If an animal is suffering from a bacterial skin infection that involves only the outer layers of the skin, it is often said to have a superficial pyoderma. These infections are quite common and typically develop after the skin's normal protective barriers have been broken down by another condition such as an allergy, prolonged dampness, or trauma. Both dogs and cats can develop superficial pyodermas.
A pet that has a superficial pyoderma is itchy and can develop scaly skin, hair loss, and lesions on the surface of the skin that may drain pus. A veterinarian will diagnose the presence of a bacterial skin infection by asking questions about the animal's life and clinical signs at home, performing a thorough physical exam, and looking at a sample of material taken from the skin's surface underneath the microscope. Because superficial pyodermas frequently develop as a result of other health disorders, additional tests may also be necessary. If the skin fails to improve with treatment, culturing the responsible bacteria and testing them against various antibiotics is frequently recommended.
Bacterial skin infections can be treated using medicated baths and rinses and systemic antibiotics. Therapy needs to continue for at least three weeks and sometimes even longer, depending on the severity of the disease. A good rule of thumb is that treatment should continue for at least a week after all symptoms of a superficial pyoderma disappear. Most skin infections resolve as expected with appropriate treatment, but underlying disorders that may have predisposed the pet to developing the condition need to be addressed or it is likely to return.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008