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5175 Pacific St., Ste B
Rocklin, CA 95677

(916) 632-2400

Dermatology 101

Bacterial Skin Infections

Mary Sakai

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If your pet develops a bacterial skin infection, it is most likely an indication of any underlying dermatological problem.  Dogs and cats develop bacterial skin infections as a result of other disease processes affecting the skin itself.  Diagnosing and treating skin infections is an important step in making sure that your pet’s skin disease is appropriately managed.  Having the veterinarian obtain samples from the skin for cytology (microscopic examination) is imperative.  Just because your pet is crusty, bumpy, and smelly does not always mean they are infected.  Cytology will determine whether your pet truly has a skin infection.  If your pet is diagnosed with a bacterial skin infection…have no fear, we are here to help you!

For treatment of a bacterial skin infection, your pet may be prescribed oral antibiotics and it is often recommended to use topical antimicrobial treatments as well.  It is crucial to always complete the prescribed course of antibiotics.  Incomplete courses or frequent courses of oral antibiotics are known risk factors for development of antibiotic resistance.

Topical therapies are just as important, as we can sometimes resolve bacterial skin infections without the need for systemic antibiotic therapy.  Medicated shampoos, sprays, mousses, and wipes are all variants of topical therapies.  We know that applying topical therapies and performing frequent bathing can be daunting and time consuming, but diligent topical therapy can allow resolution of skin infections without use of systemic antimicrobial therapy.  If we can use systemic antibiotics less frequently we have less chance of developing antibiotic resistant infections.

Another important piece of information lies in the fact that bacterial skin infections are really just another symptom of an underlying disease process affecting the skin.  Some of the most common diseases that predispose to development of skin infections are flea allergy dermatitis, environmental allergies, food allergies, yeast allergy, or endocrine/hormonal diseases.  Bacterial skin infections in your pet will continue to be a recurrent problem until the underlying disease process has been diagnosed and managed.

Many clients often wonder why their pet’s skin infection needs to be rechecked.  Clients often say, “my pet’s skin lesions are gone so why do I need to come back in?”  Just because you as a layperson don’t see any lesions does not mean that the veterinarian can’t find any.  Many times, there may still be some subtle remaining skin lesions present that were not noticed at home(especially in our dogs and cats with very thick or long coats).  It is very important that pets are seen for their recheck exams so the veterinarian can confirm the infection is completely cleared.  Once the bacterial skin infection is cleared, then we can tackle the most important task at hand - diagnosing the underlying dermatological disease and managing your pet’s skin condition to prevent further recurrence of bacterial skin infections.