Contagious Ecthyma in Dogs: What You Need to Know


Home / Dog Training / Contagious Ecthyma in Dogs: What You Need to Know

If your dog has been itching a lot lately and have been near farm animals, it may be contagious ecthyma.

This is a skin infection that is caused by bacteria from animals like sheep and goats, and can be very contagious.

In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of contagious ecthyma in dogs, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from spreading.

What is contagious ecthyma in dogs

Contagious ecthyma is a skin infection that is caused by bacteria from animals like sheep and goats.

It is also known as contagious pustular dermatitis, or “orf”.

The infection gets its name from the Greek word for “fish”, because the lesions on the skin look a bit like scales.

This infection can be very contagious, so it is important to know what to look for if you think your dog may have contracted it.

Interestingly, contagious ecthyma (also known as sore mouth), is usually found in sheep, goats, alpacas, and camels, but not in dogs naturally.

Symptoms of contagious ecthyma in dogs

The symptoms of contagious ecthyma can vary depending on the severity of the infection.

In general, you will see sores or pustules on the skin, which may be itchy or painful for your dog.

The lesions may be located anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found around the mouth, nose, and eyes.

Some dogs will also develop a fever, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes.

This would be the list of symptoms:

  • Bumps and sores on your dog's lips
  • Sores and scabs inside your dog's mouth
  • sores around dog's mouth
  • crusty scabs around dog's mouth
  • Lesions around their feet
  • Sores and irritation around and at their noses
  • Blisters behind their ears
  • Possibly sores on the eyelids
  • Multiple blisters and pustules all over

So if you see your dog has sores around it's mouth or extra irritation on their noses, it might be time to bring him to a vet.

Diagnosis of Contagious Ecthyma in dogs

What will happen is that this condition will develop within three days after being in contact with the virus - this can be from either dead or alive animals that were carrying the virus.

If after three days or so, you notice that your dog displays the symptoms above, it might be a good idea to bring them to a vet for diagnosis.

The vet will do a physical examination and may take a tissue sample from the lesions to test for bacteria, as well as ask for any history of possible contact.

Usually, this would be the case if you live near farms or in more remote areas where sheep, goats and other mammals roam around.

They will also be able to tell you how severe the infection is, and whether or not it is contagious to other animals.

Treatment of contagious ecthyma in dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with contagious ecthyma, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

In most cases, the sores and blisters will start to heal within a few days of treatment, but it is important that you continue giving the antibiotics for the entire course prescribed by your vet.

In most cases, the lesions will heal with no scars anywhere from two to six weeks.

All you need to do is also to make sure that your dog is eating healthily so that they'll recover faster.

Contagious ecthyma in dogs CAN BE TRANSMITTED TO HUMANS TOO, so be sure to always wash your hands, and wear personal protective equipment near your dog if you're treating them.

In any case, it would be good to isolate your affected dog to a room to lower the risk of spread to other dogs, or human family members.

If left untreated, this infection can cause more serious health problems for your dog.

How can I prevent my dog from getting contagious ecthyma?

There is no 100% effective way to prevent your dog from getting contagious ecthyma, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk.

Perhaps the best way to prevent your dog from contracting contagious ecthyma is to keep them away from animals that are infected in the first place.

If you live near farms or other areas where these animals roam free, it may not be possible to avoid that entirely.

In such cases then, it's more important to keep your dog clean and free of any open wounds.

If your dog does develop lesions or blisters, make sure you keep them clean and covered until they heal.

Lastly, always follow your vet's recommendations for vaccinations and other preventive measures.

For example, in areas where contagious ecthyma is known to exit, it would be better to prepare repellents and larvicides as well to lower the risk of transmission. (source)

If the sheep belong to you, or you have a few, vaccines for your sheep will work wonders in lowering any transmission or infection rates, too!

Similarities between ecthyma in dogs and impetigo in dogs

There are a few similarities between contagious ecthyma and impetigo in dogs.

Both of these infections are caused by bacteria, and cause unsightly, uncomfortable lesions and sores.

However, there are some key differences as well.

Impetigo is typically caused by streptococcus bacteria, while orf in dogs is most commonly caused by contagious pustular dermatitis.

Also, ecthyma is extremely contagious to both dogs and humans, while impetigo in dogs in general is not contagious to people, or other dogs.

As a side note, canine impetigo CAN be contagious to other dogs if the other dog doesn't have that bacterial on their body. However, that is pretty rare.

Essentially, contagious ecthyma is not caused by bacteria naturally forming on your dog's skin, but rather, by coming into contact with animals that have it.

Usually animals like goats or sheep tend to contract it - and even when dead, their carcasses can still carry the same bacteria and infect your dog as well.

Additionally, impetigo lesions are usually smaller and less numerous than those associated with orf in dogs.

That said, if you think your dog may have contracted either of these infections, it is important to take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently asked question about contagious ecthyma in dogs

What are the chances of recovery for infected animals?

The chances of recovery for infected animals is generally high, especially if caught and treated early.

Most cases will heal within a few days or weeks with proper treatment.

However, it is important to continue giving the antibiotics for the entire course prescribed by your vet to ensure full healing!

Additionally, make sure you dog is eating healthily so they'll recover faster as well.

Can I prevent my dog from getting contagious ecthyma?

Unfortunately not, if you live in more rural areas.

However, it IS possible to prevent your dog getting it if you're living in the city.

It is a pretty rare disease to find in urban areas - but be warned, if there is an endemic of ecthyma in your city, it's better to keep your dog at home until it passes.

Can humans catch contagious ecthyma from their infected canine companions?

Yes, humans can contract it from their dogs!

The symptoms for humans however, are far milder - usually humans develop one single lesion, and heals on it's own without scarring.

That said, if you think you've been infected with contagious ecthyma, contact your doctor - they'll provide the appropriate diagnosis and medication.


To sum it up, ecthyma is a highly contagious skin disease caused by the bacteria contagious pustular dermatitis.

It's usually found on sheep, goats and other animals - both alive and dead.

The best. preventive way of avoiding ecthyma altogether is to ensure that your dog is trained to recall to you if you spot the carcass of a sheep or goat - the further away from a potential infection source, the better.

So, if your dog is infected with contagious ecthyma, there are a few things you can do to help them recover:-

  • You should bathe their skin with warm water and soap every day until the infection clears up.
  • Keep an eye out for sores or wounds on your dog, and keep them clean.
  • Bring them to a vet for appropriate medication and treatment options.
  • Keep them isolated temporarily while they recover to prevent spreading to other dogs or humans.

While most dogs will have no lasting effects after being treated, it's important to take precautions so they don't spread the disease further in their environment or put others at risk of catching it.

You should also ensure that they have plenty of rest, as well as a high quality diet to help them recover.

Remember to also take necessary precautions to prevent it from spreading to you!

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

You may also like

Best dog treats OCT 2020 UPDATE

Best dog treats OCT 2020 UPDATE

Dalmatian Poodle Mix

Dalmatian Poodle Mix

Natural dog food (OCT 2020 UPDATE)

Natural dog food (OCT 2020 UPDATE)

Shih Tzu Puppy Training

Shih Tzu Puppy Training

The 18 Best Black Dog Breeds

The 18 Best Black Dog Breeds
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}