Treatment of Canine Mucocutaneous Pyoderma

Mucocutaneous pyoderma is found around the lips and mouths of infected dogs.
Mucocutaneous pyoderma is found around the lips and mouths of infected dogs. (Image: puppy tongue image by Sandi Chetwynd from

You notice inflamed sores around your dog’s lips and membranes of her mouth and she may be developing more around her vulva. Upon examination, your veterinarian diagnoses mucocutaneous pyoderma, a superficial bacterial skin disease of the mucous membranes and recommends both systemic and topical antibiotic treatment. Consulting with your vet and learning all you can about treating this disease will allow you to give your pet the proper care she needs to help her quickly heal.

Systemic Antibiotics

“Antibiotics can either be selected empirically (the medication is known to work) or based on the results of bacterial culture, identification and sensitivity testing,” says Dr. Peter J. Ihrke in his book “Bacterial Skin Disease in the Dog.” He states that the empirically-chosen drug should be effective against Staphylococcus intermedius, the most common bacteria responsible for canine pyodermas.

Veterinarians choose between several different systemic antibiotics when dealing with mucocutaneous pyoderma. The typical veterinary clinic stocks supplies of erythromycin, lincomycin, enrofloxacin, cephalexin and amoxicillin to deal with superficial skin diseases and other infections, and it is up to your veterinarian to recommend a particular drug and prescribe the dosage according to the weight of your dog and the severity of the disease.

Topical Antibiotics

In cases of mucocutaneous pyoderma, topical treatment with antibiotics is always beneficial, says Dr. D. N. Carlotti in his paper “Clinical Aspects, Diagnosis and Therapy of Canine Pyoderma” presented at the 2003 World Congress of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. Your vet might suggest a topical shampoo containing chlorhexidin, povidone-iodine or benzoyl-peroxide to be used frequently, as all of these drugs kill the disease-causing bacteria. The shampoos also remove pus and dead skin cells from around the pyodermic lesions, allowing for quicker healing times, and reduce pain and itching at the sites. Dr. Carlotti also recommends applying antibacterial gels, creams or ointments to the lesion sites after each shampoo to facilitate healing.

Dosage and Duration of Treatment

Your veterinarian will suggest dosing your dog with systemic antibiotics based on the animal’s weight. Vets prescribe most oral antibiotics in tablet form and, depending on the amount of medicine in each tablet and your dog’s weight, your prescription will tell you how many pills to give each day and how often.

For example, your dog weighs 30 pounds and your vet prescribes erythromycin. Erythromycin comes in 250 and 500 mg tablets with a recommended dosage of 10 to 20 mgs per every 2.2 pounds of weight, two to three times a day. You would be safe giving your pet one 250-mg tablet twice a day until the lesions heal, according to Dr. Mark Papich’s “Saunders Handbook of Veterinary Drugs.”

Most vets recommend that topical shampoos and ointments be applied once daily at the beginning of treatment, with frequency of application decreasing as the lesions heal.

Associate Treatments

Certain veterinarians recommend immune therapies in the treatment of mucocutaneous pyodermas, but these therapies are highly controversial in the veterinary dermatologic community, states Dr. Ihrke. Vets who use preparations containing killed bacteria (typically Staphylococcus) claim that these medications allow the infected dog’s immune system to ward off and destroy the bacteria naturally, but Dr. Ihrke says that the side effects are numerous. He states that “swelling and paIn at the injection site, fever and general malaise are noted commonly with these products, limiting wide acceptance and usage. Critical evaluations of these products have not been performed.”


Life-long maintenance on systemic drugs may be needed for the dog with pyoderma, say Dr. Linda Medleau and Dr. Keith Hnilica in their book “Small Animal Dermatology: A Color Atlas and Therapeutic Guide.” They recommend using the prescribed doses of cephalexin or amoxicillin twice a day until the lesions are gone, noting that this healing typically takes three to six weeks. After the lesions are healed, the doctors suggest continuing the oral antibiotics twice a day for two consecutive days every week for the life of the dog.

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