Treatment Options for Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Dogs What. The. Fungus?

Treatment Options for Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Dogs TercoPics /

Just like with humans, dogs are vulnerable to numerous bacterial and fungal infections, ranging from mildly irritating to life-threatening. Dogs who spend a lot of their time outdoors are especially vulnerable, however, many bacterial and fungal infections can easily be contracted regardless of environment, breed, age, location, etc.

Luckily though, there is a wide range of treatment options for both bacterial and fungal infections. The important thing when treating infections is quick identification and subsequent treatment. Otherwise, the chance of complications multiplies (the longer that treatment is delayed).

Below, we dive deep into the various treatments available for bacterial/fungal infections and take a look at some of the most common infection types that your dog might be susceptible to.

Common Fungal Infections

Systemic canine fungal infections can be contracted by your dog inhaling fungal spores, eating something that’s been infected/exposed to fungi, or having a wound that’s been exposed to spores via the environment or another animal.

Bodily fungal infections (i.e., those that aren’t systemic), such as ringworm, are typically caused by your dog coming into contact with a certain variety of fungi (through the environment or another animal).


This fungal infection is caused by environmental factors such as fresh-trimmed grass, hay, dead leaves, and/or dust particles. There are more than 100 different strains of this fungi, all of which can be found either indoors or outside. The body parts most affected by aspergillosis are the nose and the nasal sinuses (as well as the lungs in some cases).

Symptoms caused by aspergillosis include nearly anything involving the nose: discharge, sneezing, bleeding, and pain. Long-term symptoms usually take months to slowly develop and can present in the form of spinal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.


Male dogs ranging in age from two to four years old (and specifically large-breed dogs) are most at risk for becoming infected with blastomycosis. However, the fungus can infect dogs of any age/breed/gender. Dogs contract blastomycosis via the inhalation of the fungi’s spores (commonly found in decaying organic matter).

The most common symptoms present in dogs with blastomycosis are related to the respiratory system (e.g. coughing, wheezing, etc.). If the fungus develops into an advanced infection, pneumonia or other serious issues can occur. However, over 75% of all dogs treated for blastomycosis make full recoveries.


Caused by a common type of environmental yeast, cryptococcus can affect a dog’s brain, lymph nodes, eyes, and nasal system. While this fungal infection is rarer in dogs than cats, it’s still seen in veterinary clinics across the US each year.

The actual fungi are found within the environment (e.g. in the soil, on trees, grass, dirt, etc.). Dogs typically contract cryptococcus via inhalation of infected soil. There is a strong correlation between infected soil, bird droppings, and cryptococcus in dogs.

Symptoms can be varied but usually involve eye inflammation, nasal issues (discharge, pain, etc.), and neurological problems (e.g., seizures, difficulty balancing, and decreased brain function). It’s very important to catch these symptoms early in the development of the infection. Otherwise, a successful outcome isn’t likely.

Common Bacterial Infections in Dogs

If you weren’t already aware of this, we’re surrounded by bacteria (everywhere, all around us). These tiny organisms usually don’t cause any problems (for both humans and dogs). However, bacterial infections are relatively common (in both dogs and humans), and there are numerous infection types, all of which can cause a range of symptoms (from mild all the way to fatal).


This type of bacterial infection is entirely superficial, meaning that it doesn’t result in systemic symptoms. Pyoderma isn’t contagious and is commonly caused by a problem underneath the skin (e.g. a foreign body getting into a hair follicle), but it can also be caused by staph infections.

Symptoms include irritated skin/hair, which are easily treatable with a topical antifungal/bacterial solution. One of our recommended antifungal shampoo for dogs products works well against both bacterial/fungal infections found on the hair and skin of your dog. Other topical treatments include various creams, sprays, and washes. Symptoms usually take three to five weeks to clear up. Oral antibiotics are commonly used in conjunction with topical treatments.


This bacterial infection is seen across numerous types of animals (and can also be contracted by humans). The bacteria associated with leptospirosis is typically found in soil, and especially water.

If the infection is left untreated, or your dog’s immune system can’t properly manage it, leptospirosis can spread throughout the entire body and lead to severe organ problems (or similarly serious health issues - especially if the liver and/or kidneys become infected). Common symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs include the following:

  • The rapid development of fever
  • Lethargic behavior and/or noticeable muscle soreness
  • Change in attitude
  • Excessive urinary behaviors and water drinking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal issues (swelling, discharge, etc.)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing that appears out of nowhere

Fungal and Bacterial Infection Treatments for Dogs

If a dog has contracted a fungal or bacterial infection that’s more than superficial (i.e., the infection has gotten into its bodily systems), they are usually treated with specific antibiotics (or anti-fungal/bacterial infections). Sometimes, veterinarians take a multifaceted approach, especially if the dog has an advanced infection.

Whatever specific infection your dog has, it’s very important to follow the treatment plan that your vet has prescribed. Deviation from the plan could mean a resurgence of the infection or the development of additional symptoms.

The prognosis of specific infections depends on numerous variables. Generally speaking, the sooner the infection is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis will be. Superficial infections are nearly always easy to manage, but systemic/bodily infections can be more problematic.

That’s why it’s essential to take your dog to the vet if you suspect they might have an infection (no matter how minor their symptoms may appear). The longer you wait, the more chance the infection has to develop into something more serious.

Differences Between Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Dogs

There are good and bad bacteria in dogs. When the skin is clean and normal, the good bacteria come through, which prevents the bad bacteria from coming through. However, when the skin is not normal or clean, the bad bacteria are able to come through which then causes a bacterial infection.

When these bad bacteria are present in the skin, it can cause yeast or other ailments to grab hold of the skin and cause other illnesses or infections. There are three different categories of organisms that cause skin infections which include bacterial, yeast, and fungal infections. This time, we are going to discuss bacterial and fungal infections in dogs the differences between them, and how to treat them.

Bacterial Infection in Dogs

Bacterial infections are very common in dogs and horses but not so common in cats. Many bacterial infections are a secondary cause of another health problem in dogs. This other health problem is usually not clear until the dog is seen by the veterinarian. The symptoms of a bacterial infection include redness of the skin, crusts, hair loss, and pustules. Lesions may also occur, and there may be a central area of hair loss, crusts, and an outline of redness. The lesions are mostly circular. There may also be a bad odor caused by the bacteria in the skin breaking down oils into smelly fats.

The treatment for a bacterial infection includes antibiotics and sometimes topical creams or lotions with antiseptic in them, and more importantly, the unknown health problem diagnosed and treated to prevent any further infection.

Fungal Infection in Dogs

A fungal infection is usually uncommon and rare in dogs but can still happen to them. It is not the cause of itchiness or redness and does not happen because of allergies. Although most fungal infections are rare, one that is more common in dogs and can be contagious to human beings is ringworm. Ringworm is an infection of the top layers of the skin that are dead. It can also become an infection of the hair follicles.

Treating Bacterial Infection in Dogs

Once you think your dog has a bacterial infection, you will need to take him or her to the vet right away to get treated. They will first run tests to determine the cause of the bacterial infection. Once they find out what the cause is, they will treat it and the bacterial infection with antibiotics. In more severe cases of this infection in dogs, they may provide your beloved family dog with IV fluids to replace the fluids he or she lost if they became dehydrated from the infection.

Your vet may also recommend treating bacterial infections using Clavamox for dogs. Vets may prescribe Simplicef tabs for dogs to treat certain types of wounds and infections.

The main cause of bacterial infection in dogs is feces, undercooked meat, dairy, and even contaminated water. Your dog is more at risk for bacterial infection if you got him or her from a shelter or if he or she was in a boarding kennel with other dogs. If you notice your dog vomiting, suffering from diarrhea, having a fever, lethargic, and cranky from not feeling well, he or she may have a bacterial infection and will need to be treated by a vet immediately.

Treating Fungal Infection in Dogs

Ringworm and yeast infections are the two most common fungal infections dogs can suffer from. Ringworm symptoms include flaking, itching, or crusting skin, hair loss, and brittle and misshapen nails. Once you notice these symptoms occurring in your dog, he or she will need to be taken to the vet right away. This is because the fungus can spread to other animals in the house rather quickly.

Once you get your dog to the vet, they will take a hair and skin culture to test for ringworm. Depending on how severe the ringworm is, he or she may be given medicated baths and antifungal medications they will need to take orally, and cleaning and vacuuming your home will prevent your other animals from getting the infection.

Once you determine whether your dog has a bacterial infection or a fungal infection, you will need to seek professional medication treatment for them right away. Not only will it make them feel better, and you feel better, but it will help prevent other pets in the house from getting sick. You should also take preventive measures to avoid your dog getting one or both of these infections again or at all.

How do you get rid of bacterial and fungal infections in dogs?

Treating bacterial and fungal infections in dogs usually requires a combination of care and drugs. It's crucial to first speak with a veterinarian who can identify the nature of the infection and suggest the best course of action. The vet frequently recommends antibiotics for bacterial illnesses and antifungal drugs for fungal infections. You should administer these medications exactly as directed by the vet, even if the dog's symptoms seem to be improving. In addition to medication, it's crucial to provide proper care for the dog to help boost its immune system and speed up the healing process. This includes maintaining good hygiene, such as regularly bathing the dog with a mild antifungal shampoo, cleaning any wounds or skin lesions, and providing a healthy diet with necessary supplements. Further, you should keep the dog's living environment clean and dry, as damp conditions can encourage fungal growth.

What is the best treatment for fungal infection in dogs?

The best course of treatment for a dog fungal infection will depend on the kind of infection and the severity of the symptoms. To effectively cure the infection, the veterinarian may suggest a regiment of drugs and care. Dogs with fungal infections are frequently treated with antifungal medications. These drugs are often administered based on the severity of the infection and are available in a variety of forms, including topical creams, shampoos, oral tablets, and injections. Ketoconazole, Fluconazole, and Itraconazole are three effective oral antifungal drugs. They are frequently administered to treat the body's widespread systemic fungal infections. Topical antifungal creams and shampoos are effective treatments for localized fungal skin infections. The veterinarian could advise a mix of oral and topical therapies in severe situations. Care is just as important as medicine in the treatment of canine fungal infections. Regular washing with a gentle antifungal shampoo is part of this to help eliminate fungal spores from the skin and stop the spread of illness. Additionally, it's critical to practice excellent hygiene, which includes keeping the dog's living space tidy and dry and limiting exposure to wet or muggy environments. In the end, the best treatment for a fungal infection in dogs would be a combination of medication and care prescribed by a veterinarian.

Is fungal infection painful for dogs?

Pain felt by dogs from fungal infections depends largely on the extent and location of the infection. Fungal infections frequently result in skin irritation, itching, and inflammation, which can make the dog uncomfortable or even hurt. The affected region may be scratched or bit by the dog, which could cause further itchiness and even skin injury. Dogs may also experience pain and discomfort from fungus infections that affect their ears, eyes, or respiratory systems. Dogs who have fungal infections may not always experience pain; others may only exhibit minor signs or none at all. If you think your dog may have a fungal infection, you should see a vet right away to find out what kind and how bad it is and to get the right treatment to take care of any pain or discomfort the dog may be experiencing. 

How does a dog get a bacterial infection?

Dogs can get bacterial infections in a number of ways. Bacteria are all around us, and some of them are harmless, while others can cause infections. Dogs can get bacterial infections from contact with other infected animals, including other dogs, cats, and wild animals. They can also pick up bacteria from contaminated soil, water, or food. Further, they can be infected from exposure to feces or urine from infected animals. In addition, bacteria can enter the dog's body through open wounds, cuts, or bites from other animals or through insect bites, such as from ticks or fleas. Poor hygiene and weakened immune systems can also make dogs more vulnerable to bacterial infections. 

What can I feed my dog with a bacterial infection?

You should feed your dog nutritious food that supports their immune system and encourages recovery if they have a bacterial infection. Your dog's immune system can benefit from a diet that is strong in protein and low in carbs, as well as from the nutrients needed for their recuperation. It's crucial to refrain from giving your dog foods that may serve to exacerbate the illness, including grains or fillers. Consider giving your dog a high-quality, balanced food that includes veggies like green beans, broccoli, or carrots, as well as lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, or fish. Probiotics, vitamins, and mineral supplements can also assist your dog's immune system and encourage recovery.

How do I know if my dog has a bacterial or fungal infection?

Determining whether your dog has a bacterial or fungal infection requires a veterinary examination and diagnostic testing. However, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with each type of infection that you can look out for. Bacterial skin infections in dogs can cause redness, inflammation, itchiness, and pustules or sores. Bacterial ear infections are common in dogs, especially those with floppy ears. Signs may include head shaking, scratching at the ears, redness or swelling of the ear canal, odor, discharge, and pain. Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in dogs may include frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, accidents in the house, and licking of the genital area. Bacterial respiratory infections in dogs can cause coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge (clear, yellow, or green), lethargy, and fever. On the other hand, fungal skin infections, like ringworm, can cause circular patches of hair loss, redness, scaling, and itchiness on the skin. The affected areas may appear crusty or inflamed. Some fungal organisms can also cause ear infections in dogs, with symptoms similar to bacterial ear infections, including head shaking, scratching at the ears, redness or swelling of the ear canal, odor, discharge, and pain. Certain fungal infections like blastomycosis or histoplasmosis can affect the respiratory system in dogs, leading to symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, and lethargy.

How do you treat fungal and bacterial infections?

Treatment for fungal and bacterial infections in dogs varies depending on the specific type of infection and its severity. Bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. The choice of antibiotic will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection and its sensitivity to different medications. Antibiotics can be administered orally, topically (as ointments or sprays for skin infections), or intravenously in more severe cases. For localized bacterial skin infections, topical antiseptic solutions, medicated shampoos, or topical antibiotics may be prescribed to help clear up the infection and reduce inflammation. Bacterial ear infections often require cleaning of the ear canal followed by the administration of topical or systemic antibiotics to address the infection. Your vet may also recommend ear drops or solutions to help clear the infection and soothe inflammation. On the other hand, fungal infections are treated with antifungal medications. The specific medication prescribed will depend on the type of fungus involved and the severity of the infection. Antifungal medications may be administered orally, topically (as creams, ointments, or shampoos), or intravenously. For localized fungal skin infections, topical antifungal creams, ointments, or shampoos may be prescribed to apply directly to the affected areas. For fungal infections like ringworm, thorough cleaning and disinfection of your dog's living environment may be necessary to prevent re-infection.

What happens if fungal infection is left untreated in dogs?

Fungal infections can spread to other areas of the body if left untreated, leading to more extensive skin involvement, secondary infections, or systemic fungal disease. Untreated fungal skin infections like ringworm can become chronic and result in persistent irritation, inflammation, hair loss, and discomfort for the dog. Fungal infections can weaken the skin's natural defenses, making it more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. These secondary infections can exacerbate the dog's symptoms and require additional treatment. In severe cases, certain fungal infections can become systemic, spreading throughout the body. Systemic fungal diseases like blastomycosis or histoplasmosis can affect multiple organs and tissues and may be life-threatening if left untreated. Chronic or systemic fungal infections can stress the dog's immune system, potentially leading to immune suppression or other complications. Fungal infections can cause discomfort, itching, pain, and irritation for the affected dog, impacting their quality of life and overall well-being. Some fungal infections that affect dogs can be transmitted to humans, especially in households with immunocompromised individuals. Untreated fungal infections in dogs can increase the risk of zoonotic transmission to humans.

What is a homemade antifungal treatment for dogs?

While homemade remedies can sometimes relieve minor skin issues, it's essential to use them cautiously and consult a veterinarian before applying any homemade antifungal treatments to your dog. A homemade antifungal solution for dogs can be made by combining 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of organic, raw apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of fresh lemon juice, and 20 drops of peppermint essential oil in a large container or bucket. Adding 1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil can provide additional soothing benefits. Before application, gently clean the affected area with mild soap and water, then pat it dry with a clean towel. Apply the homemade antifungal solution to the affected area on your dog's skin using a clean cloth or sponge, avoiding the head and eye area to prevent irritation. Allow the solution to air dry on your dog's skin, avoiding rinsing it off, as the apple cider vinegar and lemon juice can continue to provide antifungal benefits. Repeat the application once or twice daily as needed or as your veterinarian recommends. 

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