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Skin Infections in Dogs

12 Types of Dog Skin Infections

Dog skin infections are inflammatory conditions caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Skin infections affect all body parts, including the ears, hair, and nails. 

Certain skin infections, like fleas and mites, are transmissible to other dogs, while others, like allergies and cancer, are non-contagious. 

The 12 types of skin infections in dogs are dandruff, allergic dermatitis, skin tumors, ringworm, alopecia, pyoderma, fleas, folliculitis, impetigo, mange, and seborrhea. 

Skin infections in dogs manifest with skin lesions, itchiness, hair loss, hyperpigmentation, and a strong odor. The exact clinical manifestation depends on the underlying cause. 

The correct dog skin infection treatment is based on the infectious agent and includes an antimicrobial or antiparasitic combination with topical therapy. 

Dietary supplements, such as CBD oil, fish oil, and probiotics, are beneficial to the dog skin infection treatment strategy. 

1. Dandruff

Dandruff is a condition in which small dry skin pieces flake off of the skin. The cause of dandruff is dry skin, which results from allergies, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and low air humidity. 

The main signs of dandruff are small, white, or yellow, greasy flakes dispersed throughout the dog’s coat. Treating dandruff entails moisturizing the skin and managing the cause. 

Certain breeds, such as American Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and West Highland Terriers, are genetically predisposed to dandruff. 

Omega-rich dog supplements, like CBD and fish oil, help prevent excess skin dryness and consequential dandruff. 

2. Allergic dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis in dogs is an inflammatory skin disease caused by hypersensitivity reactions. Environmental and food allergies are common sources of allergic dermatitis in dogs. 

Signs and symptoms of allergic dermatitis include itchy skin, redness and swelling, self-inflicted injuries, and paw licking or gnawing. Dogs with allergic dermatitis are prone to chronic ear infections. 

The treatment for allergic dermatitis in dogs is allergy control, including antihistamines, steroids, immunosuppressants, allergy shots, and dietary modifications. 

Allergic dermatitis in dogs is more common in certain breeds such as Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Chinese Shar Peis, Shih Tzus, Wirehaired Fox Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Boxers. 

Environmental allergies are preventable by minimizing the dog’s exposure to the allergen, while food allergies are controllable by removing the offending allergen from the dog’s diet. 

3. Skin tumors

Skin tumors in dogs are abnormal masses stemming from skin cells and tissues. Tumors result from a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors. 

The telltale sign of a skin tumor is a lump or bump on the skin. Dogs develop benign (papilloma, lipoma, and histiocytoma) and malignant tumors (mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and fibrosarcoma). 

Skin tumors in dogs are treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of all approaches. 

Beagles, Dalmatians, Boxers, Bull Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers are at a high risk of developing skin tumors. 

Limiting sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin tumors in dogs. Sunscreen is beneficial for dogs with short, pale coats. 

4. Ringworm

Ringworm is a highly contagious infection of the dog’s skin caused by a fungus. The disease is highly contagious and spreads to other pets in the household and humans. 

The standard sign of ringworm is the emergence of red circular skin lesions well defined by a raised inflammatory ring. The lesions lose hair and are very itchy. 

Ringworm is treated with topical and oral therapy. The treatment strategy includes lime sulfur dips, antifungal shampoos, and oral antifungals. 

Jack Russel Terriers, Boston Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers are at a higher-than-average risk of contracting ringworm. 

Preventing ringworm is not possible. The only option is to reduce the infection risk by avoiding contact with infected animals and cleaning contaminated objects. 

5. Candidiasis

Candidiasis is a skin yeast infection caused by Candida albicans, hence the name. 

Signs of candidiasis in dogs include ear inflammation, head shaking, hot spots, skin rashes, hair loss, skin odor, excessive itchiness, and paw licking or chewing. 

Topical antifungal shampoos used alone or combined with oral antifungals, like ketoconazole, are the golden standard for treating candidiasis in dogs. 

Breeds predisposed to candidiasis are Basset Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, and Shih Tzus. Air humidity and excess skin folds increase the risk of infection.

Keep the dog’s skin folds clean and ensure proper environmental humidity to reduce the chance of candidiasis. 

6. Alopecia

Alopecia in dogs is partial or complete hair loss. Canine alopecia is caused by constant skin irritation due to external parasites, allergies, infectious agents, endocrine disorders, or cancer. 

The standard sign of alopecia is hair loss. Hair loss occurs in patches and is limited to certain body parts or is diffuse and widespread. 

Treating alopecia requires determining and managing the underlying cause. Dogs with alopecia due to fleas require an anti-flea treatment, and dogs with endocrine conditions need hormonal supplements. 

Breeds prone to alopecia include Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Yorkshire Terriers, Siberian Huskies, Pomerianians, Dobermans, Golden, and Labrador Retrievers. 

Preventing alopecia is challenging, given the range of conditions that manifest it. Proper skin care and regular vet checkups help reduce the risk of hair loss. 

7. Pyoderma

Pyoderma is a common bacterial infection of the skin that develops at the surface level, superficial, or deep pyoderma. The disease is caused by bacteria that usually inhabit the skin but overgrow due to environmental changes. 

Signs and symptoms of pyoderma include skin lesions, hair loss, and itchiness. Lesions are in the form of acne, bumps, pustules, or crusts. 

Antibiotics and anti-itch medications are the cornerstone of pyoderma treatment. Elizabethan collars help prevent the dog from licking or biting the damaged skin. Clipping the hair around the lesions and Epsom salt soaks are beneficial. 

Pyoderma skin infections are prevalent in German Shepherds, Bichon Frises, Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Australian Shepherds. 

Prevent pyoderma by keeping the dog’s skin health in check through grooming and practicing regular veterinary checkups. 

8. Fleas

Fleas are tiny parasites that live on the skin's surface and feed on blood. Fleas have two harmful effects, including mechanical irritation that results in itchiness and allergic reactions in dogs sensitive to flea saliva. 

Clinical signs of flea skin infections in dogs include extreme itchiness, skin redness, and hair loss. Pale gums due to excess blood loss are observable in advanced cases. 

Antiparasitic treatments, available in oral, topical, or injectable forms, are the treatment for flea infestation and flea allergies. 

Flea allergy in dogs is widespread among Terriers, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Spaniels, Dalmatians, Shar Peis, German Shepherds, and Chow Chows.  

Prevent fleas by keeping the dog up-to-date on anti-flea preventative products, such as spot-on liquids, collars, and chewable tablets. 

9. Folliculitis

Folliculitis in dogs is inflammation of the hair follicles. Bacteria are the most common cause, and systemic diseases such as endocrine and immune system imbalances support the infection. 

Clinical signs and symptoms of folliculitis are papules, epidermal collarettes, skin erosions, hair loss, and hyperpigmentation. 

Folliculitis is treated with topical and oral antibiotics. Managing the underlying cause is vital for long-term treatment success. 

Certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, Pit Bull Terriers, and Pugs, are susceptible to folliculitis. 

Reducing the risk of the underlying conditions helps prevent folliculitis. Regular bathing and keeping the dog up-to-date on flea control are useful.

10. Impetigo

Impetigo is a type of superficial pyoderma occurring in puppies between three and six months of age. The condition is called puppy pyoderma, caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus

Puppy impetigo manifests with crusty papules and pustules in sparse areas of the coat, such as the belly and groins. The skin in dogs with impetigo is dry and itchy. 

The treatment for impetigo is antiseptic shampoos with chlorhexidine, which are used alone or combined with topical and oral antibiotics. 

Bulldogs, Pugs, English Springer Spaniels, Boxers, Pekingese, and Shar Peis are susceptible to impetigo. 

Provide puppies with a healthy diet to boost the immune system and minimize the risk of skin infections and impetigo episodes. 

11. Mange

Mange is a highly contagious and zoonotic skin infection in dogs. Mites cause canine mange. The two main mites in dogs are Sarcoptic and Demodectic mange. 

The clinical manifestation of mange in dogs includes severe itching, hair loss, raised bumps on the chest, and thick or crusty skin. Self-inflicted wounds called excoriations are common. 

Topical shampoos and baths combined with antiparasitic medications treat mange in dogs. Antibiotics are prescribed in dogs at high risk of secondary skin infections. 

Sarcoptic mange has no breed predispositions, while Demodectic mange is more prevalent in Pugs, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, Shih Tzus, Border Terriers, Shar Peis, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers, and Doguw de Bordeaux. 

Commercially available antiparasitic collars, liquids, and chewables prevent Sarcoptic mange while boosting the dog’s immunity and minimizing the risk of Demodectic mange in dogs

12. Seborrhea

Seborrhea is an inflammatory condition affecting the skin’s main protein called keratin. Dogs with seborrhea produce too much or insufficient keratin. 

Altered keratin production levels are due to genetic reasons or underlying issues, like allergies, hormonal imbalances, lymphoma, immune-mediated conditions, or nutritional deficiencies. 

Seborrhea in dogs manifests with dry and dull coats, greasy and oily skin, dandruff, crusty skin lesions, itchiness, and excess cerumen or earwax buildup in the ears. 

The treatment for seborrhea depends on the trigger and includes allergy control for allergies, dietary supplements for nutritional deficiencies, or hormone replacements for endocrine issues. 

Anti-seborrheic shampoos (featuring coal tar and salicylic acid) are generally prescribed combined with steroids and anti-inflammatory medications. 

Dog breeds prone to primary or genetic seborrhea include Basset Hounds, American Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and English Springer Spaniels.  

Primary seborrhea is not preventable due to genetic factors, while secondary seborrhea is avoidable through regular veterinary check-ups to ensure the dog is in solid health.

Why do Dogs Have Skin Infections?

Dogs have skin infections because their skin is directly exposed to pathogens and susceptible to systemic changes. 

Skin infections in dogs are classified as primary or secondary. Primary infections are triggered by infectious organisms such as fleas, mites, or ringworms. 

Secondary skin infections in dogs occur when systemic conditions, such as allergies or endocrine imbalances, disrupt the dog’s skin barrier. 

The dog’s skin is inhabited by thousands of germs, which multiply when the local conditions are favorable, leading to infections. 

How can You Tell if Your Dog Has a Bacterial Skin Infection?

You can tell if your dog has a bacterial skin infection by observing the symptoms. Standard symptoms of bacterial skin infections include thick or flaky skin, itchiness, and a musty odor. 

Hyperpigmentation or intense skin darkening is a sign of long-term bacterial infection and persisting skin irritation. Skin darkening is often accompanied by hair loss. 

Some dogs with bacterial skin infections develop pus-filled lesions on the skin. The lesions pop, leak, and sully the coat, giving it an unkempt appearance. 

Are Dog Skin Infections Contagious?

Yes, dog skin infections are contagious in some cases. For example, fleas and mange are highly transmissible to healthy dogs and cause serious skin infections. 

Other causes of skin infections are not contagious. Allergies are one of the most common non-transmissible types of skin infections. Skin tumors and seborrhea are non-contagious. 

What Causes Skin Infections in Dogs and How Can They Be Prevented?

The causes of skin infections in dogs and how they can be prevented are listed below. 

  • Bacteria: Bacteria are a frequent cause of skin infections in dogs. Members of the Staphylococcus species cause the majority of skin infection cases. Bacterial skin infections are preventable by minimizing the risk of other skin conditions. 
  • Yeasts or Fungi: Malassezia and Candida are widespread yeasts triggering dog skin infections, while ringworm is the most common cause of fungal skin infections. Yeasts and fungi are difficult to prevent, as they live on the skin. 
  • Viruses: Viruses are a rare cause of skin infections. The Papillomavirus frequently targets puppies and immunocompromized dogs. Boosting the dog’s immune system helps prevent certain viral skin infections.  
  • Parasites: Fleas and mites (Sarcoptes and Demodex) are common parasites causing dog skin infections. The parasites are highly contagious and spread among pets. Prevent parasitic skin infections by keeping the dog updated on anti-flea products year-round.  

What are the Common Treatments for Dog Skin Infections?

The common treatments for dog skin infections are listed below. 

  • Underlying Cause Treatment: The main step in treating skin infections is managing the underlying cause. For example, dogs with allergies must control their allergies, while dogs with endocrine disorders require hormonal therapies. 
  • Antimicrobials: Antimicrobials are the golden standard and are combined with other treatment approaches. Skin conditions entail long-term use of antimicrobials, and the exact agent is chosen based on the pathogen. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections, and antifungals for fungal or yeast infections. 
  • Antiparasitics: Antiparasitics treat dogs with skin infections caused by fleas or mites. Most antiparasitics have residual efficacy, which protects the dog from future re-infestations for a limited period. 
  • Topical Therapy: Topical therapy includes special medicated or non-medicated sprays and shampoos. Soothing balms and antibiotic creams are beneficial topical treatments for some skin infections.  

When Should You Consult a Veterinarian for Dog Skin Infections?

You should consult a veterinarian for dog skin infections when the issue is apparent. Skin infections are hard to manage, and early diagnosis improves the prognosis. 

Call the vet and schedule an immediate consultation if the skin infection is causing other problems, such as loss of appetite or fever. 

Dogs with skin infections that do not respond to the initial treatment are referred to a veterinary dermatologist. The dermatologists performs specialized tests to determine the underlying cause of the infection. 

Are Dog Skin Infections Caused by Allergic Reactions?

Yes, dog skin infections are caused by allergic reactions. Allergies are a common culprit for skin infections. 

Allergies make the skin itchy. The dog responds by excessive scratching, which damages the skin barrier. Damaged skin is susceptible to secondary bacterial and fungal infections. 

How Can You Prevent Recurrence of Skin Infections in Dogs?

You can prevent the recurrence of skin infections in dogs by regular grooming, external parasite control, and proper nutrition. 

Frequent grooming promotes skin health, removes loose hair and debris, and allows inspection of the dog’s skin. Anti-parasite products, such as spot-on liquids, collars, and chews, prevent external parasites like fleas and mites. 

A healthy diet supports skin health and boosts the immune system. Supplements like fish oil nourish the skin, while probiotics for dogs with allergies balance the skin microbiome and relieve itchiness.

Are There Home Remedies for Treating Dog Skin Infections?

Yes, there are home remedies for treating dog skin infections. Popular options are chamomile, green tea, and oatmeal soaks or baths. 

Direct application of aloe vera to damaged skin is beneficial for itchy and infected skin. Upgrading the dog’s diet and using omega-rich supplements, like fish and CBD oil, helps boost immunity. 

Natural home remedies for dogs are not a substitute for traditional treatment and must be used as part of a multimodal strategy. Consult a veterinarian before attempting a home remedy. 

Can CBD Oil be Applied for Dog Skin Infections?

Yes, CBD oil can be applied for dog skin infections. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is not a standalone cure but helps with the symptoms and supports healing. 

CBD benefits dogs with skin infections by reducing inflammation, soothing irritated skin, and relieving itchiness. Cannabidiol has antimicrobial properties, thus supporting skin infection treatment. 

Cannabidiol for dogs with skin infections is used orally or topically, and it is applied directly to the skin. Consult the veterinarian before using CBD to ensure safe and effective administration.