What are canine bacterial infections?
Bacterial infections in dogs, sometimes also called Pyoderma, can come in a variety of shapes and forms, and are very common in dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Bacterial infections can occur as a result of cuts or scrapes that become infected on the skin surface. Bacteria enters small wounds or areas of weakness on the skin allowing bacteria to take hold under the skin. Pets with skin disease such as mange, staph infections or weakened immune systems due to metabolic or other internal illness are also more likely to contract bacterial infections.
Once bacteria have taken hold on an area, they begin to create lesions of scabbing, hair loss, redness and oozing debris. Lesions may grow in size and cover a single large affected area, or may begin to form in various locations all over the body. Dogs with metabolic disease may see a characteristic pattern of hair loss and lesions forming over the back and hind legs, as with Cushing’s Disease.
Common types of bacterial infections in dogs
The most common types of bacteria found in skin infections include Streptococcus, Staph, E. coli, Pseudomonas and several others. Bacterial infections can also be caused by yeasts such as Malassezia.
Prevention and treatment of bacterial canine skin infections
Treatment for each bacterial type is usually similar, unless the bacteria is found to be resistant to certain types of antibiotics.
The best way to prevent canine bacterial infection is by keeping the skin and coat surfaces clean and dry. Wounds that are found should be inspected for any signs of infection and kept clean to prevent infection from taking hold.
Pets on steroids or other immune suppressants may be more susceptible, so extra care should be taken if any wounds or other abrasions are seen on the skin.
Treatment traditionally involves ruling out other common skin issues such as flea bite allergies or other allergens causing distress. A skin scraping is usually performed, where a small sample of one or more lesions is removed from the skin surface and placed in a growth medium or sent to a lab. If growth appears or changes color on the medium, it may indicate a bacterial infection. Samples sent to labs may have more detailed results such as the type of bacteria present and best possible antibiotics to treat with.
Antibiotics, in addition to medicated shampoos, are usually the treatment of choice. Pets are usually given a course of antibiotics for 7-14 days depending on severity. The most common antibiotics used are cephalexin and amoxicillin, however others may be chosen depending on lab results. Medicated shampoos, anti-inflammatories and other medications may also be prescribed to help relieve any itching, redness or inflammation in addition to the bacterial infection. Pets are usually given an Elizabethan collar or a T-shirt to prevent licking or scratching while healing occurs. Excessive licking of an infected area can actually cause the infection to worsen and spread.
In dogs with other underlying diseases, such as Mange or Metabolic issues, it is necessary to get those conditions under control while also treating the bacterial infection. This may include blood work to determine the type of metabolic disease as well as ivermectin or other medications for treatment of mange. Treating and strengthening the immune system can help to resolve the bacterial infection more quickly and prevent recurrence.
While the bacterial infection may resolve more quickly, it may take up to a few months for skin and hair growth to return to normal. Keeping affected areas clean and healthy during the healing process will help speed it up and prevent reinfection.
Possible alternative remedies for canine bacterial infections
For preventing canine bacterial infections, herbal supplements such as Echinacea and Garlic can be given to help boost the immune system. These herbs also have antibacterial properties which may help reduce bacteria in the system. Calendula soaked on gauze and placed over affected areas may also help relieve itching and swelling, to facilitate healing.
Several homeopathic treatments are also available including use of Sulph 6C or 30C, Rhus Tox 1M, and Antimonum Crud 6C.
However, if traditional alternative therapies do not work, or lesions become bothersome or increase in size and body coverage, medical treatment may be needed in addition to herbal therapies to help treat and prevent infection.