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Folliculitis in Dogs: Understanding This Skin Condition and How to Treat It

Folliculitis in dogs is a relatively common condition. It happens when the hair follicles of a dog become inflamed. This can be painful and itchy for your poor puppy! 

Does Max's coat have a "moth-eaten" look? This could be caused by inflammation of his hair follicles. Let's take a closer look at how to spot dogs' folliculitis, the causes of folliculitis, and possible treatments.

What Causes Folliculitis in Dogs?

There are many factors behind folliculitis and the inflammation of the skin and hair follicles. Three main culprits can cause this uncomfortable condition in Fido. Let's explore the causes and what you can do about them!

#1. Parasites 

An ectoparasite causes demodectic mange (or Demodex Canis). A dog that has this parasite may develop folliculitis. Found mostly on adult dogs, this parasite hardly ever causes symptoms associated with folliculitis in dogs. 

Adult dogs have a more robust immune system and can keep the mites at bay. However, puppies are at a higher risk for Demodex due to their immature immune systems. Mites have a better chance of reproducing in this environment. 

Note: In rare cases, it can occur in adult dogs with low immune systems.

#2. A fungal infection

Dermatophytosis (ringworm) is a highly contagious condition caused by an environment that harbors fungal organisms. This is yet another condition that is more prevalent in puppies. However, it can infect adult dogs if they are exposed to the organism regularly.

#3. A bacterial infection

This is one of the most common causes of folliculitis in dogs. A bacterial skin infection (or bacterial pyoderma) can create a whole host of symptoms, folliculitis being one of them. Allergies mainly cause pyoderma.

Dog breeds like boxers or cocker spaniels are more prone to skin allergies than other breeds. However, any dog can develop this condition. Identifying the allergen at the early stage is vital to eliminate any recurring problems.

Does My Dog Have Folliculitis?

The easiest way to identify folliculitis in dogs is to look at them. The "moth-eaten" look will be obvious if these dog skin problems develop on a dog that's usually healthy-looking. The hardest part will be to determine why they have it. 

Signs of Folliculitis in Dogs:

  • Red looking areas on the skin
  • Raised areas or swelling
  • Itchy areas
  • Papules (acne looking red spots)
  • Pustules (raised sores filled with pus)
  • Alopecia (patches of hair loss)
  • Epidermal collarettes (round lesions)
  • Pain in the areas that are affected
  • Hyperpigmentation (dark spots found on the skin)

Dogs that are suffering from folliculitis will show one or several lesions on their body. It may start out looking much like dog acne, or those infected areas may start to become raised sores that fill with pus. 

Folliculitis symptoms may range from itching to pain and even hair loss (or alopecia). Sudden hair loss is what gives folliculitis its signature "moth-eaten" appearance. In some dogs, folliculitis is easy to identify because of the sudden hair loss.

However, in some dogs, folliculitis may have a flaky or crusty appearance with round lesions on the skin. In some cases, hyperpigmentation (dark spots) may appear on the skin. The best idea is to take your dog to the vet for a professional assessment.

Diagnosing the Cause of Folliculitis

Here are some of the tests used to find the causes of folliculitis.

  • Hair plucking or skin scraping: A skin scrape can identify Demodex. A microscopic examination of the sample will indicate any Demodex mites' presence by gathering skin cells and hair samples and any debris attached to it.
  • Fungal culture: Your vet may use a fungal culture to determine if the dog is suffering from dermatophytes. This treatment is relatively inexpensive and easy. However, it may take anywhere from a week up to 10 days to get the results of the test.
  • Skin cytology: A similar test to the skin scrape, skin cytology is used to determine a bacterial infection. Although this test can locate the bacteria, it will not be able to identify the particular strain.
  • Bacterial culture: This test is used for conditions that become chronic or won't respond to treatment. Although this is an expensive method, it's also the best way to determine what treatment your furry friend needs.

How to Treat Folliculitis in Dogs

Treatment for folliculitis is straightforward once you've identified the underlying cause. 

#1. Treatment for folliculitis because of parasites 

If Demodex is the underlying reason, the conventional treatment method is reasonably inexpensive and easy. Your vet may recommend oral milbemycin oxime (heartworm prevention medication). 

You could also consider antibacterial, topical ointments to treat localized lesions on the dog's skin. 

#2. Treatment for folliculitis because of a fungal infection

You could try shampoos that contain antifungals to treat dermatophytosis or even topical fungal creams. In some cases, you can use oral antifungal medication.

However, it's best to avoid medication because of the possible side effects associated with them.

#3. Treatment for folliculitis because of a bacterial infection

This is treated with oral antibiotics. This folliculitis treatment will take from four to six weeks. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe steroids to reduce any itchiness or inflammation. However, this is seldom used in mild cases. 

Alternative and Holistic Options for Folliculitis in Dogs

Home remedies and supplements can be effective, depending on how severely your dog's hair follicles are inflamed. If you prefer trying the natural route first, you could test some of these alternative treatment options at home:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Dietary supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids (or fish oil) may be effective in reducing inflammation. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the Omega-3s, introducing this into the dog's diet may be beneficial in fighting this skin disease.

Probiotics

Using probiotics may be helpful for a variety of conditions, including a dog skin infection problem. As vets explore the correlation between gut health and allergies, probiotics have been a much-researched subject for improved health. 

By not addressing gut health, the dog may suffer from poor digestion, which puts extra stress on the immune system. A weakened immune system can create a world of problems, and allergies may form. Adding probiotics may help the pup in this case.

Nettles

Oral remedies such as nettles (an herb) have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Nettles are also loaded with nutrition!

Tea

You can calm the itchiness by taking chamomile tea orally. Black or green tea can be used as a topical remedy since it has anti-itch properties. 

Witch hazel 

Yet another plant that helps reduce itchiness. 

Note: Witch hazel may contain alcohol and can be painful to a dog's skin if applied to the affected areas. 

Aloe vera

Aloe vera has shown excellent results in treating all kinds of skin conditions, and it is so gentle that it's safe to use on your furry friend. It is a great way to soothe skin irritations!

Coconut oil

You can also use coconut oil topically to treat the irritated area on the dog's skin. Also antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil is soothing and readily available in many stores.

As always, it is best to talk to your vet when you want to use natural remedies to treat your pet. And remember to give your pup extra love and cuddles. If you have a dog ramp for bed or couch, make sure it's up so your furry friend can hop up for some love.

Folliculitis in Dogs Conclusion

Folliculitis is a relatively common skin condition, but various factors can cause it, and each one requires different treatment. 

It's relatively easy to diagnose folliculitis in your dog, but it may not be that easy to figure out what caused it and how to treat it! Be sure to do your homework and don’t give up – you’ll be able to help your furry friend feel better.

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