Nothing can be more disturbing to a pet owner than to see his or her dog suffering in pain due to sickness. Although there are a variety of canine illnesses, skin infections are quite common.
Usually, these infections are as a result of untidy environment or poor grooming. For instance, one of the most common canine diseases that can affect the skin of your dog is folliculitis.
What is folliculitis?
- What is folliculitis?
- Causes in dogs
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infection
- Parasitic infection
- Symptoms of canine folliculitis
- Diagnosis of canine folliculitis
- Treatment options for canine folliculitis
- Antimicrobial shampoo
- Topical antibacterial treatment
- Systemic therapy
- Treat any underlying disease condition
- Home remedies
Folliculitis is a disease condition characterized by the inflammation of hair follicles in the skin of a dog.
It is majorly caused by bacteria or fungi. However, there may also be other rare but possible causes. In this regard, the presence of an underlying skin disorder may play a major role in the development of folliculitis.
Folliculitis can also signal that your dog’s immune system is incompetent. Therefore, prompt treatment for your dog to restore his or her health before other conditions set in s necessary.
Causes in dogs
There are three major causes of folliculitis.
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- Parasitic infections
Animal wellness magazine points out that bacterial infection is by far the most common cause of folliculitis in dogs.
Staphylococcus aureus is the commonest bacteria associated with folliculitis. Usually, bacterial folliculitis occurs secondary to skin diseases commonly referred to as pyoderma.
Pyoderma is simply pus-forming skin infection and has a myriad of causes such as allergies, seborrhea dermatitis, mange or scabies.
These skin conditions provide an environment conducive for the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. Ideally, the hair follicles become invaded if the skin is broken.
This bacterium can be spread by flies which introduce them to the skin of an infected dog.
Ringworm infection, commonly called dermatophytosis, is the major fungal infection causing folliculitis.
Conveniently, fungal infections are often cleared by the immune system of adult dogs. Puppies, on the other hand, have a weaker immune system. Hence dermatophytosis is more common in puppies.
However, when adult dogs are subjected to extreme exposure to ringworms, they can as well get folliculitis from fungal infection.
Ectoparasites are parasites found on the surface of a skin. Most parasites are normal flora – that is – they naturally exist on the skin of dogs.
Although normal flora may not cause infections in dogs, they can proliferate and become harmful if the immune system of the dog is compromised by disease or therapeutic agents.
The most common parasite causing folliculitis in dogs is Demodex canis which causes the condition called demodectic mange.
Other factors that predispose a dog to folliculitis
- Hormonal imbalances
- Traumatic skin injuries
- Hypersensitive reactions/allergies
Symptoms of canine folliculitis
The most affected areas are the armpits, groin, and abdomen which are often softer than other parts of the body.
There are a variety of symptoms to look for in folliculitis. However, their identification depends on the severity of the disease or the length of skin hairs of your dog.
- Clumps of raised hair projecting above the skin surface are more common in dogs with short hairs.
- Dogs with long hair, on the other hand, may experience hair loss through shedding, and the skin may appear dull or scaly. However, the symptoms may be initially difficult to identify.
- Red or brown stains are more prominent in dogs with brightly colored coats.
- Lesions that are spread in the abdomen, groin, and armpits, usually accompanied by scaly appearance, pimples and crusts are also common.
- Pustules are common in severe infections. They can become large with a lot of pus.
Diagnosis of canine folliculitis
Try to identify symptoms of folliculitis
The aforementioned symptoms may inform you that the health of your dog is compromised. Check for pimples, unprecedented loss of hair, swellings and redness on the abdomen, groin, and armpits. You can also notice if your dog is constantly feeling itchy by observing how he or she behaves.
Report to your veterinary officer
These symptoms may be related to a variety of skin infections. You should, therefore, seek help from a qualified veterinary officer to accurately diagnose the disease.
The veterinarian will take the history of your dog’s health by asking you questions about the onset of the symptoms and any previous medications you have administered.
He/she will then do a physical exam and order for blood tests from the laboratory to confirm the organism causing the disease.
In the lab, the technicians will also take samples of skin scraping to observe for infection under a microscope. Skin cytology may also be done depending on the availability of test devices.
Another procedure that can be also performed is culture for bacteria and fungi. This may be confirmatory for how successful the treatment plan will be.
Treatment options for canine folliculitis
The following are treatment options that can help you manage folliculitis in your dog.
This medical shampoo can help in management and treatment of folliculitis. It functions by washing away solid debris from the infected area and acting as an antimicrobial agent to prevent bacterial colonization of the infected area.
How to use it
Read the instructions as directed by the manufacturer or by your veterinary officer. It is mostly applied directly to the coat of an infected dog and allowed to rest for about 10 minutes.
You can repeat this procedure till the dog is fully cured and the disease clears off. It is appropriate for use for an infection that has spread throughout a large section of the dog’s coat.
Topical antibacterial treatment
Topical medications exist in different formulations. You can have lotions, cream, ointments, gels or sprays.
How to use
They are useful for localized infections that have not already spread. If the infection has spread, they are often used in combination with the antimicrobial shampoo.
The veterinarian will in most cases instruct you on the dosage and frequency of applying the topical treatment.
Sometimes topical therapy may not be sufficient to fully eliminate the disease. In such situations, the veterinary officer prescribes orally administered medication.
The medications are mostly antibiotics that always come in handy after the infection has spread. However, depending on the outcome of the lab report, antifungal agents may be administered if the infection is caused by fungi.
This treatment plan is effective and can last for about three to six weeks.
How to use
Never stop treatment even if the symptoms end before the dosages are completed. For the infection to be eliminated completely, treatment is continued, even after the symptoms stop, for an additional one week.
It is important not to rely exclusively on antibiotics because there is a possibility that resistant strains of the causative bacteria may develop.
Therefore, mild infections should not always be treated with orally administered antibiotics. Nevertheless, you can always consult with your veterinarian about the course of treatment that you should take.
Treat any underlying disease condition
Folliculitis sometimes may be associated with an underlying skin disorder or an immune system disorder.
As aforementioned in the previous paragraphs on causes of folliculitis, you may have to stop giving your dog the foods that may cause allergic reactions.
You may also need to control parasites like fleas that may predispose your dog to skin infections.
Autoimmune disorders can be managed medically depending on the type and severity. Your veterinarian will inform you on how you should go about the treatment for your dog.
These may not be the only examples of underlying disorders that might cause folliculitis. Nonetheless, the course of treatment and management depends on the specific issues affecting the health of your lovely pet.
It may be tempting and cheap to treat your dog with home remedies. However, you should consult your veterinary officer and obtain expert insights on how best you can manage and ease the symptoms.
Natural remedies are not often safe. You may subject your dog to unnecessary overdose which could ultimately complicate or worsen the situation. This is seen especially in cases where folliculitis has been caused by an underlying disease condition.
In this case, you may be managing folliculitis without treating the underlying cause. Consequently, the disease will keep on recurring and eventually your dog may succumb to death.
Always ensure that your veterinarian approves your choice of medication. Here are some home remedies that can help in the management of folliculitis.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is applied directly to the infected skin to ease the irritation on that are. The soothing effect makes your dog feel better and calm.
You should, however, find a way of preventing your dog from licking the applied oil. Excessive consumption of fat may cause severe diarrhea or precipitate pancreatitis in your dog
- Wet tea bags
Tea naturally has compounds that reduce itching thereby causing a soothing effect on the skin. Wet tea bags are applied to the affected area of skin and held in place firmly.
You can do this efficiently while petting or brushing the hairs of your dog for as long as it takes. Though, you should not apply the wet tea bags for less than five minutes.
- Witch hazel
This compound from the leaves of witch-hazel shrub found in North America should be applied lightly on the affected area. For commercial use, it is made of alcohol and therefore is not very appropriate. When applied without caution, the alcohol content may irritate the skin and cause further damage.
It is however useful in protecting the skin when applied correctly and in the right amounts.
Herbs such as nettles and chamomile have anti-inflammatory effects that may help in reducing itchiness.
Just like any other disease affecting dogs, folliculitis can be prevented to eliminate any possibility of occurrence.
Here are some of the preventive measures that you can apply.
Maintain a clean environment for your dog
Dirty environments can harbor dangerous vectors for skin disease. Pathogens are easily transported by insects such as flies, or parasites such as fleas.
Clean your dog’s environment on a daily basis and notice the change it brings to the health of your dog.
Wash and groom your dog
You can always brush your dog’s hair to make it neat and wash the coat to prevent colonization by fleas or bacteria, fungi, and other parasites.
Include nutritional supplements to your dog’s diet
A good diet is the key to a healthy life for your dog. Do not feed your dog solely on human food. You can buy nutritious supplements from the store or inquire from your veterinarian the appropriate supplements to buy.
This method is very important especially in preventing folliculitis caused by food allergies. Ensure that you settle on a type of supplement that will not elicit hypersensitivity or allergic reactions in your dog.
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most important nutritional supplements required by your dog. It is mostly sold as fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids help by increasing the natural capacity to activate the anti-inflammatory effect.
This will prevent the unnecessary occurrence of inflammatory diseases in your dog.
Consider using dog probiotics
Probiotics increase the good bacteria in the body of your dog. These good bacteria help in:
- Priming the immune system to make it ready to fight any infection caused by harmful bacteria.
- They compete with harmful bacteria for nutrients leading to their starvation and death.
- They also colonize the internal body surfaces that could be otherwise colonized by harmful bacteria. In this regard, they facilitate rapid elimination of harmful bacteria.
Probiotics do not necessarily protect the skin of your dog, but they play a major role in reducing the bacterial load in the event of an infection caused by certain harmful bacteria.
Is folliculitis contagious?
Folliculitis may be transmitted through close skin contact and sharp objects which may transmit the infectious agent from the infected dog to a human.
The disease may develop quickly if the infected human is having a compromised immune system.
However, most folliculitis is not easily contagious, except those caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi or parasites. The bacteria, staphylococcus aureus, can be transferred from animals to humans in and vice versa. Hence, infection from pets is very much possible particularly with the Methicilin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
What is the difference between folliculitis and ingrown hair in dogs?
There are significant differences between folliculitis and ingrown hair:
Ingrown hair is hair that is entrapped within the sheath of the hair follicle. It continues to grow without possible emerging out from the skin surface.
Folliculitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation of hair follicles usually caused by bacterial infection.
Difference in treatment
Ingrown hairs may just be left to resolve on their own. Treatment is only necessary if it has been infected. Once infected, the condition is henceforth not called ingrown hair but folliculitis.
Folliculitis, on the other hand, is an infection and should not be left to resolve on its own. It should be treated with oral antibiotics, shampoo or topical medications
- Difference in the causes
Folliculitis is caused by bacteria, fungal infection, parasitic infection, allergic reactions and/or immune system disorders.
Predisposing factors to ingrown hairs include; shaving, over bathing your dog or applying improper grooming techniques for your dog.
Folliculitis is a very uncomfortable disease for dogs. Luckily, the prognosis is good and the treatment options are effective. You should always monitor the health of your dog by checking the coat during grooming and feeding him or her well.
If you notice any changes in the coat of your dog that appear strange and harmful, report to your veterinary officer immediately and seek prompt treatment for your dog.
Folliculitis is a common disease for dogs and your veterinary officer is certainly experienced in handling cases of this disease.
You may also consider making a diagnosis by yourself and administering hhome-basedtreatment but this may not be effective depending on the etiology of the disease. It is expedient to always consult a professional so that you may not complicate or worsen the situation.
Loeffler A, Lloyd DH. Companion animals; a reservoir for methicilin-resitant staphylococcus aureus in the community? Epidemiol infect, 2010