Itchy skin, redness, hair loss, scabs on the skin, dandruff, and skin flakiness are some of the most common things we see when our pets have skin infections.  In fact, skin infections are the most common illness I see in my small animal veterinarian practice.  Skin infections in pets can be caused by an array of diseases or allergies.  So let’s discuss some of the common causes.

  • Parasitic disease (mange or scabies). Pets can become infected with mange or scabies from their mothers at birth, or from other infected animals. Your veterinarian will want to run special skin cytology test to rule out parasitic disease.
  • Bacterial infections. The most common type of skin infection we see is bacterial skin disease (also known as pyoderma). Very commonly pets develop a pyoderma from an underlying allergy.  Your veterinarian will want to run skin cytology tests to rule out bacterial skin disease.
  • Fungal infections. Just like us, pets can pick up fungal disease from the environment, or from other animals.  Your veterinarian will want to run a culture to rule out fungal disease, and treat accordingly with antifungal agents.
  • Allergies. Unlike humans who present with runny noses, coughing, sneezing, or red watery eyes when allergies attack, our pets’ allergies result in generalized itchiness, and skin infections.  Most skin infections from allergies are from food allergies, flea allergies, or environmental allergies (Atopy).
  • Systemic illness. Many systemic illnesses can result in skin infections in our pets such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, or Cushing’s disease to name a few. Your veterinarian will want to run full bloodwork to assess for these illnesses.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis. This is a skin disorder that can be either genetic or the result of bacterial or yeast infections. Symptoms may include inflamed scalp, greasy or waxy skin, red skin rashes and scaly skin like dandruff.
  • Autoimmune Disease. Pets can have autoimmune skin disease such as Pemphigus Foliaceus, but this is not as common. Your veterinarian will want to perform biopsies to rule out any autoimmune disease if it is suspected.

I always advise my pet parents to have their pets evaluated immediately if they see any skin lesions, discomfort, or itchiness in their pet.  It is important to allow your veterinarian to assess the infection, and make an appropriate treatment plan for your pet’s allergy or disease.  There are many treatment options available, but every pet is unique.  Treatment regimens need to be prescribed by your veterinarian.  Here is my top list for treatments of allergies and associated skin infections:

Weekly medicated shampoos.  I commonly prescribe the Veterinary Formula Clinical Care product line to my pet parents, which consists of the following shampoos:

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic and Antiseborrheic Shampoo.  This shampoo effectively treats and relieves skin scaling caused by seborrhea and helps to relieve mange and other parasitic infections. This medicated formula is also effective in treating fungal and bacterial skin infections, and also hydrates the skin and promotes healing.

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiseborrheic and Antidandruff Shampoo.  This shampoo provides relief from mild dermatitis and flaky dandruff.

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antisepitc and Antifungal Shampoo.  This shampoo is scientifically formulated with an anti-bacterial agent, and an anti-fungal to help relieve bacterial and yeast infections. Lanolin and aloe vera are added to help heal and soothe sensitive skin.

  • Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Antifungals.
  • Antihistamines.
  • Proper and effective flea and tick preventatives.
  • Immuno-suppressants.
  • Hypoallergenic vaccinations.
  • Steroids.
  • Immunotherapy.
  • Referral to veterinarian dermatologist.

I hope this article brings helps to educate my readers on skin infections in our pets and the available treatment options. As always, my number one goal is to make sure our pets are happy and healthy.  If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian.  They are your best resource to ensure the health and wellbeing of your pets, and can determine if your pet is a candidate for some of the great new treatment options.

About Dr. Alison Birken

My name is Dr. Alison Birken and I am a small animal veterinarian, wife, mother of three, and a sister to my three siblings. I graduated veterinary school from The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006, and completed a year internship in small animal medicine at Florida Veterinary Specialist in Tampa, Florida. I have been practicing small animal medicine for 11 years and over the past 6 years have dedicated my life to building and operating an animal hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, accomplishing a lifelong goal of mine. In addition, along with my sisters (Katie, a pediatrician and Carrie, a fashion stylist), I am a co-founder of Forever Freckled (www.foreverfreckled.com), a website dedicated to helping people with pets, children, and everyday lifestyle. It has been an incredible journey turning my passion for animals into a career and nothing brings me more joy than to help pets and their parents with wellness and healthy living. For wellness and health tips for pets, and other lifestyle advice, please follow our journey on www.foreverfreckled.com.

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