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Can Dogs Get Cellulitis?


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Dogs usually seem to be verging on the invincible. They dive in ponds, run across roads, eat animal feces, dart through barbed wire fences and, for the most part, come out unscathed. But can your dog actually catch some of the same illnesses as you? Take cellulitis, for example, it’s a bacterial skin infection that must be treated quickly or it can become serious. You must proceed with caution, acting swiftly and safely to prevent it from developing into potentially fatal sepsis. But can your dog suffer from cellulitis, too?

Can Dogs Get Cellulitis?


People may understandably think because dogs’ immune systems can appear stronger than humans’, that they may not suffer from cellulitis, but that is not true. Dogs absolutely can develop cellulitis, making it vital to get a grasp on what symptoms to look out for.

Does My Dog Have Cellulitis?

If you are worried your dog may have cellulitis, look out for the following symptoms: Does the problem area looked red, sore and inflamed? Can you see an accumulation of pus under the skin? Does the area in question look and feel sensitive? Is there visible evidence of an abscess? Does that particular area feel hotter than the rest of your dog’s body? If you see any of these symptoms, your dog may well be suffering from cellulitis.

But what causes cellulitis? Cellulitis is caused by a bacterial infection. If the skin is broken, bacteria can infect the deep layers of the skin. An insect bite, a wound, or even dry and cracked skin could cause the skin to break and increases the likelihood of cellulitis developing. 

How will your vet diagnose cellulitis? Your vet will diagnose the condition through a physical examination, but will also take blood tests to determine the type of bacterial infection. Your dog may be in considerable pain, so moving your dog around for the examination may prove challenging.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Cellulitis?

The first step your vet will want to take is to kill the bacteria behind the infection. Antibiotics and medication, such as cephalexin, moxifloxacin, nafcillin, and vancomycin are often prescribed. It is important your dog takes the full course of antibiotics even if the symptoms have gone.

The next step in treatment will depend on whether there is an abscess. If your dog does have an abscess, you will likely be instructed to put a warm soak on it regularly to encourage the abscess to drain. If this fails to work, your vet may put a drain in it themselves. Then, you will have to clean the site with antiseptic cream once or twice a day.

The good news is, full recovery from cellulitis is extremely likely. Plus, if all goes to plan, you can expect your dog to be fully recovered within a week or two. If a large abscess persists and needs draining, full recovery may take an additional few weeks. But, recovery from cellulitis is relatively quick and hassle-free.

It can often be useful to read first-hand accounts from other dog owners. Take a look at our guide to Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs.

How Is Cellulitis Similar in Dogs and Humans?

There are lots of similarities in the way cellulitis manifests itself in dogs, humans and other animals. Some of the most common similarities are:

  • In both humans and dogs, the problem area may be sensitive or painful to touch.

  • In both, the area will be visibly swollen, inflamed and irritated.

  • It is common for the problem area to feel much hotter than the rest of the body in both dogs and humans.

  • An abscess can develop under the skin of both humans and dogs, and pus may even leak from the affected area.

  • In dogs and humans, infection can spread to the lymph nodes.

How Is Cellulitis Different in Dogs and Humans?

Cellulitis may have many similarities in terms of symptoms, but there are also certain differences worth pointing out. Some of those differences are as follows:

  • In humans, if someone is having chemotherapy, or is young or old and suffering from cellulitis, the condition can become much more serious.

  • In humans, the infection can spread to the eye and cause facial problems; this is seen less in dogs.

  • The visible signs in humans are much more obvious, finding symptoms in dogs requires more in-detail investigation due to their coat.

Case Study

Poppy is an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever who started displaying signs of cellulitis. Poppy had a visible abscess on her side, there was obvious inflammation, and she was in visible pain and discomfort. The owners acted swiftly and within 3 days Poppy was diagnosed and on a course of antibiotics. In just 7 days, all of Poppy's symptoms had gone and she was back to hoovering up leftovers from the kitchen floor. This case helped demonstrate that swift acting from owners and the right course of antibiotics can fight the infection swiftly and effectively.

If ignored, paying to treat cellulitis out of pocket can be a major financial burden. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

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