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

By: Dr. Mark Thompson

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Surface Pyoderma

  • A hot spot (pyotraumatic dermatitis) is a surface pyoderma that is caused by self-trauma due to some itchy problem, often an allergy. It has the appearance of a moist, red lesion with acute loss of hair and is intensely itchy.

  • Skin fold pyoderma occurs in folds of skin that are moist and difficult for the animal to keep clean. Examples are: facial fold, tail fold, vulvar fold and lip fold pyoderma.

    Superficial Pyoderma

  • Superficial pyoderma is infection within the skin. The bacterium that is nearly always incriminated in this infection is Staphylococcus intermedius. This form of pyoderma is the most common kind and affected animals have pustules that may rupture leaving a ring of scale that is called an epidermal collarette.

    Pustules may or may not be associated with hair follicles. Pyoderma associated with hair follicles causes hair loss (alopecia) as the pustules rupture. Superficial pyoderma rarely is a primary disease, but rather is a symptom of another skin problem. These underlying skin problems can be pruritic (itchy) or be caused by a suppressed immune system.

  • Pruritus (itching) leads to self-trauma that causes damage to the skin and breakdown of natural defense mechanisms allowing bacteria to penetrate into the epidermis causing pyoderma. Examples are allergy and infestation of parasite like mites or lice.

  • A suppressed immune system may allow bacteria to establish an infection within the skin. Examples are: hormonal diseases, like Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism, some infectious diseases, cancer or any disease that suppresses the immune system. Excessive use of corticosteroids like prednisolone can suppress the immune system.

  • There are some cases of pyoderma that recur after treatment, yet an underlying cause can never be found. This is called idiopathic pyoderma or primary pyoderma.

  • Superficial pyoderma must be differentiated from other diseases that present with pustules such as autoimmune skin diseases and certain fungal skin diseases.

    Deep Pyoderma

  • Deep pyoderma is rare in cats but is much more severe than the more common forms. Cats with deep pyoderma have severe bacterial skin infections with open, draining sores and fever. These animals are very sick, are often not eating and are very depressed.

    The bacteria that has infected the skin can be any of a number of species of bacteria and more than one species may be present. All cats with this form of pyoderma are assumed to have suppressed immune systems.



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