Dog Skin Infections: How To Spot The Signs And When To Seek Treatment

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Dog with skin infection on stomach (caption: Dog Skin Infections)

Is your dog’s irritated skin giving you cause for concern? You’re not alone. Dogs are extremely prone to skin problems. In fact, skin conditions are the second most common ailment that dog parents face when seeking veterinary care.1

If your dog is itching or licking incessantly or he has patches of skin that don’t look normal, your dog could have a skin infection. We’ll tell you what to look out for, when it’s time to see your vet, and other need-to-know information about skin infections.

Primary Causes Of Dog Skin Infections

There are two main types of skin infections in dogs: yeast and bacteria infections. Both yeast and bacteria normally reside on your dog’s skin, but when something irritates them, they can proliferate, causing an infection. Many things can cause yeast and/or bacteria to multiply, but here are some of the most common causes:

  • Excessive licking, chewing, or scratching
  • External parasites, like fleas or ticks
  • Allergies to environmental factors, like pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, etc.
  • Food allergies

As a pet parent, it can be difficult to determine whether your dog is suffering from a bacterial or yeast skin infection because symptoms can often be very similar. But we’ll break down each type to help give you a better idea of what your dog may be experiencing.

Also, it’s fairly common for dogs to have both a yeast and bacterial skin infection simultaneously. So keep in mind, it’s wise to seek veterinary attention if you suspect a skin infection because treatment can differ depending on the infection type(s).

Yeast Skin Infections

Yeast dermatitis, also called Malassezia dermatitis, is caused by the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis. It’s an extremely common cause of skin infections in dogs. Yeast infections aren’t contagious. Although yeast infections can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, some areas are especially prone: ears, in skin folds, between paw pads, or in other hot, humid areas of the body.

Dogs with atopic dermatitis (allergic dermatitis) are more susceptible, as are immunocompromised dogs. An immune deficiency makes it hard for a dog’s body to fight off yeast infections, resulting in chronic and recurring infections. Dogs who are taking steroids or antibiotics can also be more prone to a yeast infection.

Predisposed Breeds

Poodle in girl's lap: (caption: Poodle Guide)

Some breeds are also genetically predisposed to developing yeast infections, including:

  • Australian Terriers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Bulldogs
  • Chihuahuas
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dachshunds
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Maltese Terriers
  • Poodles
  • Pugs
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • West Highland White Terriers

Chronic conditions like yeast infections that require frequent vet visits and medication can drain your bank account. But, if you have one of these breeds that’s prone to this ailment, you might consider investing in pet insurance from an early age (before a condition presents and becomes “pre-existing”). It is a great way to manage this risk along with other health and accident situations you and your pet may find yourselves in.

Learn More About Pet Insurance


Dog laying with ears flopped open (caption: Dog Ear Infections)

The most prominent symptoms are excessive itching and inflamed skin, but other common symptoms include:

  • Itching and redness
  • Smelly skin
  • Crusty, flaky skin
  • Thickened skin
  • Sores
  • Sticky or yellow/green discharge
  • Greasy coat
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkly pigmented skin)
  • Recurring ear infections


Treatment for dog yeast skin infections depends on the severity of the infection. It’s important to consult your vet so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Oral Treatment

In more severe or chronic cases of skin yeast infections, your vet may prescribe oral anti-fungal medications, including ketoconazole, itraconazole, and fluconazole.

Topical Treatment

Davis Benzoyl Peroxide Shampoo

You can use home remedies to treat cases of yeast infections that aren’t severe (just make sure you get a vet’s diagnosis first). Medicated shampoos are the best way to treat skin yeast infections. However, some dogs with especially oily or greasy skin may require an initial shampoo with Davis Benzoyl Peroxide Shampoo (or another pet shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide or selenium sulfide), which can help eliminate the excessive oil.

After you cut down the oil and grease, use an anti-fungal shampoo containing chlorhexidine, miconazole, or ketoconazole. We recommend KetoChlor Medicated Shampoo for dogs and cats.

  • Make sure the anti-fungal shampoo stays on your dog’s skin for at least 10 minutes.
  • Dry your dog thoroughly after bathing with a clean towel.
  • Repeat every three to five days until there’s no sign of infection (this can take anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks).

Bacterial Skin Infections

Dog scratching ear (caption: Staph Infection In Dogs)

Bacterial skin infections in dogs, also referred to as pyoderma or bacterial dermatitis, can occur in any breed or age, but older dogs are more susceptible due to a weaker immune system. Dogs with hypothyroidism are also more susceptible. The most common dog bacterial skin infection is a staph infection.


As we said above, some of the symptoms of bacterial skin infections are very similar to yeast infections. But there are some differences.

  • Excessive scratching, licking, or chewing
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Papules or pustules (pus-filled lesions on the skin that resemble human pimples)
  • Dry or flaky patches of skin
  • Patchy fur loss
  • Circular crusts that look like ringworm


Oral Treatment

Smiling Paws Pets Antibacterial & Antifungal Shampoo

In many cases, veterinarians prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat skin bacterial infections. Amoxicillincephalexin, and clindamycin are common prescriptions for this type of infection. It may be necessary for your vet to do a skin culture and antibiotic sensitivity test to make sure he prescribes the most effective antibiotic.

The typical treatment time is a minimum of three to four weeks, but in recurrent or chronic cases of infection, oral treatment can last as long as 12 weeks.

Topical Treatment

Although most cases require oral antibiotics, your vet may recommend a topical treatment if your dog’s infection is mild. This can include antibacterial shampoos and sprays that you apply once or twice a week for three to four weeks.

You can also use these topical treatments in addition to antibiotics to help your dog recover from his infection more quickly. It’s also important that your dog has clean, dry, and padded bedding.

Are Allergies The Culprit?

If your dog is frequently itchy or has recurring skin infections, allergies could be the reason. As we mentioned above, it’s important to consult your vet to properly diagnosis any skin allergies your dog is having. But you can also learn more about which foods and environmental factors could be causing your dog problems by giving him an at-home dog allergy test kit.

How Can I Soothe My Dog’s Skin Irritation?

If your dog’s skin is itchy and painful, you may want to consider using a CBD topical product to alleviate his symptoms (with your vet’s okay). CBD topical treatments are all-natural and could help soothe your dog’s skin without interfering with prescription meds. We’ve reviewed the best CBD oil companies, many of which carry topical CBD skin ointments or creams that can help soothe irritated skin until it clears up.

Sources: [1] Healthy Paws

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