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Pyoderma in Cats (Bacterial Skin Infection, Pus in the Skin)

By: Dr. Mark Thompson

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Updated: June 30, 2014

Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. Pyoderma can be divided into surface pyodermas (infection on the skin surface), superficial pyoderma (infection within the skin) or deep pyoderma (infection under the skin).

The health impact from pyoderma can range from mild with superficial pyoderma to severe with deep pyoderma. Superficial and surface pyodermas can cause intense itching leading to discomfort. The underlying cause of the pyoderma may also have a negative health impact on the cat, depending on the disease.

Pyoderma can be caused by underlying allergies to food, fleas or other things in the environment, and/or immune-medicated diseases.

The most common bacteria causing pyoderma is Stapylococcus pseudointermedius.

Deep bacterial infections are more common in outdoor cats. Cats are predisposed to pyoderma in warm humid environments.

What to Watch For with Pyoderma

Any of these should trigger a visit to your veterinarian:

  • Red, itchy and painful skin lesions
  • Pustules (pimples)
  • Draining sores
  • Hair loss

    Diagnosis of Pyoderma in Cats

    Diagnostic tests may include:

  • A detailed medical history. Expect to be asked about how long the lesions have been present, what they looked like initially, and whether itching preceded the lesions or appeared after the lesions.

  • A complete exam of all body systems with particular attention paid to the type and location of lesions present in the skin.

  • Cytology. A pustule may be opened and the contents examined under a microscope. With a pyoderma, bacteria and neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) are usually seen. Neutrophils without bacteria may suggest another disease.

  • Culture. Deep pyodermas are typically cultured to identify the exact bacteria that are present and to help select the best medication. Superficial pyoderma lesions are rarely cultured since they almost always grow the same bacteria (Staphylococcus intermedius).

  • Other tests, such as skin scrapes, allergy tests, complete blood count or blood chemistry analysis, to determine the underlying cause of the pyoderma, especially if the pyoderma recurs after treatment.

    Treatment for Pyoderma

    Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to help kill the bacteria infection. The most commonly used antibiotics include cepahlexin, Clavulanic acid-amoxicillin (Clavamox), Clindamycin, and Cefovecin injectable (Convenia).

  • Antibacterial shampoos and creams containing benzoyl peroxide, ethyl alcohol or chlorhexidine.

  • Treatment to prevent underlying itchy skin diseases or diseases that suppress the immune system for long-term success.

    Home Care and Prevention for Pyoderma

    Give all medications as instructed. Even if lesions clear up early, antibiotics should be given until all medications are finished. Observe your cat for draining lesions.

    Some causes of pyoderma are not preventable, but the presence of fleas can worsen pyoderma. The best prevention is to follow a complete flea control program as recommended by your veterinarian. In addition, keep your cat clean and brushed free of mats.


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