Cellulitis is an infection involving a dog's skin or subdermal tissue. An affected area of skin will be tender and raised, feel hotter and rougher to the touch, and appear redder than it normally would. Cellulitis requires prompt medical treatment, typically with antibiotics, so if symptoms appear, call your veterinarian right away.
Wounds Spur Cellulitis
While cellulitis is not itself a disease, it is typically the result of an infection brought on by a wound. Most cases of cellulitis stem from punctures, bites, deep scratches or lacerations that go untreated. In fact, the surest way to prevent cellulitis is to clean and treat any cuts or wounds immediately. Treat more superficial cuts or wounds with clean water and a topical ointment such as Neosporin. Deeper wounds and punctures require a veterinarian, who will likely prescribe antibiotics.
Pyoderma Is a Cause
Pyoderma is a blanket term for bacterial skin infections. Cellulitis typically results from deep pyoderma, which is any bacterial infection that affects the lowest layers of skin. While most of these infections stem from outward trauma, such as porcupine quill punctures, they can stem from skin cancers or a malfunctioning immune system. If cellulitis sets in, the skin will swell or pimple, and if squeezed may ooze pus. As the infection spreads, you may feel the tender cords of swollen lymphatic channels beneath the skin.
Juvenile Cellulitis Is Rarer
Juvenile cellulitis, also called puppy strangles or puppy head gland disease, is a rare disease that typically affects only puppies age 4 months or younger. The condition causes swelling and pimpling around the eyes, muzzle and ears, though it can also affect the feet, belly and genitalia. Unlike adult cellulitis, no one knows the cause of juvenile cellulitis, though some veterinarians suspect parasites and immune system trauma triggered by inoculations. All breeds are susceptible, but dachshunds, golden retrievers and Gordon setters are especially prone.
Treatment Requires Antibiotics
The only effective treatment for cellulitis is a course of antibiotics prescribed by your vet. This may involve shots or oral medication. She may also need to lance pimples, pustules or abscesses that do not drain on their own. If the abscess is large, your veterinarian may ask you to flush it with a diluted antiseptic solution once or twice daily to keep it clean.