Folliculitis in Dogs: Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, usually caused by bacteria. It leads to red, itchy bumps and lesions, especially where your dog’s skin rubs together like the groin, armpits or muzzle. The good news is folliculitis is usually not serious and often clears up on its own or with treatment.
The most common causes of folliculitis in dogs are:
- Bacterial infection – Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is a bacteria commonly found on dog skin that can lead to infection and folliculitis.
- Yeast overgrowth – Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast that naturally lives on dog skin but can overgrow and cause folliculitis, especially in warm, humid weather or if your dog has allergies.
- Allergic reaction – Environmental or food allergies can cause inflammation and make your dog more prone to folliculitis. Pollen, dust mites, and certain dog foods are common allergens.
- Parasites – Mange mites (demodex or sarcoptes mites) burrow into hair follicles and cause folliculitis. Fleas can also lead to folliculitis through irritation, infection or allergic reaction.
- Underlying skin condition – Disorders like seborrhea, atopy or hypothyroidism make your dog’s skin more vulnerable to folliculitis.
The vet can test to determine the underlying cause in your dog and recommend appropriate treatment like antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, allergy medication or flea/mite prevention. In many cases, keeping the area clean, dry and well-groomed can help prevent and heal folliculitis. With the proper diagnosis and care, your dog’s folliculitis should clear up quickly.
Common Causes of Folliculitis in Dogs
Folliculitis, or skin infection of the hair follicles, can have several underlying causes in dogs. Some of the most common culprits are:
1. Bacterial infection
Bacteria like Staphylococcus are a frequent cause of folliculitis in dogs. These bacteria normally live harmlessly on the skin, but can enter through breaks in the skin and infect the hair follicles. This often occurs after minor skin trauma like scratches, bites, or pressure points from a harness or collar. Bacterial folliculitis usually causes pimple-like bumps, scabs, and hair loss around the infected area.
2. Yeast overgrowth
An overabundance of Malassezia yeast, which naturally lives on the skin, can trigger an inflammatory reaction in the hair follicles. This is more likely in hot, humid weather or if your dog has an underlying allergy. Yeast folliculitis often causes greasy scales, redness, hair loss, and a musty odor.
3. Demodectic mange mites
Microscopic Demodex mites that live in hair follicles can multiply out of control and cause folliculitis in puppies or dogs with a weakened immune system. This leads to patches of hair loss, redness, and crusting, usually starting around the eyes or mouth. Demodectic mange requires prescription medication to treat.
4. Allergic reaction
Dogs can have an adverse reaction to anything in their environment, like certain plants, cleaning products, or food ingredients. Allergic folliculitis tends to be very itchy, causing hair loss, redness, and scabs over the body. The best way to diagnose and address this is through allergy testing and desensitization shots or drops from your vet.
Treatment for folliculitis typically includes oral or topical antibiotics, antifungal medication, prescription shampoos, and addressing any underlying causes. For severe or recurring cases, your vet may need to do a skin scraping or culture to determine the appropriate course of action. With treatment and by avoiding potential triggers, most dogs recover from folliculitis without complication. However, early diagnosis and management is key to prevent long-term problems like scarring or secondary skin infections.
Symptoms of Folliculitis to Look Out For
Your dog’s skin and coat health can tell you a lot about their overall wellbeing. Folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicles, is something to watch out for. The good news is, if caught early, it’s usually easy to treat. Here are some symptoms of folliculitis to look for in your dog:
1. Red, itchy bumps
- The hallmark sign of folliculitis is little red bumps, especially on areas with little fur like the belly. The bumps may contain pus and cause your dog to scratch or lick excessively.
- Watch for rashes, patches of redness or scaly, flaky skin which can indicate a more severe case of folliculitis.
- Excessive scratching can lead to hair loss, broken skin and secondary infections, so contact your vet right away if you notice these symptoms.
2. Pustules and crusts
- Pustules are small, pus-filled blisters that may burst, crust over and become scabbed.
- Crusty scabs, especially on the edges of the ears, chin, groin area or armpits are common with folliculitis.
- Gently bathe these areas to remove crusts, then apply a veterinarian-approved antibiotic ointment to help heal the skin and prevent infection.
3. Pain or swelling
- In some cases, the hair follicles and surrounding area may become swollen, warm and painful to the touch.
- Severe infection can also cause swelling of the muzzle, eyes or lymph nodes. See your vet immediately if you notice significant or abnormal swelling on your dog.
4. Lethargy or fever
- A fever, loss of appetite or lethargy can indicate the folliculitis has become infected or is a symptom of an underlying condition requiring treatment.
- While mild cases of folliculitis often clear up with proper home care and hygiene, a fever or lethargy signals it’s time for a vet visit to determine the cause and appropriate course of treatment.
By regularly inspecting your dog’s skin and coat for these symptoms, you can catch folliculitis early and work with your vet on an effective treatment plan to relieve discomfort and support their health and wellbeing.
Treating Folliculitis in Dogs
Treating folliculitis in dogs typically involves a combination of remedies to clear up the infection, reduce inflammation, and prevent recurrence. Here are some of the most common and effective treatments:
- Antibacterial shampoos and medicated wipes can help eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and soothe the skin. Look for shampoos containing chlorhexidine, benzoyl peroxide, or ketoconazole. Apply as directed, usually 2-3 times a week. These topical treatments can reduce irritation, redness and itching while fighting the infection.
- Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for more severe or persistent cases. Common antibiotics for folliculitis include cephalexin, clindamycin, and amoxicillin. Be sure to give the full course of medication as prescribed by your vet to completely clear the infection.
- Anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids can help with inflammation, swelling and discomfort. Steroid creams, ointments or oral medication may be options depending on the severity. Follow your vet’s directions carefully regarding dosage and duration.
- Keeping the area clean and applying warm compresses several times a day can speed healing and provide relief from symptoms. Gently wash the area with a mild cleanser and pat dry. The warm compresses will increase blood flow to the infected follicles and help draw out infection.
- In some cases, your vet may need to drain or lance severely swollen follicles to provide drainage and quick relief from discomfort. Minor surgery under sedation may be required for particularly deep or cystic lesions.
Preventing recurrence involves identifying and controlling any underlying causes, including allergies or skin conditions. Your vet may recommend hypoallergenic shampoo, dietary changes, or other treatments based on the cause. Regular bathing, especially after outdoor activities where bacteria exposure is higher, will also help prevent future flare-ups.