Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infection in Dogs
Bacterial and fungal infections can make your dog's skin uncomfortable and itchy, with skin that appears moist, crusty or flaky. Strong odor and redness can also become an issue, in addition to recurring yeast dermatitis or staph infection.
Skin problems tend to be fairly common in dogs and can indicate underlying health issues that will need treatment.
Yeast Dermatitis (Malassezia Dermatitis)
Yeast dermatitis (Malassezia dermatitis) is an extremely common cause of skin disease in dogs. While the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis is naturally found on the skin of healthy dogs, if it grows excessively, it can lead to skin inflammation (dermatitis).
Staphylococcal Infection (Staph Infection)
The most common bacterial skin infection seen in dogs is a staph infection (Staphylococcal infection). This skin infection is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus sp which can be transmitted between dogs and humans, making good hygiene and early treatment a high priority for this skin infection.
A staph infection can impact your dog’s skin or upper respiratory tract and is typically treated using oral antibiotics such as cephalexin, erythromycin, or clindamycin. Antibiotic ointments and shampoos may also be prescribed to help your dog's skin feel more comfortable.
Signs of a Bacterial or Fungal Skin Infection in Dogs
Fungal Infection (Yeast Dermatitis)
If your pooch is suffering from yeast dermatitis you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Thickened skin (“elephant skin”)
- Flaky, crusty or scaly skin
- Redness and itchiness
- Musty odor
- Recurring or chronic ear infections
Dogs suffering from a staph infection may show one or more of these symptoms:
- Excessive itching, licking, or chewing
- Eye, ear, skin, or respiratory system infections
- Patchy fur with peeling, crusty skin, or moist skin
- Inflamed or red skin
- Pus-filled sores on the skin
Causes of Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections in Dogs
Many bacteria and fungi live on the skin naturally but are controlled by the immune system and do not cause issues under normal circumstances. If however the skin's condition changes or the immune system becomes suppressed, bacterial and fungal infections can occur.
Immune deficiencies or an increase in the number of oils produced on the skin are common causes of yeast infections in dogs. Although yeast infections are not contagious, they can recur or become chronic unless the underlying skin condition or allergy is treated.
Breeds that show a genetic predisposition to skin yeast infections include:
- Lhasa Apso
- West Highland White Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Australian Terrier
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Maltese Terrier
- Basset hound
- Silky Terrier
Your pup's skin can become irritated and uncomfortable due to a staph infection, leading to excessive scratching, chewing, or licking. If your canine companion 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 result in staph infections. Although any age or breed of dog can be afflicted, older dogs are more susceptible due to their weakened immune systems.
Diagnosing a Dog's Skin Infection
Our Los Angeles County vets can treat a wide range of skin, eye, ear, and nail conditions in pets. We use several techniques to collect samples and diagnose skin infections in dogs.
Yeast infections can be diagnosed through impression smears, skin biopsy, skin scraping, acetate tape preparations, or cotton swab samples.
To diagnose a staph infection, your pup will need a complete physical examination, and your vet 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 required to find out whether the inflammation is caused by immune-related issues or an allergic reaction to something. A skin biopsy may be necessary, 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 diagnostic tests and get results quickly with our advanced imaging and testing equipment.
Treating Fungal Dermatitis & Staph Infections in Dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with a yeast dermatitis infection treatment will include oral or topical treatments or a combination of both based on the severity of your pup’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 in dogs are typically treated with oral antibiotics. Antibacterial shampoo or topical ointments can also be used for these types of skin conditions. Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment may take several weeks before you will begin seeing an improvement in the condition of your dog's skin.
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 they can choose the best treatment for your pet’s skin problem while helping to reduce the risk of interactions 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.