Folliculitis in Dogs & Cats | Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention (2024)


Folliculitis is a term that refers to the inflammation of one or more hair follicles. In veterinary medicine, it’s most commonly discussed as bacterial folliculitis, a condition which involves the infection of hair follicles with bacteria and is widely considered the most common kind of canine skin infection.

The bacteria that infects the hair follicles of pets who suffer this condition typically resides on the surface of normal dog and cat skin. As such, bacterial folliculitis tends to occur when a healthy hair follicle is compromised, either by an underlying systemic disease, local trauma, or a specific disorder of the skin.

Systemic diseases that can lead to bacterial folliculitis include endocrine disorders (such ashypothyroidismandCushing’s diseasein dogs) and disorders of the immune system.

Skin disorders causing bacterial folliculitis in dogs include: canine acne,acral lick granuloma,skin fold pyoderma, interdigital pododermatitis (interdigital cysts), idiopathic furunculosis of German Shepherd Dogs, pyotraumatic folliculitis, and callus dermatitis, among others. In both dogs and cats, allergic skin disease is perhaps the most common cause of bacterial folliculitis. Parasitism and fungal infection of the skin are also common causes.

Symptoms and Identification

Regardless of the cause, the upshot of bacterial folliculitis is the same. Swelling, redness, itching, pustules (pimples) and hair loss are the most common symptoms, but the following may also be in evidence:

The diagnosis of bacterial folliculitis is typically made upon visual inspection and often after undertaking one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

Affected Breeds

No breed predisposition has been specifically identified for bacterial folliculitis in general. Certain conditions predisposing pets to bacterial folliculitis (such as allergic skin disease), however, are considered hereditary and are therefore more prevalent in certain breeds.


Treatment of bacterial folliculitis requires a three-pronged approach: topical therapy, systemic therapy, and treatment of any underlying disorder. Antimicrobial drugs are almost always employed.

Topical therapy most often involves the use of antimicrobial shampoos, whereas systemic therapy usually includes oral antibiotic medications. In the case of bacterial folliculitis, long-term use of both topical and systemic antimicrobials is typically required (three to twelve weeks).

Treatment of underlying conditions is highly specific to the individual disorder.

Veterinary Cost

Due to the relative ease of diagnosis in most cases, the initial costs involved in diagnosing bacterial folliculitis –– often less than $100-$200 –– are typically considered affordable. In complicated cases for which hard-to-diagnose underlying diseases are a possibility, however, diagnostic costs can climb to $500 - $1,000 or more, especially if systemic diseases are in play.

Despite the relatively low cost of diagnosis, treatment may prove expensive for many pets with bacterial folliculitis. That’s because of the long term nature of the typical treatment protocol and the high price of some of the antibiotics and topical agents required to treat these infections. In large dogs, for example, antibiotic therapy can easily cost many hundreds of dollars. What’s more, treatment of any underlying conditions may also prove expensive.


The possibility of preventing bacterial folliculitis depends on whether or not its underlying cause can be prevented. For example, pets with flea allergy as an underlying cause are often highly manageable via strict flea prevention. Otherwise, this condition isn’t generally considered preventable.


Curtis CF, Bond R, Blunden AS, Thomson DG, McNeil PE, Whitbread TW. Canine eosinophilic folliculitis and furunculosis in three cases. J Small Anim Pract. 1995 Mar;36(3):119-23.

Fraser M. What is your diagnosis? Eosinophilic folliculitis and furunculosis. J Small Anim Pract. 2002 Apr;43(4):150, 187.

Mason IS, Mason KV, Lloyd DH. A review of the biology of canine skin with respect to the commensals Staphylococcus intermedius, Demodex canis and Malassezia pachydermatis. Vet Dermatol. 1996;7:119–132.

Sasaki A, Shimizu A, Kawano J, et al. Characteristics of Staphylococcus intermedius isolates from diseased and healthy dogs. J Vet Med Sci. 2005;67:103–106.

White SD, Brown AE, Chapman PL, et al.. Evaluation of aerobic bacteriologic culture of epidermal collarette specimens in dogs with superficial pyoderma. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005;226:904–908.

Folliculitis in Dogs & Cats | Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention (2024)


How to prevent folliculitis in dogs? ›

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.

What medication is used for folliculitis in dogs? ›

In severe cases, your dog's treatment might involve oral antibiotics. Antibacterial shampoos, mousses, creams, gels, and ointments can also help clear things up. Fungal folliculitis. Greenstein explains that topical (and sometimes oral) antifungal medications are used for yeast infections of the hair follicles.

How to treat folliculitis in cats at home? ›

Treatment often involves improved hygiene. A benzoyl peroxide facial preparation or an anti-seborrheic shampoo is used to cleanse the affected area and flush out the hair follicles. An antibiotic ointment containing mupirocin (Muricin®) is highly effective in many cases.

How does folliculitis start in dogs? ›

Folliculitis in dogs is most commonly caused by bacteria, but other culprits include parasitism, fungal infections, systemic disease, immune system disorders, endocrine issues, and local trauma. Your dog's folliculitis may be caused by the following conditions: Canine acne. Skin-fold pyoderma.

What kills folliculitis naturally? ›

Essential Oils

Tea tree oil, neem oil, geranium oil, grapefruit seed oil are very effective in treating folliculitis. Tea tree oil can be added to your shampoo, lotion or body wash. Rub it gently onto the affected area and let it sit. Before using it do a patch test to make sure there are no adverse reactions.

Can Apple cider vinegar help folliculitis in dogs? ›

Don't test out any home folliculitis remedies on your pup without consulting your veterinarian first. If you were considering using apple cider vinegar as a treatment, think again. Dr. McCullough says you should avoid using apple cider vinegar because it may cause your dog pain when it's applied to their inflamed skin.

What makes folliculitis worse? ›

Sometimes, when Malassezia gets into the hair follicles, it can cause an itchy condition that looks like an acne breakout. It usually occurs on the upper chest and back. This form of folliculitis is made worse (aggravated) by sweat.

How do I get rid of folliculitis ASAP? ›

The following self-care tips may help relieve discomfort, speed healing and prevent an infection from spreading:
  1. Apply a warm, moist washcloth. ...
  2. Apply a nonprescription antibiotic. ...
  3. Apply a soothing lotion or cream. ...
  4. Clean the affected skin. ...
  5. Protect the skin.

Does vinegar cure folliculitis? ›

What kills folliculitis bacteria? Washing with warm water and antibacterial soap is often enough to clean and help heal the area. You can also try a saltwater solution, or vinegar mixed with water. Over-the-counter antibiotic creams often work as well.

What shampoo is good for dogs with folliculitis? ›

Benzoyl peroxide shampoo for dogs Is effective for issues such as scaling, crusting skin, treating seborrhea, pyoderma, folliculitis and similar skin conditions. It is also effective at reducing excessive oil on a dog's skin or coat.

What can be mistaken for folliculitis? ›

Folliculitis may be mistaken for the following conditions:
  • acne vulgaris.
  • papulopustular rosacea.
  • hidradenitis suppurativa.
  • scabies.
  • pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor bumps)
  • keratosis pilaris.
  • acne keloidalis nuchae.
Mar 27, 2024

Can dog food cause folliculitis? ›

Allergies to certain foods, grass, pollens, and flea bites can cause your dog's skin to flare up and their hair follicles to become infected. If you notice your dog is scratching or licking excessively, their folliculitis could be due to allergies.

How do you stop recurring folliculitis? ›

Treatment of recurrent folliculitis

Local treatment: can use topical anti-infective drugs such as betadin, iodine tincture, antibiotic creams or ointments such as bactroban, fucidin... Systemic treatment: in In cases of severe inflammation and frequent recurrences, systemic drugs can be used.

Is folliculitis contagious from dog to human? ›

Can humans get folliculitis from dogs? No, generally folliculitis isn't contagious to humans or other dogs. However, if your dog's folliculitis is due to infections such as ringworm or scabies, these are contagious to humans and other animals.

How do you prevent folliculitis down there? ›

Prevention of male and female genital folliculitis

Prevent infected hair follicles in the pubic area with proper hygiene, including frequent washing of the intimate area with mild soap and warm water.

How do you prevent skin infections in dogs? ›

By preventing the accumulation of moisture and debris, you reduce the risk of skin infections in your dog. Consistent hygiene measures, combined with proper nutrition and regular grooming, form a holistic approach to canine skin care, promoting the overall health and well-being of your beloved pet.


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