antibiotic should be used to treat the condition.
At our in-house lab, we can perform tests and get results quickly with our advanced imaging and testing equipment.
Treatment of Fungal Dermatitis & Staph Infection in Dogs
Yeast dermatitis infections can be treated with oral or topical treatments, or a combination of both based on the severity of your dog’s condition. These medications are highly effective, though they must be given for a prolonged period (often several months).
These drugs can have potential side effects on the liver that will require close monitoring with routine blood tests.
Staph infections are typically treated with oral antibiotics. Antibacterial shampoo or topical ointments can be used for these types of skin conditions. Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment may take several weeks to have an effect.
Because staph infections can be passed between dogs and from dogs to humans, extra care should be taken when handling and treating your dog.
Discuss any supplements or medications your dog is currently taking with your veterinarian so he or she can choose the best treatment for your pet’s individual circumstances while helping to reduce the risk of a potential interaction between drugs.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.
Is your dog showing signs of a bacterial or fungal skin infection? Contact our Greensboro vets right away to schedule an appointment for testing. Our vets are experienced in diagnosing a number of conditions and illnesses.
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