Pyoderma is an itchy and uncomfortable skin condition, but it generally looks more serious than it is. Puppies and certain breeds with wrinkled skin are most vulnerable to this type of infection that arises from naturally occurring bacteria and causes red pustules and crusty lesions, primarily on the chin and abdomen. Some cases will resolve on their own within a couple of weeks; others may require antibiotic cream to heal.
Because pyoderma can occur as a result of an underlying condition that compromises a pup's immunity, a veterinary evaluation is recommended. While similar to impetigo, a human skin infection, pyoderma is not transferable from puppies to people.
What Is Pyoderma?
Pyoderma is a generalized bacterial skin infection that creates pus-filled bumps that break into crusting lesions on areas of sparse hair or skin folds. It most often occurs in young dogs and may indicate an underlying health condition.
Symptoms of Pyoderma in Dogs
The signs of pyoderma are obvious because they are primarily present on the chin and abdomen where a dog's hair is sparse. Look for:
The characteristic pustules and papules will burst—due to scratching or as a natural course of the infection—causing circular red lesions that become crusty. Because pyoderma lesions can be itchy, a dog may scratch the affected areas of the skin, potentially causing further redness, bleeding, and skin damage. If a dog's pyoderma is severe, the discomfort may cause it to be depressed, lethargic, and uninterested in food.
The specific cause of pyoderma is not well understood because only certain individuals develop this problem from bacteria that are naturally present on all dogs' skin. If a dog has a compromised immune system, an endocrine disorder, or skin damage that allows bacterial infiltration, then it is more vulnerable to pyoderma. Other factors that may increase a dog's risk include:
- Unhygienic living conditions (overcrowding, lack of sanitation)
- Heavy flea infestation, mange, or ringworm
- Food allergy
- Thyroid disease or other hormonal imbalances
Diagnosing Pyoderma in Dogs
Your vet will conduct a physical exam and skin cytology tests to determine the presence of bacterial, fungal, or mite infestations. This will help identify pyoderma and confirm or rule out other causes of skin inflammation.
Once pyoderma is diagnosed, further testing should be performed to determine if there is an underlying condition that facilitated the skin infection.
Pyoderma is generally easy to treat. Some cases may even resolve on their own without treatment. If a dog's pyoderma seems resistant to healing, then a course of topical or oral antibiotics can help. Keeping the skin clean and dry will also speed healing.
Prognosis for Dogs with Pyoderma
Pyoderma is not life-threatening and usually remains localized, rarely spreading or leading to deeper skin infections. A pup may experience flares until adulthood, but addressing any underlying immunity issues can help minimize the frequency and severity of flares.
It isn't a contagious condition, as impetigo is in people, so dogs cannot transmit the infection to other dogs or people.
How to Prevent Pyoderma
Since the specific cause of pyoderma isn't fully understood, prevention is not 100% possible, but a clean, low-stress environment and a nutritious diet designed for your dog's life stage are protective measures.