This is a bacterial infection on the skin (esp. the hair follicles) that is seen almost exclusively in the middle aged German Shepherd. The areas affected are the croup, back, ventral abdomen and thighs but may affect the chin, bridge of the nose (Nasal pyoderma is characterized by painful swelling of the tissue on top of the nose, erosion of the skin, ulceration and crusting. Antibiotics and wet soaks are appropriate therapy), elbows, hocks, and feet, while severely affected individuals may have a more generalised body wide distribution. The condition is one of deep pus-filled sores, with hair loss, hyperpigmentation and itchiness. The lesions are tender and there is often a history of poor response to treatment and re-occurring bouts of inflammation and infection.  Pyoderma is a common sequela to allergies and/or hormonal problems. The predisposing factors that have been considered include genetic, immune deficiencies, hypothyroidism and bacterial hypersensitivity.  Antibiotic therapy is the treatment of choice. Medicated shampoos compliment antibiotic therapy.  There can be a history of other relatives with the disease. Treatment is prolonged and often repeated - many owners persevere for years before admitting defeat.

What is German Shepherd Pyoderma


Staphylococci ‘Staph bacteria’ are the most common organisms found in bacterial skin diseases (pyoderma's) in dogs. Fortunately, these bacteria (S. intermedius) are not contagious to humans or other pets.

Commonly itchy, yellow pustules are often observed early in the disease, and the dog’s skin can be reddened and ulcerated. Dry, crusted areas appear as the condition advances, along with loss of hair in the affected areas (lesions) and an odour.

All areas of a dog’s body may be involved, but most cases are confined to the trunk. The chin is one area commonly affected. Called chin acne, this condition is actually a deep bacterial infection. Obese dogs and dogs of the pug-nosed breeds are frequently affected by pyoderma in the skin folds on their face, lips and vulva.

Other areas where pyoderma may occur include between the toes and on the calluses of the elbows that mostly affects the abdominal area in young puppies.

This is usually made from the case history and appearance and location of the lesions. In some cases, it may be necessary to culture the skin (grow the bacteria) and conduct sensitivity tests to determine which antibiotic will be effective in treatment. Most bacterial skin infections in dogs are secondary to another disease such as parasitism, allergies, endocrine (hormonal) disorders or abnormalities in the immune system. Therefore, in recurrent cases, it is important to search for underlying causes. It may be necessary to do blood tests, allergy tests or skin biopsies to achieve a complete diagnosis.

Initial treatments may entail removal of the hair in and around the lesions, washing of the whole dog with antibiotic shampoos such as benzoyl peroxide, careful drying and the application of an antibiotic ointment to local lesions, in most cases, antibiotics will also be administered orally for 3-4 weeks. Bandages or a protective collar which prevents the dog from mutilating the lesions may be applied. 

Some pyoderma involving skin folds can require corrective surgery. In recurrent cases where testing reveals no definable underlying cause, special staphylococcal vaccines as an alternative to long-term antibiotic treatment can be tried.

It may be necessary to continue treatments such as antiseptic shampooing, antibiotic ointment applications and giving antibiotics orally at home. While most cases respond to treatment, recurrences of pyoderma are common, particularly if treatment recommendations and follow-up visits to your veterinarian are neglected. Glucocorticoid steroids cannot be administered

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What is German shepherd pyoderma?

Bacterial skin infection (pyoderma) is very common in dogs, and is usually easily treated with antibiotics. Infection is almost invariably caused by Staphylococcus intermedius, which does not produce any problems in people.
Chronic, recurring, or deep infections can also occur, generally due to an underlying cause, and these are more difficult to treat. In German shepherds, a deep pyoderma is seen (meaning the infection extends beyond and beneath superficial structures in the skin) which causes severe chronic draining lesions in the area of the lower back and hind legs. Sometimes an underlying cause can be identified.
How is German shepherd pyoderma inherited?
The predisposition to this condition is thought to be autosomal recessive; however as with all pyodermas, there are frequently other factors involved.
What breeds are affected by German shepherd pyoderma?

This is seen most often in German shepherd dogs bred of European lines.

For many breeds and many disorders, the studies to determine the mode of inheritance or the frequency in the breed have not been carried out, or are inconclusive. We have listed breeds for which there is a consensus among those investigating in this field and among veterinary practitioners, that the condition is significant in this breed.

What does German shepherd pyoderma mean to your dog & you?
The condition most often develops in middle-aged, otherwise healthy dogs. You may first notice that your dog bites at the lower back region, indicating itchiness. Early lesions such as pustules, erosions and crusting may be hidden by the haircoat but gradually there will be hair loss, deeper ulceration's and draining sinuses. The areas affected (lower back, outer thighs) may be quite painful.

How is German shepherd pyoderma diagnosed?
The condition is diagnosed based on the clinical signs, response to antibiotics, and recurring nature.

How is German shepherd pyoderma treated?
Predisposing factors such as fleas, flea bite hypersensitivity, food allergies, and hypothyroidism must be identified and treated. Appropriate antibiotics must be given for a sufficient length of time, which may be as long as 6 to 10 weeks. Your veterinarian will likely also recommend antibacterial shampoos to remove infectious debris (discharge, crusts, etc.).

This recurrent condition usually requires life-long management. Your veterinarian will work with you to devise a control programme that works for your dog, which may include immunomodulatory bacterins, long term antibiotic use, and/or regular antibacterial shampoos.

Breeding advice
Avoid breeding affected dogs and their close relatives.


    DeBoer, D.J. 1995. Management of chronic and recurrent pyoderma in the dog. In J.D. Bonagura and R.W. Kirk (eds.) Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XII Small Animal Practice. p. 611-617. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.
Copyright © 2009 Canine Inherited Disorders Database. All rights reserved.
This database is funded jointly by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
Permission to reprint is granted  by
Alice Crook, DVM Coordinator, Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre
Atlantic Veterinary College University of Prince Edward Island

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Management of Canine Pyoderma
Pyoderma in the Dog
Bacterial Skin Disease

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The above information is simply informational. It's intent is not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist you in making a diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.