How to Treat Canine Folliculitis

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

That little itch could be telling you something, especially if pimples or pustules with hair growing out of them accompany your dog's itchiness. Folliculitis is one of the most common canine skin infections, but that doesn't make it easy to get rid of. Head to your vet's office for special shampoos and medications to relieve the itch and prevent serious skin infections from setting in.

Know the Symptoms

Folliculitis is the infection of the hair follicles by bacteria. Left untreated, it can develop into large pustules deep within the dog's skin. Folliculitis is sometimes a complication of other skin disorders such as mange or scabies. It also can occur from any trauma to the hair follicles, including overzealous grooming. Besides feeling itchy, your dog will have reddish areas on his skin, crusty scales and sometimes areas of hair loss. Fleas and lice can spread the staphylococcal bacteria causing the disease to your dog.

See a Professional

Your vet will examine your dog's skin and likely do skin swabs to test for the presence of the staphylococcal bacteria to differentiate it from similar disease. Once the disease is diagnosed, your veterinarian will prescribe a course of treatment based on the severity of infection. Factors impacting treatment include other health problems your dog may have, his temperament, type of hair and whether your dog lives indoors or out.

Treat the Problem

If your dog's folliculitis is only on one or two areas of his body, your veterinarian will recommend topical therapy. You'll need to keep your dog's hair clipped away from the pustules during the entire treatment time so the medicine can make contact with the infected areas. Treatments include gels or ointments applied daily to twice-daily bathing for extensive infections. Topical treatments include antiseptics such as chlorhexidine and benzoil peroxide or antimicrobials such as bacitracin and fusidic acid. Your vet may also prescribe an antibiotic for your dog to take orally to speed healing.

Preventing Recurrence

Staphylococci is transmissible between humans and dogs, so make sure to wear disposable gloves when applying ointments or shampoos and wash your hands thoroughly. Wash your dog's bedding in hot water and laundry detergent, as well as any cloths or towels you use when bathing your dog. Dispose of swabs or other items used to apply the medicine in the trash immediately. Contact your vet if your dog continues scratching or biting at the area as this also may cause the condition to worsen.