Bacterial Infections in Dogs and How to Treat Them

Bacterial Infections in Dogs and How to Treat Them

Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD

Bacteria is everywhere. No matter how many Clorox wipes we use on a daily basis, we are going to come into contact with germs and microorganisms more times than we can count or feel comfortable thinking about. They are a fact of life, but most bacteria that we come into contact with in our everyday lives is either harmless or our immune systems can easily make quick work of them.

If coming into contact with bacteria and microorganisms is an inevitable fact of life for us humans, then the same goes double for our dogs. Think about your canine friend for a minute. Nose always to the ground and generally using their mouth to test for sure what something is? Yep, my dog does the same thing as well.

Imagine for a second if you and your dog switched places. Not a real pretty picture to think about, but it helps you to grasp how much bacteria you would come into contact with, whether you love Purell and Clorox or not, and probably makes even the mild germaphobe shudder at the prospect.

Dog Bacterial Infections

Needless to say, your dog comes into contact with A LOT of bacteria. This is especially true for those canines who spend a lot of their time outdoors. This makes the prospect of a bacterial infection for dogs somewhat common. 

Similar to humans, typically the source of bacteria and bacterial infections in dogs is contaminated water, dairy, feces, or undercooked meat. Dog infections are common for canines that come from rescue situations or spend a lot of time in boarding kennels where they come into contact with and are housed with many other dogs. As with most dog illnesses, puppies and geriatric dogs are much more at risk of becoming sick because their immune systems are not as strong as adult dogs in their prime.

What’s more is that dog bacterial infections can be serious business. Although we typically see our pups as full of energy, vitality, and life, they are susceptible to infections and illnesses just like we are. And if left untreated, some dog infections can even be fatal.

To help you out in keeping your pet safe and healthy, we’ve compiled a short list of the most common dog bacterial infections along with their signs, symptoms, and treatment options.

Kennel Cough – This is one you have probably heard of. Especially if you board your dog often when you are on vacation or out of town. Kennel Cough is a bacterial disease found in dogs that is spread by—you guessed it—dogs coughing. Canines who are not used to being in groups of dogs are even more susceptible to this disease, as are younger and older dogs, and any dog whose immune system is compromised for any reason.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough include a dry, hacking cough, fever, lethargy, and a runny nose and runny eyes. Treatment typically relies on anti-biotics. Specifically, veterinarians will usually prescribe either Baytril, Doxycycline, or Clavamox to remedy Kennel Cough.

Leptospirosis – This type of bacterial infection in dogs is common because it is highly contagious. It is caused by a bacterium known as spirochetes and it can affect both humans and animals. A Leptospirosis bacterial infection usually occurs when a dog drinks stagnant water contaminated by urine or fecal matter from another dog who has the infection. It is also possible for a dog to contract the disease by mating with a dog infection with the bacteria.

Common signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis include fever, vomiting, lethargy and depression. If the infection is severe, your dog may also experience flu-like symptoms of aches and pain, as well as kidney inflammation. The most common treatment for Leptospirosis in dogs is an antibiotic like doxycycline. Also, you can help prevent this disease by keeping an eye on where your dog drinks from that isn’t his or her dish (I know this is easier said than done).

Staphylococcal Infection – You know this one as a Staph infection. This is actually the most common dog infection that there is. It usually starts at the skin but can also move into your dog’s upper respiratory system. Similar to in humans, Staph infections in dogs occur when the dog comes into contact with another animal that is infected or with a surface that has been contaminated by an infected host. Staphylococcal infections can be passed between animals and humans, so you have to take caution if your dog becomes infected.

Staph infections are treated using antibiotic shampoos and ointments for skin infections and oral antibiotics like erythromycin, clindamycin, or cephalexin.

For more information on Staph infections in dogs, read this article [link to Staph infection article].

Ear Infections – Dog ears are offer near perfect conditions for a wide range of different types of ear infections that a variety of causes. Just like in humans, ear infections in dogs can be extremely uncomfortable for them.

The bacterial ear infection variety is usually caused by your dog coming into contact with a yeast species called Malassezia pachydermatis. Healthy dogs can typically fight off these types of infections with little effort, but if your dog is young, old, or immunocompromised then the bacteria and subsequent infection is likely to take hold.

Signs that your dog has a bacterial ear infection include itchy, red, and inflamed inner ears, a bad odor, or waxy build up in the ear. Veterinarians often treat bacterial ear infections using gentamycin, tobramycin, or amikacin.

Actinomycosis and Nocardiosis – Both of these bacteria are found in soil and their related infection results when they enter your dog’s bloodstream through a wound or abscess. This type of dog bacterial infection needs to be treated quickly with a beta-lactam penicillin-type antibiotic like carbenicillin. If not treated quickly, the infection can move deeply into your dog’s chest or abdomen and lead to a dangerous buildup of pus.

Lyme Disease – Beware in the summer if you live in areas where ticks are common! Though people are typically (and probably rightfully) more worried about themselves and their children when it comes to ticks and Lyme disease, dogs can be equally affected.

Lyme disease  in dogs can lead to fever, lethargy, anorexia, and other painful or uncomfortable symptoms. If you take your dog for a walk through the woods or through tall grass, be sure to check them for ticks. This will help keep both your dog and your [human] family safe from Lyme disease.

Dog Infections: Conclusion

Your dog comes into contact with countless different types of bacteria every day. Usually if healthy, their immune system can fight off most the attempted invasions. However, sometimes bacteria can still find their way into your dog’s body and lead to a bacterial infection.

If you think your dog may have any type of infection then it’s best to bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog is diagnosed with a bacterial infection, then you can get any antibiotic or other medications the vet prescribes for your dog at Express Vet Pharmacy. We are here to help your four-legged friend get the treatment they need and to help you save on treatment costs!