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Health & Wellness

How to tell if your dog has a staph infection

Pustules, pimples and crusty skin are just some of the signs your dog may have a staph infection.

It’s normal for a dog to scratch their skin, but if you notice that your pet is excessively itching and even has red, crusty, pimple-filled areas on their body, they might be struggling with a staph infection.  

And while it might not sound too pleasant, these infections are caused by opportunistic bacteria that normally hang out on our dog’s skin. Here’s how to help your dog recover.

What causes staph infections in dogs?

A staph infection, an inflammatory skin condition caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, is often called staph dermatitis, Staphylococcal pyoderma or staph pyoderma in dogs. 

These itty-bitty bacteria always hang out on your dog and usually don’t cause any trouble because of their natural skin barriers and defenses against infections. However, irritated skin creates an excellent environment for these bacteria to multiply and cause sickness. 

“Anything that causes inflammation, irritation or damage to the skin layers can break down these defenses and allow bacteria and other organisms to invade and colonize the skin,” Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

Symptoms of staph infections in dogs

Although individual bacteria are invisible, the naked eye can see staph infection signs. You might notice two common lesions: a red area with a pustule in the center or a red spot with hair loss and crusty edges. 

The wounds aren’t the only symptom that might be visible. According to Dr. Singler, a staph infection can cause redness, odor, scaling, darkened-skin coloring and itchiness. 

Suppose your dog has uncomfortable marks on their skin or exhibits any of these symptoms. It’s time for a veterinary exam to determine the underlying cause (like external parasites or allergies). Skin cytology and possibly a skin culture are needed to confirm the infection and decide the best treatment. 

RELATED: How to tell if your dog has a yeast infection

How to treat staph infection in dogs

Dog staph infection treatments depend on the severity of the infection. Veterinarians usually recommend antibiotics, topical treatments or injectables (or a mix of several options) to help dogs improve. Recovery usually takes around 6 weeks, but continue the entire treatment course as advised by your vet, even if your pup feels better.

Some dogs might have other skin infections along with a staph infection. If that's the case, veterinarians might recommend medications, like topical treatments (think shampoos, lotions, sprays, mousses, ointments or wipes), to treat both conditions.

Topical medications must be used regularly, often daily or at least several times weekly. It's important to follow your vet's advice regarding treatment and follow-up appointments so that they can determine if the infection has resolved or if your pet needs more or different treatments or testing.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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