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 also 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 part most affected by aspergillosis is 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.), 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 as well as 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:
- Rapid development of fever
- Lethargic behavior and/or noticeable muscle soreness
- Change in attitude
- Excessive urinary behaviors and water drinking
- 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.