Can Dogs Get Skin Infections from Grooming?
Q: We have a Samoyed, about nine years old and in good health. Recently, he was shaved head to tail for an accumulation of burrs. Our previous groomer had not been brushing him well (it’s quite an event to brush him—he has a huge mane of white fur and a lot of undercoating), and the new groomer ended up having to shave him almost completely, even around the neck area. There were burrs embedded everywhere.
He soon developed a spot on his neck the size of a quarter that became redder and redder. And he has become very itchy, scratching and only making it worse. I’ve been putting warm salt compresses on the spot and that seems to relieve him for a while, but then he’s back at it. What’s going on?
A: There’s something known as a post-clipping bacterial infection, technically named post-grooming bacterial folliculitis-furunculosis. “You see it occasionally after grooming or bathing,” says Tufts veterinary dermatologist Lluis Ferrer, DVM, PhD, DECVD. “It’s not a very frequent event, but it does happen.”
How can grooming lead to an infection? Sometimes the hair follicles, which become more exposed upon shaving, become contaminated with bacteria (in the vast majority of cases, Pseudomonas or Staphylococcus). This could occur because of trauma to the follicles when you cut or wash the hair or even because of bacteria in the water that can then colonize on a dog’s skin. There may even be inflammation of the hair follicles as a consequence of a bacterial infection. It can be localized, restricted to one skin site, or more generalized, affecting broad skin areas.
“You could also nick the skin with cutting or shaving and leave a cut, even a very small cut, that allows bacteria to enter,” Dr. Ferrer says. If you shave the hair all the way down to the skin, that’s certainly a possibility.
Sometimes it’s not the shaving or water but, rather, mild, transient contact dermatitis because of substances used to clean a dog that were never applied before.
You do mention that you have a new groomer, and he or she may use a shampoo with ingredients that don’t agree with your dog.
You should take your dog to the doctor. Sometimes a post-grooming bacterial infection clears on its own, but in most cases, antibiotics are needed. Also, post-grooming bacterial infections tend not to be very itchy, so your dog may have an infection or other problem that has nothing to do with the grooming and just happened to occur at the same time coincidentally.
Good luck solving this. The sooner you get your pet to your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist, the smaller the chance that whatever is wrong will not spiral into a problem that’s difficult to treat.