Folliculitis is a skin condition that commonly affects dogs. Irritation of a hair follicle causes inflammation in the area, causing swelling, redness, itching, pain, and other skin lesions. Ic can have several causes, all of which require veterinary attention.
What is folliculitis in dogs?
Folliculitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of a hair follicle, typically related to a bacterial infection. Hair follicles are tiny openings in the skin through which hair grows. One or more of the follicles become irritated or infected, causing the area to become red and swollen. Folliculitis in dogs is often first presented as a red bump on the skin that may be filled with pus.
Signs of folliculitis in dogs
- Epidermal collars
- Pain in affected areas
Dogs with folliculitis have one or more skin lesions on their bodies. It can start as a small raised area on the skin that looks like acne (called a papule). The area may increase and fill with pus (called a pustule). Folliculitis can cause itching, pain, and hair loss (alopecia) that looks patchy or moth-eaten (but can also be widespread on the skin). Some dogs develop crispy/scaly round skin lesions called epidermal collars. Hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin) may also appear in some areas of the skin.
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Causes of folliculitis in dogs
Folliculitis in dogs occurs when one or more of the hair follicles become damaged or irritated. Some infection usually causes it.
Folliculitis is most commonly caused by infection from Staphylococcus bacteria, but it can be caused by other types of bacteria. Other possible causes of folliculitis in dogs include viral or fungal infections, parasites, trauma, and systemic disease.
Certain skin problems can make a dog more prone to folliculitis. Although there are no breeds of genetically predisposed dogs to folliculitis, dogs prone to allergies are at greater risk of developing folliculitis.
It is best to contact your veterinarian first if you think your dog has folliculitis or any other skin condition. After receiving information about your dog’s signs and history, your veterinarian will do a physical exam.
Your veterinarian may be able to diagnose folliculitis on examination. However, sometimes more testing is needed to determine the cause. Possible tests include the following:
- Skin cytology, to look at the cells under a microscope
- Skin scratches to check for parasites such as mites
- Skin biopsy was tiny samples of skin are surgically taken and sent to a pathologist for detailed analysis
- Cultures of fungi or bacteria
- Blood test and urinalysis to assess organ function and blood cell count.
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Treatment of folliculitis in dogs
Treatment for folliculitis in dogs is determined by the cause. Therapy typically includes a combination of systemic drugs and topical applications such as sprays, creams, ointments, and shampoos.
In most cases, topical treatments are used to relieve discomfort and reduce inflammation. Your vet may recommend regular baths with a medicated shampoo. Sprays, creams, or ointments that contain steroids, antibiotics, or antifungal drugs are also often required.
Bacterial folliculitis is usually treated with oral antibiotics. Long treatment may be needed to eradicate the bacteria. Fungal folliculitis requires antifungal drugs. Certain types of fungal infections require long-term treatment.
Parasitic infections require medication to kill the parasite and supportive measures to encourage healing. Antibiotics may still be prescribed to treat a secondary infection. If a systemic disease caused folliculitis, that condition must be treated first. In the event of secondary infection, antibiotics may still be required. Long-term or lifelong treatments may be required depending on the disease.
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How to prevent folliculitis
Folliculitis in dogs cannot always be prevented. Early detection and treatment are the best way to prevent folliculitis from getting worse. At the first sign of skin problems, contact your veterinarian.
Dog owners can take steps to prevent folliculitis in dogs by keeping other skin problems under control. Make sure to contact your veterinarian at the first sign of skin problems. If your dog is currently being treated for health issues, continue with any treatments recommended by your veterinarian.