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Why is my dog's skin so red and itchy?

Skin infections can make your beloved pup itchy and miserable, but in some cases, they can also be passed along to people! Today, our Orange County vets discuss yeast and staph infections in dogs, including symptoms, causes and treatments.

Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections Seen in Dogs

Bacterial and fungal infections can make your dog itchy and uncomfortable, with skin that appears flaky, crusty or moist. Inflammation, redness and smell can also be a problem, not to mention recurring yeast dermatitis or staph infection.

Sadly, skin infections and other dermatologic problems are fairly common in our four-legged friends and can often be a sign of an underlying health issue that is in need of treatment. Here, our Orange County vets offer some advice about what to do if your dog is being tormented by itchy uncomfortable skin due to a bacterial or fungal infection.

Yeast Dermatitis (Malassezia Dermatitis)

Yeast dermatitis (Malassezia dermatitis) is an extremely common cause of skin problems in dogs. While the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis is naturally found on the skin of healthy dogs, if it grows excessively, it can lead to skin inflammation (dermatitis).

Staphylococcal Infection (Staph Infection)

When it comes to bacterial skin infections in dogs, staph infections (Staphylococcal infection) are the most common. This skin problem results from the bacterium Staphylococcus sp which is easily transmitted between dogs and humans - making good hygiene and early treatment a high priority for this skin infection.

While a staph infection can impact your dog’s skin, it can also cause upper respiratory tract infections and is typically treated using oral antibiotics such as cephalexin, erythromycin or clindamycin. Antibiotic ointments and shampoos may also be prescribed to help your dog's skin feel more comfortable.

Signs of a Bacterial or Fungal Skin Infection in Dogs

Skin infections can lead to a variety of symptoms in dogs. Below are some of the signs of fungal and staph infections that you should watch for.

Fungal Infection (Yeast Dermatitis)

If your pooch is suffering from yeast dermatitis you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Thickened skin (“elephant skin”)
  • Flaky, crusty or scaly skin
  • Redness and itchiness
  • Musty odor
  • Recurring or chronic ear infections
  • Hyperpigmentation

Staph Infection

Staph infections can leave your pup itchy and uncomfortable. Common signs of staph infection in dogs include:

  • Excessive itching, licking or chewing
  • Eye, ear, skin or respiratory system infections
  • Patchy fur with peeling, crusty skin, or moist skin
  • Inflamed or red skin
  • Pain
  • Pus-filled sores on the skin

Your pup's skin can become irritated and uncomfortable due to a staph infection, leading to excessive scratching, chewing or licking. If your canine companion has an allergy to medications, food or environmental factors, or fleas, you may start to notice these behaviors.

Some chronic debilitating diseases, allergies, fungal infections of the blood and other secondary infections may result in staph infections.

Causes of Bacterial & Fungal Skin Infections in Dogs

Many bacteria and fungi live on the skin naturally but are controlled by the immune system and do not cause issues under normal circumstances. If however the skin's condition changes or the immune system becomes suppressed, bacterial and fungal infections can occur.

Immune deficiencies or an increase in the amount of oils produced on the skin are common causes of yeast infections in dogs. Although yeast infections are not contagious, they can recur or become chronic unless the underlying skin condition or allergy is treated.

Breeds That Are Susceptible to Skin Yeast Infections

While any dog can suffer from an uncomfortable skin infection, some dog breeds are more susceptible to these infections than others. Older dogs and dog's with a weakened immune system can also be more susceptible.

Breeds that face a higher than average risk of skin infection include:

  • Lhasa Apso
  • Dachshund
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Australian Terrier
  • Chihuahua.
  • Poodle
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Maltese Terrier
  • Basset hound
  • Silky Terrier

Diagnosis of Fungal Dermatitis & Bacterial Skin Infections in Dogs

Our vets at Animal Hospital of North Orange County treat a wide range of skin, eye, ear, and nail conditions in pets. We use several techniques to collect samples and diagnose skin infections in dogs.

Yeast infections can be diagnosed through impression smears, skin biopsy, skin scraping, acetate tape preparations or cotton swab sample.

To diagnose a staph infection, your pup will need a complete physical examination, and your vet may perform a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, in addition to thoroughly reviewing your pet’s medical history and asking questions such as when you began to notice symptoms.

Skin tests may also be required to find out whether the inflammation is caused by immune-related issues or an allergic reaction to something. A skin biopsy may be necessary, during which your veterinarian will swab the skin to determine which antibiotic should be used to treat the condition.

At our in-house lab, we can perform tests and get results quickly with our advanced imaging and testing equipment.

Treating Fungal Dermatitis & Staph Infection in Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with a yeast dermatitis infection treatment will include oral or topical treatments, or a combination of both based on the severity of your pup’s condition. These medications are highly effective, though they must be given for a prolonged period (often several months). These drugs can have potential side effects on the liver that will require close monitoring with routine blood tests.

Staph infections in dogs are typically treated with oral antibiotics. Antibacterial shampoo or topical ointments can also be used for these types of skin conditions. Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment may take several weeks before you will begin seeing an improvement in the condition of your dog's skin.

Because staph infections can be passed between dogs and from dogs to humans, extra care should be taken when handling and treating your dog.

Discuss any supplements or medications your dog is currently taking with your veterinarian so they can choose the best treatment for your pet’s skin problem while helping to reduce the risk of interactions between drugs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

At Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) our vets have experience treating dogs with a variety of stubborn fungal and bacterial infections. Contact our Orange County vets today to learn more about advanced veterinary care at our hospital.

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