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Summary: In this blog, we learn all about bacterial folliculitis in dogs, what causes folliculitis in dogs, the signs to look for and how to help treat your dog with folliculitis…
Folliculitis is one of the most common skin conditions that pups can get. Folliculitis occurs when a hair follicle becomes inflamed and is usually triggered by a bacterial infection. Although folliculitis is not an emergency, folliculitis does require a trip to the vet so they can give you the right medication to get this sorted.
It’s best to treat folliculitis early, because if it develops into a chronic condition it can become harder to treat. Folliculitis can affect any dog breed, but short-coated breeds tend to be more affected. Breeds that are more prone to general skin conditions and allergies, such as Boston Terriers, also have a higher risk of developing folliculitis.
Initially, folliculitis looks like small red bumps around the base of your pups hairs. These bumps often progress to become pustules, which look more like a blister and can contain pus under the skin. Later, the skin can become darker around the hair follicle and your pup might experience some hair loss and scaly skin. Folliculitis most commonly affects the abdomen and groin.
The signs of folliculitis in dogs include:
If you suspect that your pup has folliculitis, you need to take them to the vet so they can diagnose your pup properly. They may want to do a couple of tests to make sure that there isn’t anything else that could be causing your pups red, inflamed skin. This may include swabbing their skin to look for bacteria or yeast and they may even want to test via a blood/urine sample, do skin cytology, a skin scrape or a skin biopsy in severe cases.
Folliculitis occurs in a dog when a hair follicle becomes irritated or damaged – most commonly, folliculitis happens because of a bacterial infection within the hair follicle. However, fungal infections, trauma to the skin, parasitic infestations (like fleas or mites) and systemic diseases can also trigger cases of folliculitis.
Bacterial folliculitis is the most common type of folliculitis. In mild cases, your pup may be prescribed a medicated shampoo that contains chlorhexidine to get rid of the infection. In more serious cases, your pup might need a course of oral antibiotics. Similarly, fungal folliculitis will require a course of anti-fungal medicine. If the folliculitis is being caused by a parasitic infestation, they will be prescribed medication to kill the parasites.
It’s important that you seek treatment for your pup because folliculitis is a really uncomfortable condition and early treatment will give your pup the best chance of making a full recovery.
If your pup is really itchy, your vet may also suggest additional ointments, sprays or medicated shampoos to help relieve the inflammation and soreness. Most pups feel a lot better within a week or two of treatment, but if your pup's symptoms do not resolve then you should get back in touch with your vet.
Folliculitis can’t always be prevented, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of your pup getting a skin infection like this.
Keeping your pup's coat and skin in good condition by using omega-3 supplements like salmon oil in their diet can help to protect their skin against bacterial or fungal infections. Flaky skin can make your pup really itchy and when they scratch they can break their skin barrier which leaves them vulnerable to infections.
Regular brushing and baths with a moisturizing shampoo containing oatmeal or aloe vera can help to keep their skin nourished and clean. Systemic conditions like Cushing’s disease and hyperthyroidism can also sometimes lead to folliculitis, so it’s important to keep an eye on your pup for any signs of ill-health.
Preventative parasitic treatment can help prevent folliculitis caused by mites and fleas. Regular flea, worm and tick control is an absolutely vital part of your pups healthcare plan. Parasitic infections are uncomfortable and can transmit serious life-threatening diseases so it’s important to stay on top of this. So, if your pup is not already receiving regular parasite control, we recommend that you book an appointment with your vet to discuss your options.
Preventative treatments come in tablet form, injection (administered by the vet) or an oily substance that you apply to the back of their neck. These treatments are usually required every few weeks depending on which brand you use., All these anti-parasite treatments will kill any existing parasites and, when used regularly, will prevent future infections that could trigger another episode of folliculitis.
If you have a wrinkly breed like a Shar Pei, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pug, Bloodhound etc., keeping their skin folds clean and fresh can help prevent a range of skin conditions, including folliculitis. Use a warm cloth to gently brush in, around and beneath their folds to help dislodge any debris or bacteria on a daily basis. If they are prone to infections between their skin folds, you could also use a chlorhexidine wipe to kill microbes and keep the area extra clean.
Thankfully, most types of folliculitis are not contagious to humans or other pets. However, if your pup has a fungal infection like ringworm that has caused their folliculitis then this can be transmitted to other pups and humans, so you should take care not to touch the affected area unless you are wearing gloves.