Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections in Dogs

Fungal and bacterial skin infections in dogs can cause red, itchy, inflamed skin leading your pup to feel uncomfortable and irritable. In today's blog our Mooresville vets explain yeast and staph infections in dogs, and discuss symptoms, causes and treatments.

Common Skin Infections in Dogs

Bacterial and fungal infections can cause your pup's skin to become flaky, crusty or moist, leading to itchiness and discomfort. Inflammation, redness and smell can also be a problem, not to mention recurring yeast dermatitis or staph infection. Although skin problems are fairly common in dogs they can indicate underlying health issues that require veterinary care.

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 That Your Dog May Have a Bacterial or Fungal Skin Infection

Fungal Infection (Yeast Dermatitis)

Dogs suffering from a fungal skin infection will typically show 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
  • Hyperpigmentation

Staph Infection

If your dog has a staph infection you may notice 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
  • Pain
  • Pus-filled sores on the skin

Causes of Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections in Dogs

Many bacteria and fungi live on your pup's skin naturally but are controlled by the immune system and do not cause issues under normal circumstances. However, if the skin's condition changes or the immune system becomes suppressed, bacterial and fungal infections can develop.

Immune deficiencies or an increase in 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.

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

There are a number of breeds that show a predisposition to skin infections including:

  • Lhasa Apso
  • Dachshund
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Australian Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Poodle
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Maltese Terrier
  • Basset hound
  • Silky Terrier

Diagnosis of Fungal Dermatitis & Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs

Our Mooresville vets at Lake Norman Animal Hospitaltreat 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 sample.

To diagnose a staph infection, your dog 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 tests and get results quickly with our advanced imaging and testing equipment.

Treatment For Dogs With Fungal Dermatitis & Staph Infections

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.

Is your dog being tormented by itchy, irritated skin? Contact our Mooresville vets today to book an examination for your dog.

2 beautifully groomed shetland sheepdogs. Shetland sheepdogs tend to be prone to fungal skin infections.

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