Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. It can present as very itchy skin, sores, scabs, and open pustules. It makes dogs miserable and is typically resulting from an underlying infection that has moved to the hair follicles. A veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose the cause.
Most of the time, the culprit is yeast overgrowth on the skin or it could be a result of mange. There are also some more rare skin conditions which could be the cause.
Symptoms of folliculitis will include:
- Clumping of the hair in short breed dogs
- Scaly skin, dull coat, shedding very heavily
- Pimples or pustules with hairs growing out of them
- Boils and pustules on the skin and crusting of open sores
Once you have identified there may an issue, you should make an appointment to see your vet to get tested and determine the exact cause of the folliculitis. You will probably be prescribed a shampoo that will help clear the issue and antibiotics may also be prescribed.
Infections, to be clear, are always a dangerous thing. Infections can spread and cause other issues. Infections can spread to internal organs and shut them down. Infections can wreak havoc on the immune system, compromising your dog’s overall health.
Once an infection is suspected, seeking professional help is absolutely critical to clearing this up as quickly as possible. As soon as your dog begins treatment for folliculitis, you will notice that the itching dramatically improves and they are happier.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The veterinarian will typically take a scraping of the skin to have it tested under a microscope. This will help identify the exact skin issue. Mites are visible under the microscope. If the issue is bacterial or staphylococcal, will determine the treatment method. It may also tell the vet there is another underlying issue, perhaps internal, that needs to be addressed.
Bacterial infections are typically the cause of this particular skin condition, but sometimes a staph infection happens due to mange or other skin condition that turns into an infection. Staph infections are very dangerous because they can easily be spread to other animals and even to people. Staph is very contagious through contact and touching anything the infected animal has touched.
All of the dog’s bedding should be washed and any of the blankets in the house where the dog has been known to lay down and sleep. After applying medications and covering the skin of the dog with bandages, you should wash your hands and arms thoroughly.
Another form of folliculitis is fungal folliculitis. This is generally caused by ringworm. Ringworm isn’t really caused by a worm, it is a fungal infection and it can spread to the hair follicles and infect them. Ringworm is spread by the dog’s feet but can be found on the front legs, the ears, the head, and even the paws.
Allergies can potentially be the underlying issue which gets the skin condition started. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to this issue, such as Boxers, Labrador retrievers, Dobermans, Standard poodles and more. ANY dog can get this skin infection though.
Clearing the Folliculitis Infection
Some vets will prescribe medicated ointments which you will apply topically to the affected areas. In cases where the infection is quite bad, you may even be advised to give twice per day baths to your dog with a specially formulated shampoo that will clear the infection.
Oral antibiotics can be prescribed in addition to the other treatments and may be in conjunction with medicated shampoos and topical treatments.
If there is an underlying issue that has caused the infection, your veterinarian will also take the necessary course of action to treat this issue as well. It really is important to identify the source of an infection so that you can prevent it from coming back.
Infections that are not cleared entirely will often come back with a vengeance. Antibiotics have a difficult time the second time because infections become resistant to them, such as the case with MRSA.
You must be very careful to follow the directions of your veterinarian in order to rid your dog of the infection once and for all.
Preventing This Condition In the First Place
Using an antimicrobial shampoo on your dog will help rid them of debris and bacteria that can cause fungal infections. Be diligent to bathe them regularly after playing in dog parks and places where other dogs may spread germs and infections unknowingly.
Some dogs may carry mites, bacteria and fungal infections on their skin without any outward symptoms.
Don’t skip yearly exams. These give your doctor a chance to examine your dogs itching skin and determine problems before they become a big problem. If there is an underlying issue, your doctor can catch it before it becomes a bigger problem and treat it accordingly.
Your veterinarian can also give you tips for avoiding reoccurrences of infections.
Natural Remedies that can Ward Off Bacterial Infections
Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial and can be applied topically to your dog’s skin and it helps to keep the skin and coat healthy, shining, and bacteria free. Coconut oil also smells very pleasant and if your dog licks at it, it won’t hurt a thing. Coconut oil is rich in omega fatty acids and also soothes and relieves irritated skin. One application of coconut oil can give them a great deal of relief from itching.
Supplement your dog’s diet with omega-3 oils and probiotics. Giving them a tablespoon of plain, Greek yogurt on top of their dog food is a fantastic treat and helps to replace their probiotics in the stomach, keeping their immune system working top notch.
Blueberries are a good antioxidant which boosts the immune system. Any good antioxidant that your dog likes will be a nice addition to their diet on occasion to keep them fit and healthy. Remember that the best way to stay healthy is to eat well and get exercise. This applies to your dog as well.
Colloidal silver is a spray that you can apply directly to their hotspots and red areas. It works as an antiseptic and antifungal as well. It is harmless to them and if they lick it there is nothing wrong with ingesting it either. Colloidal silver can kill single-cell organisms, which even antibiotics cannot do.
Tea bags can be applied directly to itchy bites and wounds. It will relieve the itch very quickly and helps to draw impurites and infection from teh skin. Hold the bag in place for a few minutes and then discard.
Witch hazel is an astringent that may sting when applied. Some prefer using it in cases of skin acne as it clears this up quickly but be advised it could sting from your dog’s perspective.
You should discuss natural remedies with your veterinarian because not all of them are safe and not all of them are comfortable for your dog. You want to keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible while clearing up his skin condition and any underlying medical problems that may be in play.
Most veterinarians truly understand why people want to use natural remedies and will often applaud you in staying with natural remedies when possible. Sometimes, they will also tell you that your dog’s condition is in need of more medical help them natural remedies can give. Listen to them and know they have your pet’s best interest in mind.
Whether you use sprays or ointments may be up to you and some of the treatments will be available in either form. Antibiotics, if necessary, must be used until they are all gone. Stopping them prematurely can result in the infection coming back even stronger than it was the first time. You must get rid of all of it.
Work in conjunction with the doctor to make sure that your dog is getting the best chance and clearing the infection and prevent it from coming back. Aside from itching, your dog is suffering from burning and stinging sores. His quality of life is poor because he doesn’t feel good and is always preoccupied with the itching. Some dogs will become lethargic and depressed.
Getting them the treatment that works will give them back their energy and their happiness. They can’t tell you when they are miserable. Watch the signs and pay attention to chronic scratching, whining, and whimpering. This is the only way they can tell you they aren’t feeling right.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.