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What is Pyoderma?

Pyoderma is a bacterial infection that is caused by an overabundance of an ordinary bacterial resident, usually Staphylococcus intermedius, which results in scaled, itchy skin, frequently incorporating pustules and ulcers. It is a relatively common condition in dogs, particularly in warm, moist environments or when the immune system becomes compromised in some way. Antibiotics are usually effective in eliminating this disease, although reoccurrence is common if any or all underlying conditions are not thoroughly addressed. 

Pyoderma is a relatively common skin disorder characterized by scaly, itchy skin that frequently develops pustules and ulcers. This uncomfortable disorder is caused by an overabundance of certain varieties of bacteria on the animal’s skin.

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Symptoms of Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is a relatively common disorder in dogs and can occur at any age. Symptoms are similar to many other skin disorders and those most common are:

  • Blood or pus on skin
  • Crusting
  • Foul odor from skin
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Swelling
  • Ulcerated skin
  • Yellow papules


In many cases, pyoderma occurs as a single incident, but for some dogs, it can become a chronic issue. Certain conditions, such as diseases that compromise the immune system or allergies, may contribute to the pyoderma becoming chronic. Environmental influences, such as a hot, humid climate, may also increase the chances of a case of pyoderma becoming chronic, particularly with dogs that have wrinkles or folds in their skin. Most often pyoderma is superficial, meaning that it only affects the upper layers of the skin, however, it can also attack deeper layers of the skin, making it more challenging to treat. Puppies may also develop temporary cases of pyoderma due to their underdeveloped immune system. Puppy pyoderma, also sometimes referred to as puppy strangles, is generally concentrated in sparsely furred areas, such as the face, groin, belly, or armpits of the animal.

Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs

Pyoderma is most often caused by the Staphylococcus intermedius bacteria, a common resident on the skin and hair of most dogs, although other bacteria are occasionally to blame. In certain circumstances, these normal bacteria can over colonize on the animal’s skin and cause an infection that leads to itching, skin discoloration, and in some cases, open wounds from scratching. Conditions are most conducive to the formation of this disorder can include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Immunosuppression
  • Physical damage to the skin
  • Warm, moist environments

Diagnosis of Pyoderma in Dogs

Your visit to the veterinarian will most likely start with a full physical examination, with particular attention being paid to the areas that are showing the symptoms, and a thorough history of your canine’s health and a timeline of symptoms can be extremely beneficial to an accurate diagnosis. The symptoms of pyoderma will typically prompt your veterinarian to collect skin samples during the general physical, usually, through a technique know as skin scraping.

These samples are used in a microscopic evaluation of the skin cells, called cutaneous cytology, which is utilized to see infestations and infections that may not be visible to the naked eye. An overabundance of bacteria may be detected microscopically, at which point a culture of the sample will be taken to determine what type of bacteria they are. Routine tests, such as a complete blood count, a biochemistry profile, and a urinalysis, may help to identify any underlying conditions that will need to be addressed before the skin condition can be fully restored.

Treatment of Pyoderma in Dogs

The areas around the infection will be shaved in order to get a better idea of the damage, as well as to allow better absorption of topical medications, typically followed by a full body cleansing with an antibacterial shampoo formulated with medications for dogs such as Benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine, which must remain on the skin for at least ten minutes before rinsing for full effectiveness. Your veterinarian will also instruct you regarding continuing bathing routines that are required to clear the infection.

Typically, antibiotic baths are repeated two to three times a week for the first two weeks or so, and then reduced to once or twice a week until the infection has been resolved. Oral antibiotics will also be prescribed for several weeks to ensure that the infection is fully under control, and should be continued until at least a week after any pustules or clinical lesions are resolved. It is crucial that any underlying conditions, like Cushing’s disease, allergies that affect the skin, or hormonal imbalances, also be addressed while treating the pyoderma itself, or the condition will reoccur.

Recovery of Pyoderma in Dogs

During the recovery period, it is best to have a comfortable and quiet space available for your companion to recuperate with plenty of access to food and water if they need it. Following the instructions that are given regarding oral and topical medication and adhering closely to bathing requirements will be required to eradicate the infection. Typically, rehabilitation measures will need to be continued even after the symptoms are no longer apparent as pyoderma can easily rematerialize treatment is not continued. Overall, the prognosis for pyoderma without any underlying conditions is excellent, however, disorders such as allergies and immunocompromising diseases may increase the recovery time.

Pyoderma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

14 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Severe rash

Medication Used

Clindamycin Hydrochloride

Ellie had an ulcer that was treated with clavamox for two weeks. The ulcer got better but she started to get another rash/infection. I took her back to the vet and she was given clavamox again for two weeks. Towards the end of the course of antibiotics I took her to get a second opinion because the Pyoderma was spreading and getting worse. This vet prescribed baytril for 2 weeks, prednisone (12 total pills) and mupirocin ointment. I just went back for her two week follow up yesterday, she isn’t any better. Vet swabbed and checked infection under microscope, saw different bacteria, white blood cells, and one thing I found interesting was rods, however I didn’t think of it until I left the vet. This could be e.coli (the rash is on her underside, close to her anus) but I found it weird that she didn’t notice a high prevalence of cocci. The other option is pseudomonas, but I’m surprised she didn’t think of this herself. The next step would be to get the bacteria cultured, however she said that would cost me $500 and Ellie is in a lot of pain. The next option would be to put her down, and I know she is old but I can’t come to terms with putting my dog down because of a bacterial infection, especially when she is otherwise in perfect health. I asked her to give me another antibiotic (she gave me Clindamycin and mail-a-key wipes).
What are your thoughts? Any suggestions? I can’t afford to pay for the $500 culture, all the vet bills for the past month are already over $700, and I am a struggling grad student (molecular biology).

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that Ellie is having these problems. It isn't surprising that there were few cocci bacteria in the sample, as she has been on Clavamox for 4 weeks. Pseudomonas is a common rod bacteria involved in pyoderma, and most Pseudomonas species are resistant to Clindamycin. One alternative that you may want to discuss with your veterinarian might be an injection of Cefovecin (Convenia), which tends to cover quite a few typical skin bacteria. One of the most critical aspects of pyoderma treatment is bathing with a medicated, prescription shampoo, which is beneficial because it: Helps clean the skin, removing scaling and crusts that contain bacteria Makes the dog look, feel, and smell better Frequently helps compress the course of antibiotics, reducing the time for selection of resistant strains. Culture and sensitivity is recommended for all generalized deep pyodermas and if treatment with 2 different classes of oral antibiotic, repeated courses of a previously effective antibiotic, or one injection of cefovecin fail to resolve any superficial or deep infections - that would obviously be the best alternative, but if finances are limited, the above thoughts might help guide you and your veterinarian to a comfortable resolution.

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11 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


My dog has a history of pyoderma which cleared up nicely with a medicated shampoo with chlorhexidine. She has a reoccurrence but the local vet could not give her an appointment for over two weeks. It's been a week since I called about the condition around her neck and it is all down her back now. I called again and still cannot get an appointment. Do you think I should take her to an emergency vet clinic? I'm surprised my vet doesn't think it is an urgent condition as there are open sores and scabbing which I described over the phone. It's not like we are walking in off the street. We've been going to that vet practice for 25 years including multiple surgeries for pets and buy prescription dog food there. I'm interested in an opinion if this is a condition that should receive care soon or would it be ok to wait two weeks?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
I think that if Sally's skin is as bad as you describe, waiting 2 weeks is far too long. If you have an emergency clinic available, it would be better to have her seen there, as the sooner that she starts treatment, the sooner she'll begin to recover. That type of infection can be quite painful and can take time to recover from. I hope that she is okay.

Thank you! I was able to get her into a nearby vet practice to get her started on medicated mousse and an antibiotic. I feel so much better than having her wait and watch the condition get worse.

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Golden Labrador
10 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Persistent rash

Medication Used

Clavamox antibiotic- oral

My 10 year old Lab is being treated with Clavamox for deep pyoderma. About 3 weeks ago he broke out in multiple oozing sores and hot spots all over his back, also patches of bumpy rash. While the large sores have healed, the rash spread over his back. I've been cleaning him daily with chlorhexidine. Parts of it seem to be slowly improving; however, I'm still concerned. This rash has a very strange appearance when looked at closely with magnifying glass. It seems to be a raised fiber-like matrix with some other kind of scaly growth interlaced in it. I would like to be able to show a picture of it. I haven't been able to find anything on the internet that looks like it. Is there a way to figure out this condition/treatment without spending hundreds more dollars on tests?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3000 Recommendations
Pictures can be deceiving and many skin conditions look the same on first look; you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination for them to look at the rash how it is now and they may choose to take a culture and sensitivity test (around $50) or another test (biopsy or skin scraping) to help determine a cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Standard Poodle
8 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Red rash, pustules, severe itching

My 8 mo. Old standard poodle has had a rash and pustules breaking out on belly and under arms since she was 4 mo. old. We've done two rounds of antibiotics, changed food to gluten free, only lamb and vegetables. No luck, breaks back out as soon as she licks. Is it her saliva that she is allergic to?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Carmen, thank you for contacting us about Lulu. It is unikely that she is allergic to her saliva, and more likely that she licks because her skin itches before she breaks out. Ongoing skin irritation is a common sign of allergies, and environmental and flea allergies are more common than food allergies. It would be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about her somewhat chronic skin condition and try some anti-allergy medication if they think it is appropriate. Also make sure that she is very regularly treated with flea prevention, as well as any animals that she comes into contact with.

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