Skin Infections in Dogs

Bacterial infections often develop in skin that has been traumatized and abraded by excessive rubbing, chewing, and scratching. Pyoderma is therefore a frequent complication of other skin diseases, particularly those that cause intense itching. Antibiotics and medicated shampoos may be included in treatment plans.

Puppy Dermatitis (Impetigo and Acne)

Impetigo and acne are mild surface skin infections that occur in puppies under 1 year of age. Impetigo presents with pus-filled blisters on the hairless parts of the abdomen and the groin. The blisters rupture, leaving thin brown crusts. Puppies housed in unsanitary quarters are most likely to be infected.

Acne occurs in puppies 3 months of age and older. It can be identified by purplish red pustules and blackheads that come to a head and drain pus. These lesions are found on the chin and lower lip, and occasionally in the genital area, perineum, and groin. Blockage of hair follicles by skin scales and sebum is a predisposing cause. Acne is more common among Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Great Danes, and Bulldogs, but can occur in any puppy.

Treatment: Topical therapy for impetigo and mild acne involves bathing the puppy with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo (OxyDex or Pyoben) twice a week for two to three weeks. Correct any predisposing causes, such as unsanitary puppy quarters.

Acne is often a deep-seated skin infection and may not respond to topical therapy alone. Your veterinarian may add a course of oral antibiotics that are effective against Staphylococcus. Acne usually resolves spontaneously at sexual maturity.

Skin Fold Pyoderma

When skin surfaces rub together, the skin becomes wet and inflamed. This creates ideal conditions for bacterial growth. An infection of the skin folds can take a variety of forms. It occurs as lip fold pyoderma in spaniels, setters, St. Bernards, and other breeds with heavy lips; as face fold pyoderma in Pekingese and Chinese Shar-Pei; as vulvar fold pyoderma in obese females; and as tail fold pyoderma in breeds with corkscrew tails, such as Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs.

The signs of skin fold pyoderma anywhere on the body are the same: irritation and inflammation of the skin. The moist skin also gives off a foul odor.

Treatment: The most effective treatment is to eliminate the skin fold by corrective surgery. When this is not feasible, the condition can be controlled by cleansing the infected skin fold with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo such as Sulf OxyDex, OxyDex, or Pyoben. Dry the skin and then apply OxyDex or Pyoben gel twice a day for 10 to 14 days. An antibiotic-steroid cream (such as Panolog) can be used twice a day for two or three days to control inflammation and itching. There are also medical wipes available for cleaning the skin folds.

Once the infection has been successfully treated, use benzoyl peroxide gel as needed to prevent recurrence. Medicated powders applied to cleaned and dried areas will also assist in controlling this condition.