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Dog Skin Infections


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Skin infections are a common and frustrating problem for both dogs and their owners. Infections come in a variety of forms. They can be caused by bacteria or fungal organisms like yeast. Some infections affect only the superficial layers of skin; others spread to deeper tissues as well.

If you suspect that your dog has a skin infection but it is limited to a small portion of his body and he acts like he feels fine, you can try treating it at home before calling your veterinarian.

Most infections are caused by an overgrowth of the normal microorganisms that are present on a dog's skin. Anything that disrupts the balance between the skin's protective measures and its resident bacterial and fungal populations can produce a skin infection. Possible underlying problems include:

  • Allergies
  • Hormonal imbalances (e.g., hypothyroidism or diabetes mellitus)
  • External parasites
  • Skin trauma
  • Matting
  • Immunosuppression

Signs of a Skin Infection

The symptoms typically associated with a skin infection are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hair loss
  • Red, oozing sores commonly called "hot spots"
  • Pus-filled "pimples"
  • Firm, raised spots in the skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Skin darkening
  • Flakiness

If the infection involves the skin's deeper layers or spreads elsewhere in the body, a dog may lose his appetite, become lethargic, develop a fever, be in pain, and have open wounds that drain pus.

Treating Dog Skin Infections at Home

If you suspect that your dog has a skin infection but it is limited to a small portion of his body and he acts like he feels fine, you can try treating it at home before calling your veterinarian. First, shave the hair away from the affected area with a pair of electric clippers. Next, thoroughly clean the infected skin with an antiseptic and then apply a pet medication that contains an antibiotic and something to relieve itching. If over a few days your dog's condition fails to improve, call your vet.

Veterinary Care for Skin Infections

Medicated Shampoo

Your vet may suspect that your dog has a skin infection based on a physical exam, but he or she will need to run a few tests to rule out other skin diseases that cause similar symptoms and to determine what microorganisms are involved if an infection is diagnosed. Skin scrapes to look for parasites, fungal cultures to rule out ringworm and cytological preparations to get an idea of the type and number of bacteria and yeast on the skin are all routine.

Based on the results of these tests, your veterinarian may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:

Severe skin infections often have to be treated for several weeks or even longer before they are completely eradicated. A good rule of thumb is to continue treatment for at least a week after your dog's condition has completely returned to normal. If the skin infection fails to resolve as expected or becomes a reoccurring problem, your veterinarian will need to search for an underlying cause.


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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