Signs of Pyoderma in Dogs & How To Treat It

Four Minutes
Aug 21, 2023

There are many common conditions and triggers that can cause your dog to be itchy. One kind of condition is called pyoderma — a bacterial skin infection that can affect each dog differently.

Read on to learn more about the causes, signs, and treatment for pyoderma in dogs.

What Is Pyoderma in Dogs?

Pyoderma is classified as a bacterial skin infection, and it can be common in dogs.1 Generally, pyoderma occurs secondarily to another health condition — like allergies, parasites, or poor skin conditions — but it can also happen on its own.

Warm, moist areas of a dog’s body typically have more bacteria and can therefore have a higher risk of infection. These areas can include the feet, ears, neck folds, armpits, and facial folds.1

Areas where your dog may apply more pressure, like their elbows, can also be at a higher risk of infection. Puppies may experience pyoderma in areas where they have thin hair, like the armpits and groin.1 Obese dogs, as well as dogs with many skin folds or loose skin, may be more prone to skin infections and more susceptible to pyoderma.2

Types of pyoderma

There are three main types of pyoderma in dogs: surface, superficial, and deep.3 Each case can also range from simple to complex.

Surface pyoderma affects the outermost layer of the skin. This type of pyoderma includes the following conditions:

  • Hot spots
  • Fold pyoderma
  • Mucocutaneous pyoderma

Superficial pyoderma affects just below the outermost skin layer and parts of the hair follicle above the sebaceous (oil) duct. It’s the most common form of pyoderma in dogs. This type includes the following conditions:

  • Superficial bacterial folliculitis
  • Superficial spreading pyoderma
  • Impetigo (aka puppy pyoderma)

Deep pyoderma affects deeper parts of the hair follicle and may also develop if superficial pyoderma isn’t treated. This type includes the following conditions:

  • Furunculosis
  • Pressure-point pyoderma
  • Canine acne
  • German shepherd deep pyoderma

What Causes Pyoderma in Dogs?

Bacterial infections like pyoderma can happen when the skin is broken, normal skin bacteria is changed, blood flow to the skin is impaired, the immune system is suppressed, or the skin is injured due to chronic moisture.2

While most pyoderma cases are caused by bacterial infections, they can also be caused by underlying conditions, such as:1,2

  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Parasites (like fleas and ticks)
  • Yeast or fungal infections
  • Inflammation
  • Immunosuppression (through improper medication or a health condition)
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Cancer

Is a Costly Dog Itch a Concern?

Pet Insurance Can Help

Is Pyoderma Contagious?

Canine pyoderma is most commonly caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, but other species of staphylococcus have been identified.4 A strain of staphylococcus called methicillin-resistant staphylococci (MRS) can be zoonotic — meaning it can transfer from pets to humans.

When it comes to MRS pseudintermedius, healthy humans are generally at a low risk of catching it from their dog. However, immunocompromised individuals may be at an increased risk.4 After your vet diagnoses the type of pyoderma your pup has, they can tell you if it’s contagious.

Signs of Pyoderma

With pyoderma in dogs, symptoms can vary based on any underlying conditions and the severity of the infection. Some of the most common signs of surface and superficial pyoderma include:1,2

  • Excessive itching
  • Pustules (similar to human pimples)
  • Welts (may look similar to hives)
  • Scaling
  • Scabbing
  • Bald patches

Dogs with deep pyoderma may show some of the following signs around affected areas:1

  • Pain or swelling
  • Crusting
  •  Secretions of pus and blood
  • Odor
  •  Redness
  • Blisters or ulcerations

Diagnosing Pyoderma

Diagnosing pyoderma is typically based on the clinical signs your dog presents. Your vet will likely run some other tests — like a blood panel, skin cytology, skin and fungal cultures, antibody tests, and allergy tests — to find out which bacteria is causing the infection or if there are underlying conditions to blame.1

How To Treat Pyoderma in Dogs

For pyoderma in dogs, treatment typically includes antibiotics for 3 – 4 weeks. If your pup experiences recurrent, long-term, or deep pyoderma, antibiotic treatment may last 8 – 12 weeks.1 Your vet may also prescribe topical antibiotics — like medicated shampoos, wipes, and sprays — to help remove skin buildup and decrease itchiness, oil, and odor.

It’s recommended that you use medicated shampoos to bathe your dog 1 – 2 times per week for a few weeks; however, dogs with deep pyoderma may require daily baths.1 This can be a bit of a tricky process, as medicated shampoos typically need to be left on your dog’s coat and skin for about 10 minutes to be the most effective. Your vet will give you bathing instructions based on your dog's condition.

Pyoderma Recovery and Management

Fortunately, most cases of surface and superficial pyoderma clear up with proper antibiotic treatment. Deep or chronic pyoderma, as well as underlying conditions causing pyoderma, can increase treatment length and require additional help. Following your vet’s treatment instructions carefully can be key in reducing recurrent episodes or the severity of them.2

Proper grooming can also help manage more complex cases of pyoderma. Keep your dog clean, dry, and their coat trimmed — especially around skin folds and higher-risk areas.1 You may be able to ask your vet for grooming recommendations or take them to a professional dog groomer.

Pet Insurance Can Help With Diagnosis and Treatment Costs

Whether your pup needs long-term treatment, a one-time treatment, or a more complex plan due to underlying conditions, having a pet insurance policy with MetLife Pet can help you make pyoderma costs more affordable. Wondering if pet insurance is worth it for you? Take a look at a family we helped cover after their dog’s pyoderma diagnosis.

Sprinkles, a goldendoodle puppy from Arizona, was itching a lot. Her owners noticed some welts and redness around her groin area when they were giving her tummy rubs, so they took her to the vet to get it checked out. Sprinkles was diagnosed with pyoderma — with the exam and treatment costing about $870. Luckily, her parents had a MetLife Pet dog insurance policy and got over $780 reimbursed. Sprinkles is back to being itch free and enjoying plenty of belly rubs.5

Get customizable, award-winning6 pet insurance from MetLife Pet, so you can focus on your dog’s care instead of the vet bills. Start by getting your free, personalized quote today.

Help Your Pet Feel Better


**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Pyoderma in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

2 “Pyoderma in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

3 “Pyoderma, Otitis Externa, and Otitis Media,” Canine and Feline Infectious Diseases

4 “Bacterial Skin Diseases,” Small Animal Dermatology (Fourth Edition)

5 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

6 “2022 Pet Insurance of the Year Award” Winners, Pet Independent Innovation Awards

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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