Skin infections, also called “pyoderma,” are commonly seen problems in both dogs and cats. These infections often present as scabs and crusty lesions or may look similar to peeling skin. The pet is often itchy and hair may become thin and skin red and irritated. Most cases occur as a result of an underlying allergy or hormonal imbalance in the body. Skin infections can also occur whenever the integrity of the skin barrier is disrupted, such as during infestation with mange or scratching due to fleas.
Skin infections can be very frustrating as they have a high rate of recurrence, especially in pets not on an effective monthly flea control program and those with frequent allergy flare-ups. It is vital to treat the underlying problem that triggered the infection to achieve the best chance of success.
Along with a complete physical exam, it is important to rule out ringworm, mites, fleas, allergies and thyroid disease. Tests that are commonly done include fungal cultures, skin scrapings, skin cytology, thyroid testing, other blood testing and trial treatment with flea control products. Pets may be placed on prescription diets to rule out a food allergy. In some cases allergy testing may be required. Treatment involves antibiotic therapy (oral, topical, or combination based on the doctor’s evaluation of your pet). In many cases of recurrent pyoderma, several months of therapy may be required. In addition to medications, baths with anti-bacterial shampoos, such as Chloraseb, will often be prescribed to help control the bacterial population on the skin, help remove crusts and scaling, and help control spread of the infection.
It is very important to bring your pet for recommended recheck appointments to ensure the infection has completely cleared before stopping treatment. Stopping medication too soon will allow the infection to come back even more quickly and often much stronger than the initial infection. If despite adequate treatment the infection returns repeatedly, skin cultures may be necessary or other advanced testing. In some patients long-term treatment protocols are necessary to help maintain skin health. If your pet’s skin looks questionable, please call us for an appointment and our doctors will be happy to help.