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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Skin Infections View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

The skin is the body's first line of defense, and it takes a beating from bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Both cats and dogs can develop skin infections, but dogs are more commonly affected. Scabs, blisters, and purulent crusts can develop on the skin of newborn puppies 4 - 10 days of age.


Infected skin typically becomes red and itchy, or oily and flaky with or without itching and hair loss. It can be infected in isolated patches or the whole body may be covered with oozing sores that turn scabby, crusty, and smell bad.


There are a wide range of causes for skin infections, and each needs a specific treatment. You can't always tell without medical tests, but some of the more common types have fairly distinctive symptoms. Here are some to watch for:

Bacterial infections - Red bumps or pimples, bull's eye sores, scabs, redness, flaky skin, patchy moth-eaten coat.
Skin infections usually appear on the abdomen and are caused by poor sanitation in the whelping box.

Demodex (mange) - Circular or patchy hair loss with bald patches showing red to gray skin, usually around the eyes and muzzle, which aren't painful or itchy - may spread over the whole body with bumps and crusts and swelling of feet.

Ringworm (fungus) - Crusty circular area of hair-loss, usually first on the face and front legs.

Scabies (skin mites) Itching, scaling, hair-loss, crusty skin, rancid odor.

Seborrhea - Thick dandruff or a greasy, smelly coat.

Yeast - Itchy skin, redness, dandruff, thickening of the skin, greasy coat, rancid odor.


Diagnosis is made upon examination.


Keep the nest clean of food, stools, and urine. Check for any signs of external parasites, such as fleas or Cheyletiella mites, in the bedding.

  1. Muzzle your pet - To treat her skin, use a muzzle so she won't bite if you touch a sore spot. For a dog, use a length of pantyhose or any flat strip of material and loop it around her nose. Knot it on top of her muzzle, then bring the ends under her chin and knot them. Finally draw the ends behind her ears and tie them. Your can place a pillowcase over the head of a short-nosed pet like a cat or pug.
  2. Clip the fur - If the infection is in a small area, trim the fur close to make it easier to apply medicine. Blunt scissors are ok, but electric clippers work best. Be sure to trim a little extra around the wound. If the whole body in involved, it is best to have the veterinarian shave your pet if necessary.
  3. Wash the infected area - Clean the parts of the skin that are affected. When the whole body is affected, put your pet in the sink or tub and bathe her. Be sure to use cool water, which soothes inflammation. Warm or hot water makes itching worse. A 2.5% benzoyl peroxide shampoo like Oxy 5 works best, but you can use antibacterial soap like Dial if necessary. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off the soap, or when it dries, it could make the skin infection worse. Also be sure to dry your pet thoroughly.
  4. Give your pet an antihistamine - If you aren't able to bathe, an over the counter antihistamine like Benadryl may help reduce the inflammation until you can get treatment. The liquid form of Benadryl usually comes in a dose of 12.5mg per teaspoon and pills are usually 25mg each. Pets will need 1mg per pound of body weight every 6 - 8 hours. That means a 10 pound cat or dog should get about 3/4 teaspoon of liquid or half a pill.
Cleanse scabs with a dilute solution (1:10) or hydrogen peroxide or wash with a dilute antiseptic solution such as betadine or chlorhexidine. Then apply an antibiotic ointment such as triple antibiotic or neomycin.


Always treat any wounds as soon as they arise. Keep the living quarters for the puppies clean and dry.


Hair mats and skin debris make perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi. Brush your pet once or twice a day to remove any crust, scale, or dead fur that accumulates. This not only helps the skin infection heal more quickly, but also can prevent recurrence.

Antibiotics or antifungal medications like griseofulvin (Grifulvin V) for ringworm will be necessary in most cases - a topical ointment often isn't effective. Usually, the pills are necessary for a minimum of 7 days, and sometimes for 2 weeks or longer. With dogs, you can hide the pills in treats, and they will often take the medicine willingly.

When skin infection is caused by excessive scratching, you can help soothe the itch with cool water soaks for 10 - 20 minutes every few days. Oatmeal can soothe inflammation and itching, and a product like Aveeno or an oatmeal based pet shampoo is always a good choice.

Medicated shampoos are an important treatment for most skin infections, and the kind of shampoo depends on the type of infection. For instance, a tar shampoo helps strip away the oil and dandruff flakes of seborrhea, while a sulfurated lime dip may be prescribed for ringworm or mange. Regardless of the kind, you will use it the same way: soak your pet and let the shampoo or dip set on the skin and fur for at least 10 minutes before you rinse it off (some dips are supposed to dry on the skin). It can be hard for a pet to stand patiently in the tub for a long period, so tether her to the faucet with a leash. Never leave a tethered pet unattended.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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