Skip to Main Content
  • Comprehensive Veterinary Dermatology in Orange Park
Ask About Financing

Folliculitis in Dogs: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Folliculitis can cause dogs to develop swelling, blemishes or hyperpigmentation of the skin. Our veterinary dermatologist in Orange Park explains the cause of this skin condition and potential treatment options.

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is a medical term that refers to the inflammation of a hair follicle on a dog's skin. It is most commonly caused by bacteria, but other contributing factors may include fungal infections, parasitism, systemic disease, endocrine issues, immune system disorders, and trauma on a specific area of the skin. 

This condition is considered the most common type of canine skin infection. While folliculitis is a relatively mild condition on its own, it can indicate a more serious skin disease or disorder that needs the care and attention of a veterinarian. 

What are symptoms of folliculitis in dogs?

While itching, redness, swelling, and hair loss are the most common symptom of folliculitis in dogs, these other signs may also appear:

  • Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin)
  • Draining tracts (lesions that connect with a central area or focus of inflammation on the surface of the skin)
  • Black heads 
  • Epidermal collarettes (circular areas of hair loss that have scales or crusts around their borders)
  • Superficial erosions (shallow wounds)
  • Pustules or pimples
  • Papules (reddish swellings on the skin)
  • Pain surrounding the areas affected 

What causes folliculitis? 

Folliculitis in dogs has many potential causes rooted in diseases and disorders of the skin and internal system. 

A certain amount of bacteria normally live on your dog's skin. However, bacterial folliculitis tends to happen when a healthy hair follicle is compromised, either by an underlying systemic disease, trauma, or a skin disorder.

Allergic skin disease is perhaps the most common cause of bacterial follulitis in dogs. Parasitic and fungal infections are other common causes. 

Endocrine disorders such as Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism, and immune system disorders are three systemic diseases that can also lead to this condition. 

Skin disorders that can cause folliculitis in dogs include acral lick granuloma, skin fold pyoderma, interdigital cysts, pyotraumatic folliculitis, callus dermatitis, and idiopathic furunculosis of German Shepherd dogs, to name a few. 

While no breeds have been specifically identified as predisposed to folliculitis. However, certain skin conditions such as allergic skin disease can predispose pets to bacterial folliculitis. These conditions are considered hereditary and are therefore more prevalent in certain breeds, including golden and Labrador retrievers, boxers, German shepherds, pugs, and pit bull terriers. 

How is folliculitis in dogs diagnosed?

Skin conditions can often be challenging to differentiate from one another and properly diagnose. Your vet may refer you to our veterinary dermatologist at Animal Friends Dermatology for diagnosis and treatment of folliculitis. 

After performing a complete physical exam, we can run one or more of the following diagnostic tests to identify whether your dog has folliculitis or another skin condition:

  • Fungal culture
  • Skin cytology 
  • Skin scrapings for mites
  • Bacterial culture and sensitivity 
  • Skin biopsy and histopathology
  • Wood's lamp examination for fungus (ringworm)
  • Blood work and urinalysis to assess organ function and blood cell counts

How is folliculitis in dogs treated?

When it comes to effectively addressing folliculitis in dogs, your veterinary dermatologist will develop a custom treatment plan based on what's causing the condition. They'll likely recommend topical and systemic therapies, along with antimicrobial drugs. Treatment of any underlying disorders will also be required. 

Topical treatments can help reduce inflammation and ease discomfort. Your veterinary dermatologist may recommend using a medicated shampoo to bathe your pup, along with creams, ointments, or sprays containing antibiotics, steroids, or anti-fungal agents. 

Bacterial folliculitis is typically treated with oral antibiotics, while fungal folliculitis requires anti-fungal medications. Both of these may require extended or long-term use to effectively treat the infection. 

Medication will also be needed to treat any parasitic infections. Antibiotics may still be prescribed to treat a secondary infection. 

If systemic disease has caused your dog's folliculitis, this disease must be treated in addition to the skin inflammation. Depending on the disease, your pup may need long-term or lifelong treatment. 

What is the prognosis for dogs with folliculitis? 

Prognosis varies based on what's causing your dog's folliculitis. Folliculitis due to irritation or infections usually responds well to treatment with oral medications and topical treatment. However, underlying systemic health issues can be more complex, and the severity of these conditions can greatly affect outcomes. 

Can folliculitis be prevented?

Folliculitis in dogs cannot always be prevented. Early detection and treatment are the best methods we have of managing this condition and preventing it from worsening. 

However, dog owners can take steps to prevent folliculitis by controlling systemic health issues such as hypothyroidism with appropriate long-term medication. 

How can I keep my dog's skin healthy?

There are some proactive steps you can take to keep your dog's skin as healthy as possible by mitigating risk of them developing underlying conditions. Our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist advises dog owners to take the following precautions:

  • Keep your dog on year-round flea/tick control. Fleas are the most common cause of skin disease in dogs, while tick bites cause inflammation and rashes. This makes your dog more susceptible to folliculitis and other irritations.
  • Use the right shampoo to bathe your pet when required. Some dog breeds require more bathing than others based on their coat type, so research how often your pup will need a bath. Ask your vet for any recommendations for medicated shampoo to keep your dog's skin and coat feeling and looking their best. 
  • Make sure to contact your veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist at the first sign of skin diseases, disorders, or issues. 

Wrapping Up 

While folliculitis is a relatively mild skin condition, it can point to more serious underlying health issues that need prompt attention and treatment. These health problems may include irritation, infection, or systemic conditions. 

A veterinary dermatologist can diagnose your dog's specific  issue and prescribe appropriate medication. Though folliculitis in dogs cannot always be prevented, you and your vet can take steps to prevent health issues that can cause the condition. These include keeping your dog's skin clean, taking steps to prevent parasitic infections that may cause skin irriration, and contacting your veterinarian at the first sign of skin problems.

Our board-certified dermatologist at Animal Friends Dermatology is happy to work with you and your vet to address any skin conditions your dog may be experiencing. We offer specialized diagnostics and dermatological care, and can develop an individualized treatment plan to meet your pet's specific needs. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog has folliculitis or another skin condition? Contact us. We will be happy to address any inquiries or concerns you may have. 

New Patients Welcome

Animal Friends Dermatology is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(904) 215-9293 Contact