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What are Skin Blisters and Pustules?

Cancer, bacteria, and inflammation are just a few of the conditions that may cause secondary skin complications which can result in skin blisters and pustules. Most of the skin conditions that affect dogs are visible to the eye. As well, your pet will surely let you know of his discomfort because skin irritations can be painful. It is important to address a skin condition promptly in order to eradicate the underlying cause, and return your pet to his normal state of health.

Skin blisters and pustules result from various causes, and can lead to extremely serious complications. Bacterial infections can be the source of severe outbreaks of the skin. Also known to have an effect on the skin are autoimmune diseases. Skin eruptions can evolve to a life-threatening state. If your dog is suffering from a skin condition, a visit to the veterinarian is crucial.

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Symptoms of Skin Blisters and Pustules in Dogs

Skin blisters and pustules can cause much anxiety for your pet. Prompt diagnosis of the reason for the outbreak is necessary to prevent the skin condition from getting out of hand. Your dog may exhibit the following signs and symptoms indicating a serious problem with the skin:

  • Warm, humid areas, such as folds in the neck, may appear red and ulcerated
  • Pressure points, like the elbow, may have welts or scabs
  • Ulcers can also emerge around the eyes, in the ears, and on the footpads, anus, groin, or axillae (armpits)
  • Blisters can develop in the mouth and also on the skin around the nails
  • There may be scaling of the skin, hair loss, or bald patches
  • Yellow pustules or sacs of fluid may secrete blood or pus and turn crusty
  • There might be an odor no matter how much you clean the area
  • Your dog may display signs of pain
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Pruritus (inability to resist licking, scratching, or attempts at self-harm in an effort to stop the irritation and itch)
Types

Skin blisters and pustules can appear in an acute form, and may at times resolve (for a short period) on their own. In all cases, treatment is recommended in favor of resolution because a skin condition can lead to life-threatening circumstances. Additionally, removing the cause of the problem is necessary for a cure or control of the condition.

  • Pyodermas
    • Caused by a bacterial skin infection
    • Presence of yellow pustules that can ooze and itch
    • Mostly found on the trunk area, obese dogs or dogs with short faces are predisposed to infection in skin folds
    • Also found on toes, callouses on feet, and the abdomens of puppies
    • Not contagious to other pets or to humans
  • Skin Fold Dermatitis
    • Bulldogs are prone
    • Skin becomes red
    • Irritation might be found on the lips, face, and vulva
    • May progress with severe complications if left untreated
  • Cutaneous Lymphoma
    • This is a rare type of skin cancer
    • Displays with itching ulcers, redness, and nodules
    • Unfortunately this skin condition may not respond to treatment

Autoimmune Skin Conditions

  • Pemphigus Foliaceus
    • Akitas are prone
    • The skin around the nails can be affected
    • Ulcers may also be found in the ears, eyes, footpads and groin
  • Pemphigus Vegetans
    • Presents with chronic oozing and pus
    • Is more prevalent warmer sunny climates
    • Sun is a potential trigger
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris
    • Appears with fluid-filled blisters
    • Become open sores as the blisters rupture easily
    • Found in mouth, nostrils and around anus
  • Pemphigus Erythematosus
    • There will be scaling of skin
    • Irritation begins with redness and crusty patches
    • There may be hair loss specifically on nose
  • Bullous Pemphigoid
    • Presents with welts first
    • Next stage is sacs of clear fluid
    • Can be very itchy
    • The most common places it is found are the mouth, axillae (armpits) and groin
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Causes of Skin Blisters and Pustules in Dogs

Skin blisters and pustules can occur for a variety of reasons, some of which are listed below:

  • Staphylococci bacteria over colonizes
  • Warm, moist areas can develop a high bacteria count
  • Skin conditions can be secondary to allergies or parasites
  • In the case of an autoimmune disease, the body attacks the immune system
  • Healthy cells are mistakenly attacked resulting in separation of skin
  • Pyodermas can result from damage to the skin like tumors, urine scalding or bite wounds
  • Medications for illnesses such as liver disease or cancer can cause an immunosuppression that leads to a skin condition
  • Genetics may play a role in problems with the epidermis
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Diagnosis of Skin Blisters and Pustules in Dogs

The diagnosis of skin blisters and pustules can be complex. Identification of the underlying cause is paramount to the resolution of the skin issue. The veterinarian will need a complete history, as detailed as possible, in order to begin the diagnostic process. The veterinarian will want to know the following information:

  • Specifics on your pet’s diet (brand of food, treats)
  • Medications your dog may be taking
  • Grooming products used (bring labels for analysis)
  • Recent illnesses
  • Travel history

The appearance and location of the blisters or pustules can provide a clue to the type of skin condition. However, the veterinarian will also need to perform certain tests to definitively diagnose the lesions. To begin, it is possible that blood tests and allergy tests will be ordered.

A skin biopsy may be done. It is called a punch biopsy and involves taking a small round block of skin. The biopsy may be done using a local anesthetic, but if your dog is nervous or stressed, or if the biopsy involves the face or nose, sedation or a general anesthetic will be suggested. Needle aspirate cytology used to examine cells, and skin scraping, in order to exclude causes like parasites, may also be performed.

Culturing the skin, in an attempt to grow and identify bacteria, along with a fungal culture and adhesive tape prep (to examine cells, yeast or other abnormalities under the microscope) are additional tests that may be performed.

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Treatment of Skin Blisters and Pustules in Dogs

Treatment will involve the resolution of the underlying cause if needed, as well as a variation of methods depending on the type of skin condition.

In the case of an autoimmune issue, corticosteroids, which are drugs that lessen the efforts of the immune system to attack, will be given along with other immunosuppressant medications. It should be noted that depending on the skin condition; some immunosuppressants can be given during flares only, once the initial problem is under control. An autoimmune related skin condition is rarely curable but may be managed quite well with medication.

In instances of pyodermas, 3 to 4 weeks of antibiotics may be prescribed. The antibiotics might be in oral and topical form. Bathing with a medicated shampoo 2 to 3 times a week is required, and in severe cases a daily bath may be vital to a positive outcome.

Included in the treatment protocol may be anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and pain, acupuncture, light therapy or a dietary overhaul.

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Recovery of Skin Blisters and Pustules in Dogs

The recovery of a serious skin condition is never a quick process. For example, healing of pyodermas can take up to 8 to 12 weeks. However, a mild improvement should be evident within 14 to 21 days of the start of treatment. Recurrent cases are possible and sometimes will need a staphylococcal vaccine in order to see results.

Attention to grooming is essential. The services of a professional groomer should be sought out. Removal of hair, because of the likelihood of trapping bacteria, is key to avoiding a recurrence of the problem. Continual use of oral and topical antibiotics may be necessary for some time. The use of bandages or an Elizabethan collar could be recommended by the veterinarian to lessen the licking and biting that your dog might want to do.

With the use of corticosteroids for autoimmune related skin problems, you will need to be aware of possible side effects. Changes in appetite (decrease or increase), panting, increased drinking of water and thus, more urination, vomiting, and inactivity may be evident in your dog’s behavior. Consult the veterinarian promptly to address the side effects. Avoid direct sunlight with skin problems diagnosed in the pemphigus family of conditions.

Never stop antibiotics or ointments prematurely. Frequent check-ups with the veterinary caregiver are part of the recovery (may include blood tests and urinalysis to monitor side effects of the therapy), as is diligent skin care at home.

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Average Cost

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Written by Darlene Stott

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 12/02/2015, edited: 03/05/2021

Skin Blisters and Pustules Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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great dane/rednosed pitt

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6 Years

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2 found helpful

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Bumps Eveverywhere, Hairloss, When Sqeezed Bumps Hard Yellow Something Comes Out Folled With Blood

My dog has small pimple sized bumps everywhere and when sqeeze bumps something hard and yellowish comes out followed by blood. Shes not scratching or acting off or scratching n biting at herself at all.

March 1, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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2 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. This sounds like a bacterial infection (pyoderma). It may or may not be associated with an underlying disease such as an underactive thyroid or a parasitic infestation. She likely needs a course of antibiotics and medicated wash so a vet visit is best.

March 1, 2021

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mix

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9 Years

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Blisters

Outbreak of blisters around mouth and lips face is slightly swollen they bleed when she eats and are causing her pain

Feb. 23, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello Thank you for the picture. Your pet could have a skin infection or even an infection in the hair follicles. I recommend that you take her to a veterinarian for an exam. They may want to try antibiotics or get a biopsy sample to send off to a lab. Good luck.

Feb. 25, 2021

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Australian Kelpie

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Two Months

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1 found helpful

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Blister

Couple weeks ago my dog was bit he had to get stitches he’s been doing fine since the last two days where the wound was it’s formed a blister I am wondering if I should pop it

Feb. 22, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

Hi there and thank you for your question. Unfortunately the photo is grainy and of low resolution, making it very difficult to tell what is going on. A blister could be an abscess (infection) or accumulation of fluid (seroma). Either way, we don't generally recommend bursting these conscious. You can gently bathe the area with saline and apply a warm compress. However, we would ideally have it examined by a vet as it may need lancing under sedation and then a thorough flush and a drain to be placed. If not already, he should be on antibiotics. I do hope this helps.

Feb. 23, 2021

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Five Years

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1 found helpful

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Blood blister of pocket on belly

Feb. 20, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, this could just be a small blood blister but could be a small hernia from when she was spayed. If this has just appeared I would watch it and see if it gets bigger. If it is stable and not growing it may just be a small amount of fat from her spay. If it is getting bigger I would have your vet look at this and see what is causing it.

Feb. 20, 2021

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st bernard

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4 Years

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Pimple Like Bump On Back

This looked like a pimple until today when he was playing with his brother. Now it's much larger.

Jan. 17, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hi, That may be a bacterial skin disease known as dermatophytosis. Please take him to the vet for treatment. It should clear out with some antibiotics.

Jan. 20, 2021

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Osiris

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Doberman Pinscher Australian sheprador

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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Small Pimples

Pet name- Osiris Gender- unaltered male Age- 6 months Med history- on received first set of 5in1 shots Approx weight-60lbs I noticed while petting him that I felt multiple tiny hard bumps on his back legs. I couldn't really see them because of his coat so I carefully shaved one side lightly to see the bumps they look almost like little pimples there kind of hard . Now a month or so ago he had a run-in with a cactus with very thin needles so i thought that maybe it was possible I didn't get all the needles out so using tweezers I lightly squeezed one and it seemed to pop almost like a ingrown hair would I didn't see a needle so I didn't want to mess with it and didn't want to have him in pain . He seems fine except now he is limping that cactus may be completely not related but I mentioned it just in case the bumps could be from leftover needles I don't want him in pain should I be worried do you recommend a vet please help my lil baby (we also recently removed two ticks from his neck area in case that matters)

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Nala

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Pit bull

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4 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Lethargy
Pustules
Poor Appetite
Pimples

I have a 4-month-old pitbull puppy that has always had small pustules or pimples on her belly. Those have for the most part have cleared up but still pop up on her vulva. She never really liked them touched. Now she has to largeish pustules on her upper lip and one has ruptured. She now has a poor appetite and not acting like her normal puppy self. Walking slow, laying in her crate. My vet said that the ones on her belly aren't something to worry about and they did go away. But I'm concerned that something bigger might be going on.

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Jax

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German Shepherd

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4 Months

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Mild severity

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No Symptoms

I have a 4 month old german shepard and I just noticed 2 Blisters(bumps) on the outside of his eyelid. That same eye seams to have a little more discharge compared to the other eye.

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Sophie

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Yorkshire Terrier

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Pustules, Itching
Pustules, Itching, Lesion

My 11yr old Yorkie has raised pimple type lesions all over her body. Some has white tops. They are very itchy. She presented with an open lesion on her face this morning. She has an infection in her left eye that is being treated with ointment. She also has an open lesion near her vulva. What could be wrong?

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pepper

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Cocker Spaniel

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10 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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my 10 month old girl cocker spaniel has got small spots around her private part, some has puss and some just round. I am not sure what these are just looking for some info.

Skin Blisters and Pustules Average Cost

From 42 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,500

Average Cost

$550

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