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Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs and Cats

By Maureen Ryan. July 16, 2012 | See Comments

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Causes of Pyoderma in Dogs and Cats

Pyoderma often has an underlying cause like allergies, hypothyroidism, or Cushing's disease, among other possibilities. Learn more about the causes of pyoderma.

Pus-forming bacterial infections of the skin known as pyoderma occur for several reasons. Most frequently, another underlying condition causes a dog or cat to be itchy or have skin discomfort. Your pet may then bite and scratch at the area, which damages the skin and leaves it ripe for a pyoderma infection to form.

Underlying Conditions

The most common conditions that lead to pyoderma include:

  • Insect infestations, which are most problematic if your pet is allergic to fleas
  • Food allergies that can cause skin inflammation and itchiness
  • Atopy, a result of reactions to airborne allergens such as house dust, mold, dust mites, grasses, and plant pollens
  • Poor or excessive grooming
  • Hypothyroidism, which can cause skin infections that dogs and cats may make worse if they scratch at them
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (also known as Cushing’s disease), which leads to fragile skin syndrome in which the skin is thin and easily damaged

Any effort to treat your cat or dog’s pyoderma infection will need to first involve treating these or other medical problems that might have caused your pet’s initial skin problems. If you do not address the underlying trigger, your pet may be at risk for recurrent bacterial infections of the skin.

Spontaneous Pyoderma

In rare cases, pyoderma may develop spontaneously. This is called idiopathic or primary pyoderma. The root of this problem may be a genetic condition that causes problems with the immune system. In dogs, idiopathic pyoderma is most often seen in short-haired breeds.

Types of Pyoderma

Pyoderma is usually classified by how deep the skin lesions are on your pet. With surface pyoderma, bacteria present at the surface of the skin will usually causes lesions. Surface pyoderma is most likely to develop in skin folds. Hot spots that often occur on dogs with heavy coats just before shedding may also be considered a type of surface pyoderma.

The next classification is superficial pyoderma in which bacteria colonize at the level of the hair follicles; you may see pus-filled bumps that turn into scabs when they burst. Impetigo, which is most likely to affect puppies housed in unsanitary environments, is a form of superficial pyoderma.

Finally, deep pyoderma is the most serious problem. Here, bacteria is present beneath the level of the hair follicles and may causes skin abscesses with inflamed spots that ooze pus. Dogs and cats that suffer from deep pyoderma may be at risk for other illnesses.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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