Dog: Pyoderma

General information

Other common/scientific names: bacterial skin infection

Pyoderma is defined as a bacterial skin infection with pus-filled eruptions. It can be classified as superficial involving the outer layers of skin or deep which involves the layers of skin underneath the dermis.

Abb. GGEW60E2
Abb. GGEW60E2: This is an illustration of the structures and layers of the skin.


Pyoderma is almost always secondary or due to an underlying skin or systemic disease. The bacterial agent is most often Staphylococcus intermedius but other bacteria can be involved in more severe infections. Diseases causing a secondary pyoderma include: hot spot, demodicosis, dermatophytosis, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, flea allergy, atopic dermatitis, Malassezia, sarcoptic mange, seborrhea and immune-mediated diseases.

Cardinal symptom

  • Pustules (pimples)
  • Itching


Dogs with pyoderma have pus-filled eruptions (pustules) on their skin. The skin is red, itchy and painful. Open, draining sores with scabs and crusts may be present. Dogs with deep pyoderma may have a fever and loss of appetite.

Abb. GSR7YQUU: Superficial pyoderma.


Diagnosis of pyoderma can be made from clinical signs and physical examination. However, identifying the underlying disease is crucial to treating pyoderma. A skin scraping and skin cytology should be performed to rule out ectoparasites and confirm the presence of a pyoderma. A test to rule out ringworm or dermatophytosis called a DTM culture should be performed. For cases of deep, non-responsive or recurrent pyoderma, a skin biopsy may also be necessary to identify cells and a skin culture and sensitivity to identify the specific bacterial infection. Dogs showing signs of systemic disease may need laboratory tests including a complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry, a urinalysis, endocrine and immunologic testing to diagnose an underlying disease.


Since pyoderma is secondary to an underlying problem, the primary problem must be treated while treating the pyoderma. Treatment of the pyoderma itself includes:

  • Skin Treatment: Clipping and cleaning open sores with an antibacterial medication.
  • Antibacterial and Antipruritic Shampoos and Rinses
  • Antibacterial Topical Sprays and Creams: Useful for small areas.
  • Oral Antibiotics: Deep pyoderma will need long term antibiotics.
  • Corticosteroids and Antihistamine: Used to control itching.


Most cases of pyoderma respond well to treatment. Deep pyoderma and cases of severe underlying systemic disease can have a poorer prognosis with recurring treatment necessary. Pyoderma caused by atopic dermatitis can be chronic, frustrating and costly.


Pyoderma caused by allergies can be prevented by eliminating allergens in your dog’s environment. This includes prevention of fleas, ticks and other ectoparasites by administering a monthly oral or topical (spot-on) medication.


A contact time of 10 to 15 minutes is important for the success of shampoo therapy. Leave-on conditioners may be used after the shampoo for prolonged effect. Use all medication and follow all instructions as prescribed by your veterinarian.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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