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Dogs - Pyoderma


Can be inflammatory, infectious or neoplastic (abnormal or excessive growth of tissue)

Literally meaning ‘pus in the skin’ pyoderma is made up of either :

Superficial Pyodermas :

  • bacterial folliculitis and
  • bacterial overgrowth symptoms and
  • impetigo

Or Deep Pyodermas comprised of the less common

  • furunculosis and
  • cellulitis
However, deep pyoderma in dogs can also manifest as pain, crusting, bad odor, and exudation of blood and pus. Erythema, swelling, ulcerations, hemorrhagic crusts and bullae, hair loss, and draining tracts with bloody or pus exudate may also be seen. The bridge of the muzzle, chin, elbows, hocks, between the toes, and mid-legs are more prone to deep infections, but any area may be involved. Acral lick granulomas and areas of pyotraumatic dermatitis are also seen.



Due to methicillin resistance, drug treatment for any of the pyodermas is now challenging to vets. 

Bacterium involved:

Diagnosis will be given after tests confirm the presence of the bacteria Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, Staphylococcus schleiferi, and in a low percentage of dogs, the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus.  This last bacteria has given rise for concern recently, as it is now evident this particular bacteria has also developed resistance to the drug methicillin, often prescribed by vets to treat the condition.   Staphylococcus pseudintermedius has also become resistant to the drug Methicillin, and this bacteria can cause human infection in those who are immune-compromised, very young or very old.  In addition to this list of bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been added. 

Staphylococcus schleiferi was actually first identified in humans in 1988 and subsequently was then implicated in canine pyoderma and otitis external (or ear infections) in dogs.

  • Bacterial Folliculitis (superficial pyoderma)

DESCRIPTION: This is a superficial bacterial infection causing sores, bumps and scabs on the skin, usually only a few mm’s in size.  These are easier to see on short-haired dogs, than long-haired dogs.  Symptoms will be a dull coat and shedding of hair with a scaly skin surface emerging underneath.  It usually accompanies other skin issues such as mange, allergies and hotspots.

  • Impetigo (superficial pyoderma)

DESCRIPTION: Impetigo is contagious and often seen in puppies more than in adult dogs, exhibiting as small, pus-filled blisters that may break, ooze and crust over.  They usually appear on the hairless part of the abdomen or groin, and are caused by staphylococcus bacteria.  It is always helpful to ask whether this problem would have arisen had the correct balance of bacteria on the skin or epidermis been correct. 

TREATMENT: If this condition occurs in older dogs it is usually referred to as bullous impetigo and its cause is either hormonal or caused by a chronic health issue, and underpinned by a compromised immune system.  Again, it is important to look to the gut, where 70% of the immune system is found and ask the question, is gut function compromised - is there gut dysbiosis, inflammation or Leaky Gut evident.  

  • Furunculosis (deep pyoderma)

DESCRIPTION: often occurs between the toes (inter-digital) as a deep bacterial infection, sometimes caused by sarcoptes or demodectic mites, before becoming a secondary infection, due to bacterial dysbiosis or imbalance. 

TREATMENT: The MSD Vet Manuals states:

chronic, recurrent interdigital furunculosis is most often caused by inappropriate antibiotic therapy (too short a course, wrong dosage, wrong drug), concurrent corticosteroid administration, demodicosis, an anatomic predisposition, or a foreign body reaction to keratin. Lesions that recur despite therapy can also be a sign of an underlying disease, eg, atopy, hypothyroidism, or concurrent Malassezia infection. Lesions in confined dogs are likely to recur unless the dog is removed from wire or concrete surfaces.

  • Cellulitis (deep pyoderma)

DESCRIPTION:  Juvenile puppy cellulitis is not caused by a bacteria but the immune system has been implicated.  Onset is sudden, with swelling of the face, throat (hence the name strangles), and usually the muzzle, lips and eyelids.  It usually affects puppies between the ages of one month to four months of age and may only affect one or more puppies in an entire litter. There is an acute swelling of the face, affecting the muzzle, lips and eyelids.  Within 48 hours lesions break out, realising either pus or exudate and can affect the ears and anus.  Once there is broken skin, secondary infection may set in, so res-establishing These lesions are usually painful but not itchy. 

TREATMENT:  The cause of this condition is largely unknown even though there appears an immune component, and it is more prevalent in certain breeds.