Pyoderma in Dogs: A Holistic Treatment Guide

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / December 21, 2018
pyoderma in dogs

At one point or another, your dog will likely experience skin irritation. Just like people, dogs can experience bouts of different skin issues for a number of reasons. However, not all dry, red, itchiness should be treated equally. In some cases, a bacterial infection may be to blame and will require extra attention to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen.

In this article, we’ll cover everything that dog owners should know about the bacterial skin infection known as pyoderma. Although it is an incredibly common condition, it’s one that many owners are unfamiliar with. We’ll also discuss treatment options as well as ways to prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Let’s get to it!

pyoderma in dogs

What is Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection. The term comes from the Greek words pyo which translates to “pus” and dermatranslating to “skin.” As we’ll discuss, the name of the condition was originally formulated based on its symptoms.

Pyoderma is one of the most common reasons why dogs (and cats) are taken to the veterinarian. It occurs when bacteria, typically Staphylococcus intermedius, invade the dog’s normally healthy skin. Therefore, you may also hear your vet refer to the condition simply as a bacterial skin infection as well as bacterial folliculitis.

Types of Pyoderma

There are varying types of pyoderma that pet owners should be aware of.

Single Incident vs Chronic Pyoderma

Most cases of pyoderma are a single occurrence. However, there are other circumstances that can cause chronic, or ongoing pyoderma. If your dog has a pre-existing condition that compromises their immune system, skin infections such as pyoderma can be a persistent issue. Additionally, dogs with allergies can experience chronic pyoderma as its often caused by fleas and environmental allergens leading to abrasions of the skin. We’ll discuss all of the possible causes of pyoderma shortly.

Superficial Pyoderma vs Deep Pyoderma

Pyoderma is also referred to as either superficial or deep.

Superficial pyoderma is a bacterial infection confined to the epidermis and hair follicle. Typically, superficial pyoderma is secondary to an allergic reaction.

Deep pyoderma refers to a bacterial infection that breaks through the hair follicles and reaches deep within the skin. It can often cause the development of additional issues such as furunculosis and cellulitis.

Symptoms of Pyoderma

Pyoderma can be incredibly uncomfortable for your four-legged friend. Therefore, it is important that pet owners are able to recognize the clinical signs of the bacterial infection in order to help relieve their dog’s skin as soon as possible.

Infected Pimple | Pustules

As we previously mentioned, pyoderma literally means “pus in the skin.” This is due to the fact that one of the leading symptoms of the bacterial skin infection is pus. In many cases, you may see what looks like infected pimples on your dog’s skin. Experts refer to these ‘pimple-like’ bumps as pustules.


Redness, severe itchiness, and overall irritation are also clinical signs of pyoderma in dogs. However, just because your dog has irritated skin doesn’t necessarily mean they have pyoderma. A proper veterinary diagnosis is imperative before starting treatment for the disease as there may be a very different underlying cause of your dog’s symptoms.

Crusty Skin

Dog owners may notice dry, crusted patches of skin. This is often caused by dried discharge from pus as the pustules rupture from extensive scratching.

Small Lesions

Additionally, small, raised lesions are also associated with pyoderma in dogs. The lesions will often be painful if touched and appear red and irritated. In many cases, the skin lesions are a result of persistent scratching as your dog attempts to relieve their itchy skin.

Foul Smell

Pyoderma in dogs often causes a foul smell as the bacterial skin infection grows and worsens.

pyoderma in dogs can cause your dog to stink

Loss of Hair | Alopecia

Finally, dogs with pyoderma may experience alopecia (hair loss) as a result of constant itching and biting as they attempt to relieve their irritated skin.

Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs

There are a number of causes that result in the common bacterial infection. Some of the causes of canine pyoderma are unpreventable while others can certainly be avoided. Furthermore, even in the unpreventable cases, the severity of the skin disease can be controlled once pet owners are able to recognize its clinical signs. Furthermore, understanding what ultimately leads to the development of pyoderma is an essential part of preventing it.

Allergic Reaction

One of the leading causes of pyoderma in dogs is an allergic reaction. Just like people, dogs are affected by allergens in the air. However, in people, allergies tend to cause sniffy noses, congestion, and red, irritated eyes. In dogs, allergies often result in skin irritations. For instance, food allergy can likely cause gastrointestinal issues, but more often than not causes itchy, inflamed skin. Even environmental allergens to things like household cleaners or pesticides can cause an allergic reaction that appears on the skin’s surface. Additionally, flea bites and associated flea allergies are huge culprits when it comes to the development of pyoderma. Regardless of where the allergy comes from, it causes one major thing: constant itching.

Here’s where the problem lies. Your canines constant itching inevitably causes their skin to become damaged and break. Open wounds and cuts are breeding grounds for bacteria and thus, pyoderma can quickly develop.

Autoimmune Disorders

Dogs with autoimmune disorders such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, Addison’s disease, and hypothyroidism (among many others) are at an increased risk of developing pyoderma as their bodies are unable to fight off infections.

Immunosuppression Diseases

Additionally, dogs with immunosuppression diseases are also at an increased risk of developing bacterial infections such as pyoderma. These immunosuppression diseases are often the result of viral disease, certain medications, cancer, liver disease, thyroid disease, and other ailments.

Physical Harm to the Skin

Open wounds and broken skin can lead to the development of pyoderma. As we previously mentioned, bacterial infections often quickly develop in places where the body is in a weakened state and cannot balance its levels of healthy bacteria and harmful bacteria. Additionally, once the wound is open, excessive licking can lead to excessive yeast entering the skin. Yeast and bacteria lead to one thing: more skin irritations and more itching. As you can see, pyoderma can quickly get out of hand if not treated quickly and appropriately.

pyoderma in dogs can cause excessive licking

Atopic Dermatitis

Additionally, bacterial skin infections like pyoderma can result from other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a condition that results in severe skin irritation due to allergens. If left untreated, atopic dermatitis can cause secondary infections to develop and spread. Among the possible secondary infections is pyoderma along with fungal infections and an overgrowth of yeast. If left untreated, atopic dermatitis can also cause scarring, scabbing, hair loss, and excessive pain.

Genetic Predisposition

It is important for owners to understand that pyoderma (and all skin infections) can develop in dogs of all breeds. With that being said, there are certain breeds that are at an increased risk of developing pyoderma.

For instance, dog breeds that have skin folds have higher chances of developing the skin infection. These dogs include

  • Bulldogs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shar-Peis

Additionally, American Cocker Spaniels, Pit Bulls, and Pit Bull mixes are also at an increased risk of developing pyoderma.

Furthermore, dogs with pre-existing health conditions such as hypothyroidism are also more susceptible to all infections, including pyoderma. Finally, veterinarians often diagnose pyoderma in dogs that are allergic to fleas, food, or environmental allergens.

It is important for dog owners to be aware of whether their canine’s chances of developing pyoderma is higher than most. If your dog is at a genetic disadvantage, be sure to keep an eye out for symptoms of the infection as early detection can make a big difference when it comes to treatment.

Diagnosing A Dog Skin Infection

If you believe that your dog has a bacterial skin infection, seeking an accurate veterinary diagnosis is imperative. Your veterinarian will request a series of tests in order to diagnose your dog’s condition. Typical tests include several of the following.

Adhesive Tape Prep

The adhesive tape prep test involves the veterinarian placing a small amount of tape onto the dog’s skin for a few seconds. Upon removal, some of the skin cells will be transferred onto the tape which allows the veterinarian to observe them under a microscope. This test can help your vet to make a positive diagnosis of things like yeast, bacteria, skin parasites, inflammatory cells, and cancer cells.

Bacterial Culture

In order to determine the exact bacteria that is present, a bacterial culture of the skin or of a pustule will be necessary. Diagnosing which bacteria caused the infection will also dictate the appropriate treatment as well as shed light as to the underlying cause of its development.

Skin Scrape

Additionally, veterinarians may perform a skin scrape to remove cells just below the skin’s surface. This will help to identify whether mites that cause mange are present.

Fungal Culture

Your veterinarian may also remove some of the hair around the skin infection. Testing the hair can determine whether ringworm and other fungal infections are involved.


In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend performing a biopsy. In this procedure, the vet will remove a small piece of the dog’s skin and send it to the lab for a complete evaluation.

Allergy Testing

Due to the fact that pyoderma in dogs often results from an allergic reaction, your vet may recommend additional allergy testing. Allergy testing can be essential in preventing pyoderma from reoccurring in the future.

Blood Testing

Typically, vets will order for a complete blood count (CBC) test. This test allows them to identify whether there are internal disorders present that may have contributed to the development of a skin infection. If your vet suspects that an internal disorder is a culprit, they may request more specific blood work to check for thyroid diseases or other ailments that are often linked to skin diseases.

dog blood test for pyoderma in dogs

Bacterial Skin Infection: Why Treatment is Imperative

To put it bluntly, the vast majority of bacterial skin infections must be professionally and appropriately treated. There are many holistic alternatives, i.e. garlic, echinacea, and other herbs that certainly have antibacterial properties. However, skin infections in dogs must be treated based on the specific bacteria that caused the infection.

We encourage our readers to make sure their dog receives the necessary medical attention that they need. Do not hope for the best or assume that the infection will go away on its own. Furthermore, if bacterial skin infections are left without treatment, they can lead to a slew of additional health problems and cause secondary infections. Treating your dog’s bacterial skin infection is imperative. End of story.

Treating Pyoderma with Conventional Medication

If your veterinarian makes a positive diagnosis of pyoderma, the next step is treating the infection. In most cases, this calls for prescription antibiotic therapy. However, it’s not always that simple. With the extreme overuse of antibiotics, more and more dogs are developing resistances to the drugs. This is concerning… to say the least.

For instance, scientists are finding that there has been a tremendous increase in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In other words, it is becoming incredibly difficult to eradicate many bacterial infections with the antibiotics that veterinarians used to prescribe.

Now, veterinarians often prescribe one of the following drugs when treating bacterial infections in dogs:

  • Penicillins A potentiated by clavulanic acid
  • Cephalosporin P
  • Sulfonamides-Diaminopyrimidines
  • Fluoroquinolones

However, we have to wonder how long it will be until dogs begin developing resistances towards these drugs as well. When it inevitably does happen, what will we do? How will we make sure our dogs are safe? It’s a scary thought to consider.

Treating Symptoms of Pyoderma Holistically

As you may imagine, once understanding the risks of overusing conventional antibiotic treatment, many pet owners hope that there is an alternative that won’t harm their dog. In many cases, the conventional medications that your vet prescribes won’t only consist of antibiotic treatment for the infection, but additional drugs to treat the symptoms of pyoderma. Again, this can create more problems than you may imagine.

When we flood our dog’s body with conventional medications, we are also flooding it with toxins. When so many drugs are given at once, the liver and kidneys cannot rid the body of the toxicity overload and thus, damage to the vital organs is unpreventable. Pet owners should stop to consider what exactly the medications are being prescribed for. Yes, antibiotics are imperative in treating an infection. Yet, are there alternative, all-natural ways to treat the symptoms of pyoderma in dogs? The answer is yes.

CBD for Dogs

In efforts to limit the number of conventional medications they are giving their dogs, many pet owners are turning to CBD oil as a topical therapy for pyoderma. The positive effects of CBD oil for our animals have been researched for well over three decades. Yet, only recently have so many pet owners seen the incredible results for themselves.

cbd oil for dogs

Relieving Pain with CBD Oil

If you haven’t already heard, CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that work to relieve inflammation and the associated pain. In terms of pyoderma, CBD oil can be used both orally and topically to soothe the dog’s irritated skin in an all-natural, safe way. CBD oil has the ability to drastically decrease the levels of inflammation and help repair the skin from the inside out.

CBD Oil for Allergies

Again, just like people, dogs can suffer from allergies. In fact, one of the leading causes of pyoderma in dogs is an allergic reaction. Luckily, CBD oil can help. Using its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, CBD oil can decrease the symptoms of allergies in dogs and, therefore, significantly decrease the symptoms of pyoderma.

Safe, Effective, All-Natural

When it comes to treating your dog’s ailments, we urge our readers to think outside the box. Overusing antibiotics has its inevitable consequences. Whenever possible, do your best to choose all-natural alternatives that are both safe and equally effective. When it comes to pyoderma in dogs, we highly recommend treating your dog’s symptoms with CBD oil.

Treating the Underlying Cause of Pyoderma

Next, we want to remind our readers that while antibiotics can clear the bacterial infection and CBD oil can alleviate your dog’s symptoms, it is imperative that you uncover the underlying cause of the condition. Without treating the root of the issue, there’s a probable chance that pyoderma will develop again.

For instance, if the culprit behind your dog’s bacterial skin infection is fleas, you must ensure that you take the necessary steps to eliminate all fleas from your dog’s body and from your home. Furthermore, if the underlying cause is an autoimmune disorder, your vet may recommend a specially formulated diet and/or supplements in order to boost your dog’s ability to fight infections.

Again, without properly treating whatever is causing pyoderma to develop, it’s likely to reappear.

Prognosis for Skin Infections in Dogs

The prognosis for a bacterial skin infection such as pyoderma is typically very positive. Your vet will likely prescribe either an oral or topical antibiotic which should clear the bacteria overgrowth. Follow-up appointments may be necessary in order to ensure that the infection has been completely handled.

Preventing Pyoderma in Dogs

In many cases, pyoderma is a preventable condition. Yes, some dogs are at a higher risk simply due to their genetics. However, pet owners can take the necessary steps in order to prevent the condition even in these dogs.

Routine Cleaning

For dogs with skin folds, routine cleaning will make a world of difference and ultimately prevent the development of pyoderma. Depending on the deepness of the folds and your dog’s individual day-to-day routine, cleaning may have to be a regular activity.

Alleviate Allergies

Next, it is important for pet owners to manage the number of allergens in their dog’s life. This includes both food allergies and environmental allergies. Additionally, know your dog’s risk of contracting fleas and make sure they are on a flea and tick preventive if necessary.

Boost the Immune System

Finally, pet owners should do all they can to make sure their dog’s immune system is functioning at an optimal level. This may mean making dietary changes or adding a supplement like CBD oil. We recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian regarding specific changes that can help strengthen your dog’s ability to naturally fight infections.

Pyoderma in Dogs: A Final Thought

When all is said and done, most people can agree that being a responsible dog owner isn’t always a walk in the park. When you do all that you can to keep your canine happy and healthy and then problems still arise, it can be quite frustrating. Trust us, we understand. Perhaps one of the most important things that pet owners can do is to be implicitly aware of their dog’s ‘normal.’ How much do they usually sleep? Are they itching more than usual? Have you noticed any funky smells? Knowing your dog’s normal is imperative in being able to recognize when something is off. As with all ailments, early detection and, therefore, early treatment can make a world of difference for your four-legged friend.

When it comes to a common condition like pyoderma, we encourage our readers to fully do their homework before inadvertently overusing antibiotics. What are the potential risks? Are they worth the possible benefits? Is there another way to treat your dog’s condition? In terms of pyoderma in dogs, we highly recommend trying CBD oil as a primary way to alleviate the symptoms of your dog’s skin condition and solely using antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection.


Pyoderma in Dogs: 101 About This Dog Skin Infection

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for