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Bacteria On Dog SkinUpdated 8 months ago

An overabundance of bacteria can cause clinical signs like skin odor, skin discharge, scratching at skin, or chewing at paws. 

Skin discharge from a bacterial infection can be brown, black, yellow, or white. There are two main forms (shapes) of bacteria commonly detected from a skin swab cytology: cocci (sphere-shaped) and bacilli (rod-shaped). Low numbers of bacteria usually live harmlessly on the surface of healthy skin; so, it’s common and quite normal to find small (occasional) numbers under the microscope. This is especially true for cocci, while less so for bacilli. If no bacteria are detected (none seen), that’s normal too. 

Even though we share some types of skin bacteria between pets and people, they aren’t contagious. This is because there’s almost always an underlying reason(s) the bacteria overpopulate to cause clinical signs. If the bacterial counts are high (1+, 2+, 3+, 4+) on your dog’s skin swab samples, and especially if with one or more clinical signs like scratching, then a physical exam of your dog’s skin is needed by a veterinarian. While both cocci and bacilli are forms of bacteria, each type is generally susceptible to different classes of antibiotics. 

Treatment of bacterial infections on the skin typically involves prescription antibiotics. These can come as antibacterial ointments or sprays topically applied to the surface of the skin or given by mouth, and/or antiseptic wipes, skin cleansers, or shampoos that inhibit bacterial growth. Retesting with a skin cytology after treatment and a recheck skin exam, even if symptoms have improved, is commonly done by veterinarians to ensure that the bacterial numbers have returned to normal (none seen or occasional).

Click here to learn more about bacteria and skin infections in dogs

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