Is Your Puggle Suffering From a Bacterial Skin Infection?

If you are looking for a dog that enjoys both long walks and cuddling on the couch, a Puggle is an excellent choice. With their wrinkly Pug skin and Beagle tail, they look a bit like a Mastiff that drank a shrinking potion. But keep in mind that with their unique heritage does come with some special concerns.

Puggle Bacterial Skin Infections Explained

It is normal for your Puggle’s body to be colonized by a wide variety of microorganisms, (sometimes called the microbiome) including various forms of bacteria. These microorganisms live in a symbiotic relationship with your pup. Normally, your Puggle’s immune system will keep them in check. However, if the bacteria begin to multiply too rapidly and overwhelm your pup’s immune system, that’s when you have a bacterial skin infection, also known as canine pyoderma.

All dogs get bacterial skin infections, but some breeds are genetically more prone to this skin condition than others. Unfortunately, this includes Pugs and Beagles. Some of these predispositions to skin disease are found in both breeds, such as hypothyroidism and canine atopic dermatitis, or atopic dermatitis, which can lead to a secondary bacterial skin infection. You probably have already guessed the other risk factor coming from the Pug side: that wonderfully wrinkly skin! Any time skin folds over itself, there is an increased risk of bacterial skin infections, including staph infections and skin fold dermatitis.

Causes of Bacterial Skin Infections in Puggles

Now let’s take a closer look at the possible causes of the bacterial skin infection in your Puggle. First, let’s talk about hypothyroidism since it tends to affect both Pugs and Beagles. The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in your dog’s body. It regulates their metabolic rate, which in turn affects all the other organs. If your Puggle has hypothyroidism, it means their thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, and so the metabolism slows down. Hypothyroidism leads to, among other things, unhealthy fur and skin, increasing the chance of your Puggle getting a bacterial infection.

Like hypothyroidism, canine atopic dermatitis is also more common in both Pugs and Beagles. It is sometimes called “hot spots” or atopic (atopy) dermatitis, or, simply, allergies. Dogs react to allergens through their skin (rather than the nasal passages, like us) as they have a higher proportion of mast cells there. These mast cells release histamines whenever they encounter an allergen. This allergic reaction leads to a poor coat texture, itching, chewing, hot spots, and in extreme cases, self-mutilation, all of which increase the risk of a bacterial skin infection.

And now, on to the issues created by your Puggle’s wrinkles. First, let’s talk about staph dermatitis. This condition may also be called staphylococcal pyoderma or staph pyoderma. Pyoderma is really just a medical word for a bacterial skin infection. It is caused by a group of bacteria called staphylococcus. Staphylococcus is one of those bacteria that normally live on your Puggle’s skin without causing any problems. But if the skin becomes irritated, for example, from scratching, licking, and chewing, the bacteria can invade and multiply rapidly, and then you have a bacterial skin infection.

Skin fold dermatitis is another concern for your wrinkly Puggle. Skin fold dermatitis occurs when moisture and dirt build up in your Puggle’s wrinkles, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Before you know it, you have a bacterial skin infection on your hands. The most common place for this to occur is in your Puggle’s face, in particular the lower jaw, which tends to be moist. When a bacterial skin infection occurs here, it is called lip fold dermatitis.

How Bacterial Skin Infections Can Affect Your Puggle

Whatever the cause, the result of a bacterial skin infection in your Puggle is always the same: a truly miserable pup. They will be itchy, uncomfortable, and they may even have trouble sleeping. So better get them help right away!

Life Expectancy of a Puggle With a Bacterial Skin Infection

The good news is, there is no reason for a bacterial skin infection to affect the lifespan of your Puggle. But you’ll want to make them comfortable again as soon as possible, so let’s move on to how to make your dog better again.

Signs That Your Puggle Might Have a Bacterial Skin Infection

To catch a bacterial skin infection early, keep a close eye on your Puggle’s behavior. Excessive scratching, licking, itching, and chewing are all symptoms of a chronic skin infection. Also, watch your dog’s skin for signs of belly rash, red, itchy, inflamed skin, or skin lesions. If there is an infection, the skin may appear moist, flaky, or crusty, or may develop into so-called elephant skin, where the skin may become thickened or even scaly. In more advanced cases, you might find pus-filled lesions on the skin or patchy fur with bits of peeling skin. Another sure giveaway is the smell. If your Puggle has a musty odor and hasn’t just come in out of the rain, you may be dealing with some kind of bacterial skin infection.

One more thing to look out for are hot spots, or surface pyoderma. These are most common during the summer months. They tend to appear suddenly and spread rapidly, so if you see them on your Puggle, quick action is needed. They often resemble an insect bite at first but then worsen quickly and multiply. Once more developed, they become painful, oozing sores, resembling a pimple or a boil, accompanied by a bad smell.

Bacterial skin infections can also lead to a secondary ear infection. So if your Puggle has an ear infection, make sure you ask your vet if there might be a skin infection going on as well.

How To Care for and Treat Your Puggle for a Bacterial Skin Infection

The treatment for your Puggle’s bacterial skin infection depends on the kind of infection, as well as the underlying cause, so we’ll deal with each issue separately here. Remember to always consult with your veterinarian before employing any of these.

Bacterial Skin Infections Due to Hypothyroidism

It is important to keep an eye out for signs that your Puggle is suffering from hypothyroidism. Indications of hyperthyroidism include weight gain, lethargy, and a lack of desire to exercise. You may also spot clues in their coat and skin. Look for dry, dull hair and an unusual amount of shedding. If you see these symptoms along with a bacterial skin infection, there’s a good chance hypothyroidism is to blame.

Hypothyroidism isn’t curable, but fortunately, it is easily diagnosed and very treatable. If you suspect hypothyroidism, ask your veterinarian to give your Puggle a total thyroxine test, which is a measure of the main thyroid hormone in their blood. If hypothyroidism is diagnosed, your veterinarian will prescribe a thyroid replacement hormone. This comes in a simple pill (stock up on their favorite pill treats!) You may then rest assured that, with this medication and additional thyroid tests at your veterinarian’s discretion, to ensure proper dosage, your Puggle can go back to living a long, healthy life. And, hopefully, that pesky bacterial skin infection goes away to boot.

Bacterial Skin Infections Due to Canine Atopic Dermatitis

Dogs have many kinds of allergies, but Puggles are most prone to food and environmental allergies. If an inflammation due to an allergy is to blame, then you’re possibly dealing with bacterial dermatitis. Your vet can perform various allergy tests, such as a blood test or a simple skin test, where multiple antigens are injected into a shaved part of your Puggle’s skin, to test for a reaction. Skin testing might require sedatives, so may be done by a board-certified veterinary dermatologist.

Food Allergies

If you or your veterinarian suspect a food allergy is responsible for your Puggle’s bacterial skin infection, you might want to consider a change in diet since food allergies tend to develop with exposure. Wheat, dairy, and beef comprise 80% of food allergies in dogs and so should be avoided.

You might also want to consider a hypoallergenic dog food, as these tend to include less typical proteins, like venison, rabbit, and duck, as well as less common kinds of fish. If the store-bought hypoallergenic dog foods aren’t cutting it, or if you simply want to be adventurous, you might want to think about cooking for your Puggle. You’ll want to consult with your veterinarian first, to make sure you don’t miss any essential vitamins and nutrients and to make sure your Puggle will have a balanced diet. Once you get the go-ahead from your vet, you may find that making homemade meals for your Puggle not only dramatically improves their health, but that it is tremendously satisfying as well. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy cooking for their best friend? And once your Puggle catches on to what you are doing, they will love watching every stage of the preparation.

Another thing to consider is a so-called “hydrolyzed protein diet,” in which the protein undergoes a special process to reduce it to tiny fragments. The concept is that once the protein is small enough, your Puggle’s immune system won’t recognize it, and so it won’t trigger an allergic reaction.

Environmental Allergy

If your vet determines that you are dealing with an environmental allergy, such as pollen, mold, or dust, the best thing is to reduce your Puggle’s exposure to the allergen. A dehumidifier, or activated charcoal put on the dirt of your house plants, can reduce the humidity in a room and so help prevent mold. An air purifier with a good HEPA filter can help with dust and pollen (it might make you feel better too!), and you might want to limit how much you have your windows open. When it comes to taking your Puggle out for a walk, avoid early mornings or afternoons (a great excuse to sleep in!), in particular in the spring, as this is when pollen counts are highest. You can also check a pollen forecast and limit your time outside when the pollen gets too severe.

Staph Infections

Your veterinarian can determine if your Puggle has a staph infection by doing a swab or a skin biopsy. If staph bacteria are found, they will prescribe a suitable antibiotic therapy. Be prepared for a long haul here, as it may take three to six weeks to bring the infection under control. Your vet might also recommend an antibacterial shampoo or a spray to help with the infection.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about your Puggle infecting your other pets (or you, for that matter!) as you all have staphylococcus living on your skin naturally, as part of your natural microbiome.

Occasionally, a Puggle may develop another staph infection shortly after finishing treatment. This is sometimes because of an allergy to the staphylococcal bacteria, also called staphylococcus hypersensitivity. Treatment for staphylococcus hypersensitivity may include routine injections of the staphylococcal bacteria to train your Puggle’s immune system not to overreact to this naturally-occurring microorganism. Injections are usually daily at first and then anywhere from every three days to every two weeks. For this reason, your vet may train you to do it home. Veterinarians have found that these injections often work wonders for treating this condition.

Skin-Fold Dermatitis

If skin-fold dermatitis is to blame for your Puggle’s itching, your vet will probably prescribe some medication to soothe the skin and fight the infection. They may also recommend antibacterial wipes for cleaning your Puggle’s skin folds. In the case of a severe infection, they may prescribe oral antibiotics. In very severe cases, skin folds are sometimes surgically removed.

While you’ll need the assistance of your veterinarian if your Puggle gets skin-fold dermatitis, there is a lot you can do at home to prevent the infection from occurring in the first place. The most important thing is to keep your Puggle’s skin folds clean and dry. Be particularly vigilant with their facial wrinkles, nasal folds, the wrinkles under their armpits, and around the tail fold. The best thing is to regularly wipe out the folds with a dry cloth or paper towel; you may also use cotton balls or baby wipes if you prefer. After bathing, it is crucial to dry the folds thoroughly.

How To Help Your Puggle Live a Fulfilling Life Despite Their Predisposition to Bacterial Skin Infections

The key to helping your Puggle avoid bacterial skin infections, as well as other skin problems, is to take good care of their skin and coat. Dry skin is prone to cracking and therefore increases the chance of an infection. If you notice patches of dry skin on your Puggle, you might want to consider a natural topical treatment. Vitamin E oil is a great choice, as it’s not only a moisturizer but also a powerful antioxidant. Coconut oil, olive oil, and aloe can also work wonders. You might also want to try some essential fatty supplements, like Omega-3 or Omega-6. These will not only improve the overall quality of your Puggle’s skin, but they have the added benefit of being both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative.

While good grooming is essential for all dogs, it’s especially important for dogs prone to bacterial skin infections. Daily brushing will remove dander and dandruff and keep foreign objects out of their fur. You’ll also want to bathe your Puggle once a week. A mild shampoo can work wonders for removing allergens and excess bacteria from the skin, and if your Puggle has a bacterial infection, you might want to ask your vet about a medicated shampoo.

We already talked about hypoallergenic diets, but even if your Puggle’s allergy isn’t food-related, a good diet is still essential for the health of their skin. You’ll want to avoid poor-quality commercial dog foods and look for dog food with limited ingredients, lots of essential fatty acids, and a good amount of vitamins and minerals. Supplements may also be helpful for your Puggle, but you should discuss these with your vet first.

Like Pugs and Beagles, Puggles are prone to overeating, increasing their risk of obesity. You should determine your dog’s ideal calorie intake and measure their food carefully. It’s also better to spread out their meals, doing three feedings per day, if possible. And of course, this leads us to exercise. Puggles are active dogs. They need at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. But always keep your Puggle on a leash, as they might have inherited the Beagle tendency to wander. Also, because Beagles are hunting dogs, they are known for ignoring commands once they pick up a scent. This makes a fenced-in dog park a good option, especially as there is a good chance your Puggle is a social pup.

Just remember the healthier your dog, the more likely they are to fight off bacterial skin infections on their own. And of course, a healthy dog is a happy dog, and that makes us happy too.

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