How to Recognize and Treat Impetigo in Dogs

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If your dog has been scratching or licking himself more than usual, he may have impetigo.

While skin infections in dogs are common, impetigo is a rarer skin infection caused by bacteria, and it can be very contagious.

For puppies with impetigo, it can also be known as puppy pyoderma (you might hear a vet say it)

If left untreated, impetigo can lead to other health problems for your dog.

In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of impetigo in dogs and how to treat it.


What is impetigo in dogs


Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that affects all dogs.

The bacteria that causes impetigo is called Staphylococcus aureus, but thankfully, canine impetigo is NOT contagious.

Impetigo often starts as small blisters on the skin, which then break open and form a crusty rash. The rash is usually found on the face, ears, legs, or body of the dog.


What causes impetigo in dogs


The bacteria that causes impetigo is called Staphylococcus aureus.

What happens is generally an overgrowth of the bacteria,

This bacteria is found on the skin of all dogs, and it can cause impetigo if it gets into the skin through a cut or scratch.

Impetigo is thankfully not contagious, as these bacteria are already naturally living on your dog's skin.

Usually impetigo on dogs is seen in areas where puppies or dogs have been housed in unhygienic areas, or are otherwise living in homes that neglect them.

Recently, there have also been research that suggests that impetigo in puppies and dogs can also be cause by other factors - such as issues with a puppy's endocrine or immune system. (source)

Other causes can also include:

  • Fleas
  • Food allergies
  • Insect bites (especially when they break the skin and the bacteria can enter)
  • Mange
  • Spreading from other dogs (if your dog does not have that particular strain)
  • Compromised immune system
  • A weak or compromised endocrine system
  • Ringworms



Symptoms of dog impetigo


The most common symptoms of impetigo in dogs are scratching and licking themselves more than usual.

If you notice your dog has a rash on his skin that is covered in crusts, he may have impetigo. Other symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite.

The signs of canine impetigo can include:

  • Acne
  • Patches of inflamed skin
  • A lot of scratching or licking the infected sites
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Rashes
  • Hair loss
  • Scabbing and crusty portions of skin
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite


Types of canine impetigo


There are three types of impetigo, and these can affect dogs of all ages, and all breeds.

Surface impetigo (aka surface pyoderma)


Surface level impetigo in dogs are probably the most obvious, because the symptoms are the most obvious.


Deep impetigo (aka deep pyoderma, or ecthyma)


Deeper layers of impetigo, or ecthyma, are when the bacteria penetrates underneath the skin of your dog via broken skin or open wounds (or lesions).

The symptoms are essentially the same (pus-filled blisters and pustules) but underneath the skin.

This would present a more dangerous form of impetigo, as it can cause issues with internal organs or blood flow.


Contagious Ecthyma


Typically, this condition is NOT present in dogs, but rather in sheep and goats.

However, your dog CAN contract this more serious version of canine impetigo by coming into contact with an animal infected with this.

Note, this CAN also pass to humans, making contagious ecthyma in dogs EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS.

For more information, visit our post on contagious ecthyma in dogs - we provide more detail about that particular skin condition there.



How to treat impetigo in dogs


If you suspect your dog has impetigo, it is important to get him treated right away.


There are several ways to treat impetigo in dogs. The most common treatment is antibiotics.

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that is causing the infection, most typically benzoyl peroxide for impetigo. (source)

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics that will clear up the infection within a few weeks.


It is important to take your dog for follow-up appointments after he finishes his course of antibiotics, so your veterinarian can make sure the infection has cleared up completely!


There are also certain strains of the impetigo bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, so be sure to visit your vet if the condition does not improve even after applying the medicine.


Puppy impetigo


Impetigo in puppies will usually be more pronounced in it's effects, because of their younger age.


The signs and symptoms are the same, but if your puppy has been kept relatively clean and gets impetigo, it might be worth a visit to the vet to see if they have any issues with their immune or endocrine system.


Impetigo in dog breeds


While affecting basically every dog due to the bacteria living on their skin, there are a few breeds that are more likely to get impetigo - usually, the bully breeds like Bulldogs, Boxers and the Staffordshire Bull Terriers (aka Pitbulls). (source)

Interestingly, the Shar-Pei breed also has a tendency to get impetigo.

For these breeds, impetigo can sometimes last from puppyhood all the way through their entire adult lives.


FAQ on impetigo in dogs


Can impetigo be prevented in dogs


It's nearly impossible to prevent impetigo in dogs, but you can lower your dog's risk of getting the infection by keeping him clean and groomed.

Make sure to wash your dog's bedding regularly, and keep his living area free of bacteria.

You can also give your dog a bath with antibacterial soap once a week to help kill any bacteria on his skin.



Are there any risks associated with impetigo in dogs?


There are some risks if left untreated.

While canine impetigo is not typically a life-threatening condition, there are risks associated with it.

The most common risk is that the infection will spread and get worse.

If the bacteria gets into your dog's bloodstream, he could develop sepsis - a potentially deadly condition.

Left untreated, impetigo can also cause depression and loss of appetite in your dog, potentially weakening their bodies further gaining greater risk of other issues.


How long does it take for a dog to recover from impetigo?


With a proper antibiotic prescription from a vet, most dogs will recover from impetigo within two to three weeks.

However, puppies may take a little longer to clear up the infection - check with your vet on their diagnosis.

However, it is important to continue treatment for the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian, even after the symptoms have disappeared.


Can impetigo return in a dog?


Yes, impetigo can return in a dog if the underlying cause (such not cleaning them regularly) is not handled properly.

It is important to keep your dog's skin clean and groomed, and to give him a bath with antibacterial soap once a week.

You should also take him for regular checkups at the vet after a bout of impetigo infections.

Sometimes, impetigo can also return when the root cause is not fixed - for example, medication to regulate their weakened immunity or endocrine system.


Conclusion


To recap, impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that is most commonly seen in dogs.

The bacteria that cause impetigo thrive in warm, moist environments, making the skin around the nose and mouth particularly vulnerable.

Dogs with impetigo typically have red lesions on their skin that may ooze fluid or pus. In addition to being unsightly, impetigo can be quite uncomfortable for your pet.

Fortunately, most of the time it's easily treated by prescribed antibiotics from your vet, so if you suspect your dog has canine impetigo, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible!



about the author

Frank Harrigan

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


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