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Folliculitis In Dogs | Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

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Folliculitis in dogs is a common skin condition in many animals, including humans.

It is one of the most common skin conditions to affect canines.

Folliculitis in dogs is an inflammation of hair follicles.

It is most commonly caused by bacteria.

The condition occurs when a hair follicle is damaged and bacteria already present on the skin begins to overgrow.

There is no predisposition for the condition found in any one breed of dog.

Folliculitis In Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

However, it is common for breeds with a predisposition to other skin conditions to develop folliculitis.

Let’s find out what folliculitis in dogs actually is.

Symptoms And Causes Of Folliculitis

For starters, if any issues are had with your fluffy baby, immediately go to the vet.

The vet can identify issues much more consistently than the layman.

The vet can also help you receive an accurate diagnosis for your dog.

Additionally, the vet will be able to provide helpful treatments based on their diagnosis.

Causes Of Folliculitis

As mentioned, a common cause of folliculitis is bacteria.

Yeast or similar fungi can often assist in the development of the condition as well.

Ringworm is another type of fungus that can result in folliculitis.

Additionally, blastomycosis is also another type of fungus that can cause folliculitis.

Skin trauma causing damage to the follicles itself can also lead to your precious pup developing the condition.

Shaving your dog’s fur to the skin, usually before an IV drip insertion or as a result of staining (paint and the like) can also cause damage to the hair follicles.

Shaving your dog’s fur to the skin should not be done casually.

If you’re worried about your pet’s health during the summer, professional groomers can assist single-coated dogs in trimming their fur.

Double-coated dogs should not be shaved at all.

There are many other issues relating to the development of folliculitis as well.

Canine acne is a common cause.

Canine acne is often regulated to the area around the chin.

Canine acne, much like human acne, is a skin disorder characterized by inflammation in the form of small bumps in the affected area.

The bumps in question may burst from scratching and spread bacteria, which causes the hair follicles in the surrounding area to be compromised.

Skin allergies can cause folliculitis as well.

Some immune system disorders cause a lack of prevention regarding bacterial overgrowth, leading to folliculitis.

Untreated diabetes in dogs can also lead to folliculitis.

Open wounds or other skin trauma can foster a breeding ground of sugar for bacteria to feast on.

This will lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.

Types Of Symptoms Found In Dogs With Folliculitis 

Symptoms of folliculitis are:

  • Pimples with hair sticking out at the center of each one

It is easier to notice this in areas of thin furs, such as the chin, or on breeds with thin fur.

Popping or squeezing pimples can result in spreading the bacteria further.

Do not attempt to remove your pet’s pimples without veterinary assistance.

  • Blackheads

These are a type of surface-level pimple resulting from clogged pores.

They are characterized by small to medium-dark spots found along the surface of the skin.

Attempting to remove blackheads can spread the bacteria further.

  • Fur loss

A common symptom of fur loss concerning folliculitis is epidermal collarettes.

This will appear as circular fur loss with a crust around the border of the circle.

  • Parasites, like mites
  • Reddish swelling on the skin, also known as papules
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkening and thickening of the skin)

This will often appear as light brown to black skin.

The skin may also feel velvety to the touch or rough and thickened.

Hyperpigmentation will usually cause the skin to lose its fur or will appear in areas of thin fur.

The most common sites of hyperpigmentation are around the legs and groin.

  • Itchiness, resulting in excessive scratching along with the affected areas
  • Surface level erosions of the skin
  • Pain on or around the affected areas

This may be characterized by your pet trying to avoid touching certain parts of their body or awkward or limited movements to avoid stress on the pained area.

While early signs can be missed, dryness, coarseness, or excessive shedding of the fur are indications that your pet has an underlying skin condition.

Schedule a visit to your local vet to determine if it is folliculitis.

Diagnosing Folliculitis

There is one surefire way to diagnose folliculitis in your dog.

Veterinarian Care

The first thing you should do if you suspect folliculitis is to seek veterinarian care.

A vet will be able to aptly determine if the issues your dog is suffering from is folliculitis or another skin disorder.

A vet may conduct skin scraping or skin cytology to check if the issue is bacterial, fungal, or due to a parasite, like mites.

Both procedures are non-invasive and will provide little to no discomfort to your pet.

While a skin scraping is best to determine parasitic issues, skin cytology is used to determine bacterial or fungal infections.

Your vet will simply pull a sample of hair or skin from your pet.

The sample will be inspected under a microscope for a cellular view.

If skin cytology is done, a culture may be issued to determine the strain of bacteria or fungus your pet is dealing with.

This is more common for pets who have experienced chronic issues with little to no relief from other treatments.

Other tests may be conducted in conjunction with a skin scraping or cytology.

One of these tests is visual examinations to observe for fleas or ticks.

A wood’s lamp test may be done before skin cytology.

A wood lamp test is a test conducted with a black light illuminated on the skin of your pet.

The black light is used to observe for different fungal or bacterial infections.

The most common infection that is observed under a wood’s lamp test is ringworm.

Another test a vet may use is endocrine.

These tests will determine disorders such as Cushing’s disease that can cause or relate to folliculitis.

Medical Treatments For Folliculitis 

After a positive diagnosis for folliculitis has been made, your vet will provide treatment options.

These treatments may be used alongside or in combination with one another.

Some treatments may be life-long treatments.

There are several treatments for folliculitis in canines.

Topical Antimicrobial Medication

Antimicrobial medication is often presented in the form of a shampoo.

The medication may also be distributed as a cream, ointment, spray, or oil to massage into your dog’s affected skin.

The vet will inform you on how often you will need to bathe your dog with the shampoo.

The shampoo is usually left on the dog’s skin for around ten minutes before being washed off.

A very thorough cleaning should be conducted when using the shampoo.

This is especially important around and on top of the infected areas.

Antimicrobial medication is used to eliminate surface organisms and other debris that may be causing your dog to suffer from folliculitis.

Topical Antibacterial Medication

Topical antibacterial treatments are used when the infected area is singular and localized.

They tend to also be used alone when the infection is not yet in an advanced stage.

Like antimicrobial medications, they can be distributed as a cream, ointment, spray, gel or oil to be massaged into the affected area.

Unlike antimicrobial medications, they are not usually washed off.

This is because they are left to sink below the surface layer of the skin and treat the bacteria beneath. 

Depending on where the medication is applied, your dog may have to wear a cone.

A cone will prevent them from biting or licking the treated area.

If your dog manages to escape their cone and/or ingests the topical treatment, follow the poison control instructions on the medication, and inform your vet.

Oral Treatment (Systemic Therapy)

Oral treatment, also known as systemic therapy, may be recommended by your vet.

The most common form of oral treatment is antibiotics.

Antibiotics are a form of antimicrobial treatment.

They are used when your dog’s infection is advanced and cannot be treated by topical methods.

They usually last for up to six weeks.

An extra week is generally applied after the infection clears up, to ensure that the infection is fully eliminated from your dog’s system.

Your pet may be reluctant to take pills.

Hiding the oral treatment inside their food or a pill treat container may help.

However, some dogs may avoid or dig the pill out of their food when eating.

In this case, it is easier to tilt your dog’s head back and drop the pill down the back of their throats.

Do not tilt their head too far back as this may injure them.

Some dogs may vomit the pill back up when you are not around, eliminating the usefulness of the treatment.

After swallowing the pill, flushing their mouths with a small cup of water may help ensure they swallow it.

Massaging along the length of their throat can also help ensure swallowing.

Feeding your pet favored treats after taking pills may also make it easier for them to take the medication and reduce the risk of vomiting the pill back up.

Treating Underlying Health Conditions

Underlying health conditions may be the diagnosed cause of your pet’s folliculitis.

One underlying health condition can be a flea infestation.

If this is found to be the reason, the vet will generally put your pet on flea treatment.

Consistent bathing will also help to reduce the risk of flea infestations.

Another underlying health condition may be a food allergy.

Your vet will work with you to determine the factoring ingredient.

Avoid giving your dog pet food that contains these ingredients.

Autoimmune disorders are another underlying health condition that may be the cause behind your dog’s folliculitis.

Long-term treatment tends to be used for these disorders as autoimmune disorders last a lifetime.

While diabetes may not directly correlate to folliculitis, it is common for untreated diabetes in both pets and people to create a breeding ground for bacteria.

The lack of insulin production causes sugar to be held in the back for an extended period.

Bacteria feed on excessive amounts of sugar.

If your pet has a wound that will not heal at all or heals improperly, there is a chance they have diabetes.

The lack of proper healing in the skin wound can lead to folliculitis.

Additionally, the breeding ground of sugar in the body for bacteria can lead to an overproduction of bacteria underneath the surface of the skin, which can lead to folliculitis.

Canine acne is another underlying condition that may lead to folliculitis.

It can be treated by thoroughly cleaning the affected areas with skin safe soap.

Canine acne under the chin is most commonly a result of food debris.

Regularly keeping your pet’s feeding area clean of dirt, debris and other grime will help to treat your pet’s canine acne as well.

Combining Vet Recommended Treatments

Your vet may recommend combining treatments.

Usual reasons for combining treatments are due to bacterial or fungal infections as the primary cause of your pet’s folliculitis.

Combinations tend to include using a topical method and an oral method together.

Topical methods also treat and clean the surface level infections while oral methods will help to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

The combination of topical and oral treatments are usually used to treat bacterial infections related to folliculitis.

This is more often used when the bacterial infection is not localized to a single area, covers a large portion of skin, and/or is very advanced.

Some treatments for bacterial infections related to folliculitis will also include treating underlying health conditions.

This is because some underlying health conditions, like canine acne, contribute to the overproduction of bacteria.

To treat fungal related folliculitis, your vet may put your pet on two topical treatments.

The two topical methods are often antimicrobial shampoos and antibacterial medications.

Natural Remedies To Treat Folliculitis

Natural remedies may help to treat your dog’s folliculitis.

Always consult with your vet before applying natural remedies.

While they may help surface-level issues, natural remedies will not help to treat underlying health conditions.

If you fear your dog has an underlying health condition, it is always key to go to your local vet.

Natural remedies may be cheaper than medical treatments.

Natural remedies may not help advanced stages of folliculitis.

Using Witch Hazel As a Natural Remedy

Witch hazel can be used as a topical remedy.

It is an astringent.

Astringents are used on the surface of the skin to remove irritants.

Astringents are typically distributed as a spray or cream.

Do not use witch hazel applied with alcohol.

Liberal use of alcohol on your pet’s infection can worsen the condition.

It can also be very painful and irritating to your pet.

Witch hazel without alcohol is better to use for your pet’s skin.

Using Tea Bags As a Natural Remedy

Wet tea bags are another natural remedy.

They can help reduce itching.

This is done by placing the tea bag on the affected area.

You should hold the tea bag in place for several minutes.

Flavored teas may contain ingredients that will contribute to the growth of bacteria so it is best to use plain teas.

If plain tea bags are not available, wipe the area gingerly when completed to avoid worsening the infected area.

Using Coconut Oil As a Natural Remedy

If your pet’s affected area is located somewhere they are unable to lick or gnaw at, coconut oil can help soothe irritated skin.

Do not let your pet ingest the coconut oil.

Using Probiotics As An Oral Supplement

If your pet’s underlying condition is related to allergies or an autoimmune disorder, probiotics may be able to help.

Probiotics promote good bacteria in the digestive system.

This will help to decrease exertion on the immune system, which allows it to redirect focus elsewhere.

Your pet’s ability to fight other infections may increase probiotics.

Using Omega-3 As An Oral Supplement

Omega-3 is a type of fatty acid commonly found in fish.

The most common distribution of omega-3 is fish oil.

It is touted as an anti-inflammatory remedy.

Having your dog take omega-3 supplements may help reduce inflammation to the infected site.

How To Prevent Folliculitis In The Future

Due to its common nature, permanent prevention is not generally possible.

However, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of your pet developing folliculitis in the future.

Long-Term Medication

Folliculitis triggered by flea allergies can be prevented by putting your pet on a long-term flea medication.

Folliculitis resulting from undiagnosed diabetes causing a breeding ground for bacteria can be prevented by ensuring you give your pet regular insulin treatments.

Folliculitis triggered by skin allergies can be prevented by ensuring your pet’s environment is clear of any irritants.

Special topical medications may be issued to relieve skin allergies.

These should be used in conjunction with keeping your pet’s environment free of irritants.

Folliculitis resulting from an underlying health condition, such as Cushing’s disease, may not be preventable with medical treatment.

However, managing the disease can help to reduce the likelihood of developing it.

Cleaning And Grooming

Consistent cleaning and grooming can reduce the likelihood of your pet developing folliculitis.

Constant bathing with a skin-safe soap recommended for pet baths, such as Dawn dish soap, can help to regularly eliminate surface-level debris and irritants.

Constant bathing can also help to reduce the number of harmful bacteria.

Always use a clean towel to dry your pet off.

However, it is recommended that you do not over bathe your pet.

Overbathing can lead to dry skin.

Dry skin will only promote the possibility of trauma leading to folliculitis.

This is because dry skin can be very itchy.

Your pet will scratch themselves and may, as a result, damage the hair follicles there, leading, once again, to folliculitis.

Keeping your pet well-brushed can also reduce the likelihood of follicular damage.

This occurs by brushing out hair follicles that are at risk of becoming ingrown.

Additionally, consistent brushing removes dirt and keeps your pet’s coat healthy without the need for bathing.

Healthy coats are better equipped at avoiding the overproduction of bacteria and reducing skin trauma.

Regularly grooming your pet can also help you spot lesions or other skin traumas where folliculitis may be more likely to occur.

This will allow you to treat the problem before it can begin.

If you have to shave your pet for any reason, such as to prepare them for surgery, keep an active watch on the shaved site to ensure that ingrown hairs do not occur.

Keeping the shaved site clean by gently washing and combing will also reduce the ability for bacteria to grow on the skin while the fur grows back.

Regular Veterinary Visits

Regular veterinary visits are also the best way to avoid your pet developing folliculitis.

Your local vet can determine if your pet is at risk of developing the condition again.

Your local vet can also determine if your pet is at risk of developing disorders that may lead to folliculitis.

These determinations will help you in reducing the likelihood of folliculitis in your pet.

Final Thoughts

Overall, folliculitis in dogs is a common skin disorder that occurs in canines.

It is not completely preventable but the likelihood of it occurring in your precious pet can be reduced with constant observation and management.

Keeping your pet’s skin and coat clean and healthy is the best way to reduce folliculitis.

If your pet has developed folliculitis or you fear they may be developing it, promptly seek out a veterinarian’s opinion, as they are the best way to ensure the cause underlying it all.

There are many causes behind folliculitis but bacterial and/or fungal infections tend to be the most common.

These are easily treated with medical assistance.

Natural remedies can assist as well.

References:

https://www.wikihow.pet/Treat-Folliculitis-in-Dogs

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw171614

https://trupanion.com/pet-care/folliculitis-in-dogs

https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/health/folliculitis

https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/hyperpigmentation-acanthosis-nigricans-in-dogs

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/acne-in-dogs

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/

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