Folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicles due to the Staphylococcus bacteria. The condition can also be caused by a fungal or a parasitic infection. More often than not, it is a symptom of an undisclosed skin or immune system disorder.
People and animals are both susceptible to this kind of skin condition. The only difference is that it’s more difficult to spot when an animal is sick or in pain because they can’t speak. Find out how you can help a dog when you suspect that he has folliculitis.
Causes of Folliculitis in Dogs
There are many possible causes of folliculitis yet that the three most common causes of it in canines are the following:
- Bacterial Pyoderma
- Bacterial pyoderma
Most of the time, dogs are at risk of a skin infection because of bacteria. A dog may suffer from this type of inflammation because yeast or bacteria got into his follicles.
Bacterial skin infections are likely to occur in dogs with underlying problems of the skin or the immune system. When the immune system starts to decline, it becomes more difficult to ward off infections.
The organisms can spread due to the fleas and parasites in the infected area. It is important to keep them at bay in order to prevent the infection from getting worse. Once the bacteria reaches the deeper layers of the skin, it can become very itchy and can start to irritate your dog.
Ectoparasite, the same kind of parasite that causes Demodex canis, can also cause this skin inflammation. In the case of puppies, they can be an easy target to these organisms because their immune systems are not fully equipped to handle parasites very well.
These microscopic organisms naturally thrive in a dog’s skin and don’t really cause any issue. The ectoparasite survives in the hair follicle of adult dogs. However, problems start when those bacteria enter the skin through small wounds as well as weak areas on the skin.
Dermatophytes or ringworms can also mediate fungal folliculitis. The fungal agents in the environment can also easily infect young dogs. The pathogenic fungus often thrives not just on the skin but also on the hair, nails, and mucous membranes.
Aside from these three, folliculitis can be just a secondary symptom to other skin infections. A superficial bacterial folliculitis refers to folliculitis that occurs as a symptom of another disorder. When your dog is suffering from skin diseases such as mange and allergies, he could also develop a superficial bacterial folliculitis.
Symptoms of Folliculitis in Dogs
It will start with a ceaseless itching anywhere on the body but the condition mostly occurs on the abdomen and groin area. In some dogs, the itchiness can appear on the armpit or in the eye area. The itchiness is followed by small bumps that look like small pimples.
When untreated, the small bumps can turn to large boils accompanied by pus. Aside from pustules and itching, here are other symptoms of folliculitis to watch out for:
- Alopecia (Hair loss)
- Scales and crusty skin
Folliculitis is often mistaken for mange. These two skin problems display similar symptoms and the only way to differentiate them is by performing a skin scraping or cytology. Mange only requires topical ointment while folliculitis needs oral antibiotics since it is already a bacterial infection.
Folliculitis on Specific Dog Breeds
Certain dog breeds are more prone to folliculitis than the others. There are types of folliculitis that only affect a particular breed.
The Schnauzer Comedo Syndrome, for instance, is a type of folliculitis that affects Miniature Schnauzers. This is usually characterized by pimples or blackheads that look like warts. It occurs on the back of a dog and usually down their spine.
Canine Folliculitis Diagnosis
After keeping an eye for symptoms of folliculitis, the next step is to visit a veterinarian. Getting veterinary treatment will be very helpful.
A proper diagnosis is very important to know if your dog only has folliculitis or if the symptoms are due to another condition. In most cases, the skin infection comes with allergies.
Veterinarians use various techniques to identify the culprit of a dog’s folliculitis. Here are the most common techniques used to identify this condition:
- Skin surface cytology – this means getting a sample from the dog to identify what kind of treatment is applicable.
- Scraping – this is done by scraping the skin using a surgical blade to collect organisms.
- Collection by using adhesive – Collecting a sample using an adhesive tape may be necessary if the skin is characterized by an oily scale. This process is used to get samples from hard-to-reach areas.
Aside from collecting samples from the dog’s skin, your vet will also perform blood tests to pinpoint the exact allergens.
Canine Folliculitis Treatment
A veterinarian will likely put an infected dog on an antibiotics treatment. The length of the treatment depends on a dog’s response to medication. Mild infection can be treated for a week, while the severe cases can take up to one month or even more.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication often prescribed to dogs with folliculitis. It’s vet-approved but should not be used on certain dog breeds. There are dogs with Ivermectin sensitivity so better use it with extra caution.
If your dog cannot tolerate Ivermectin, he can be given Milbemycin oxime or Dormactin. Milbemycin oxime is a safer alternative but it can be more costly compared to Ivermectin. Doramectin, on the other hand, works like Ivermectin but it comes with less side effects.
Metronidazole, sold under the brand name Flagyl, can be given to dogs with a bacterial infection. It can be given twice a day for 11 to 22 mg per pound dosage.
Although Metronidazole is not approved by the FDA for dogs, it’s still considered safe for dogs. Just take note that this medicine requires prescription from a licensed veterinarian.
If the infection is accompanied by allergies, a vet may also prescribe a steroid medication like Prednisone. Like in the case of Flagyl, Prednisone requires a written prescription from your vet. Dogs react differently to steroids and the medicine may cause an adverse side effects for them.
Do note that it isn’t always necessary to give dogs antibiotics. Young dogs, especially months-old puppies, can be given topical treatments if there are only small patches of hair loss. Here are some topical as well as other effective treatments for folliculitis in canines:
- antibacterial shampoo
- benzoyl peroxide gel
Serious cases of folliculitis require the combination of a topical treatment and a systemic therapy. Aside from the antibiotic medication, it is also important to clean the infected area.
Besides the treatment, it also helps to maintain cleanliness at home. Bathe your pooch twice a week to help kill the bacteria.
If needed, clip the dog’s hair if it prevents you from seeing the affected area closely. Decontaminating the environment also helps big-time. When it comes to cleanliness, make it a point to disinfect surfaces regularly. If you have a carpet, vacuum it frequently to prevent dust and dirt buildup.
If you are looking for a natural remedy for Folliculitis, you could try using an apple cider vinegar. Just put some diluted vinegar on a cloth and use it to clean the infected area.
For those who are quite hesitant to use apple cider vinegar, you can use aloe vera instead. It will help soothe the infected area. You could use an aloe gel or an aloe mist.
A witch hazel mist also works for some dogs. It can be sprayed on the area one to two times a day. Just remember to use an alcohol-free witch hazel mist because alcohol-based products can worsen the skin problem.
Don’t forget that your pet’s diet plays an important role in his overall health. If you want to boost your dog’s immune system, provide him with a diet rich in high-quality protein and avoid chemical fillers.
Ask your vet about soothing supplements such as fish oil and probiotics. The Omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties, while probiotics keep the gut healthier. Although these are not instant remedies, these supplements can help a dog over a long haul.
Dogs can get infected with Folliculitis but the good news is that it can be managed. A dog’s immunity plays a huge role in this matter. As dog owners, the best thing we can do is help boost our pet’s immune system.
Most importantly, seek help from a veterinarian. The vet should determine what really is causing the inflammation and give the recommended treatment for your pet based on the result of the diagnosis.