Bacterial Infections in Dogs

Different factors and circumstances can cause bacterial infections in dogs. The bacteria responsible for these infections could be passed from one dog to another either through direct contact with the infectious organism or by interacting with an infected object like feeding dishes, bowls or clothing.

Dogs more susceptible to bacterial infections include young puppies, senior dogs, and those with immune system deficiencies or compromised liver or kidney function. It is essential to know what you’re up against if your dog develops bacterial infections so you can take them to the vet immediately!

Dogs experience bacterial infections as a fungal infections, which can cause difficulty breathing and swallowing. Bacterial infections are among the more serious dog diseases, especially if they enter the bloodstream or internal organs. Some of the external types of bacterial infections include ear, skin, and nose issues. These types might be treated with medication, but some will need a veterinarian’s care.

The most common canine bacterial infections are skin infections, followed by UTIs (urinary tract infections), then respiratory problems. You can see these symptoms in your dog if they have a bacterial infection:

  • Fever or seeming to be less responsive
  • Sudden loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea
  • Rubbing the face on the ground or carpet
  • Whining and barking, especially at night
  • Sudden onset of respiratory problems such as coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Rapid drinking

Thirst signifies that your dog’s body is trying to flush out toxins quickly. If you notice they’re going to the bathroom more frequently, have a high fever, have diarrhoea, or are vomiting – these are all signs that your dog might have a bacterial infection.

Bacterial infections can be found in several areas on the dog’s body. Areas such as the skin and ears are more susceptible to bacterial infections developing due to their proximity to waste products and dirt.

Bacterial infections in dogs’ ears can develop when they get dirty, and faeces, dirt, and other items accumulate in the ear canal. Dogs that like to swim and dogs with floppy ears (such as Basset Hounds) are more susceptible to having ear problems because water is trapped behind their ears and causes a moist environment which can lead to bacterial infections. The symptoms of ear infections can vary, including:

  • Rubbing the ears on the floor or carpeting
  • Crying or whimpering when you touch the ears or head
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the ears often with their paws – This is usually accompanied by a foul odour coming from the affected ear(s) – this is a common symptom of ear infections in dogs.
  • Loss of balance when walking
  • A foul smell coming from the ear(s) is one of dogs’ most common symptoms of ear infections. If you notice your dog’s ears have a terrible odour, take them to the vet right away so you can get professional help for your pet.

Bacterial infections can form in the moist areas of a dog’s body where there is less airflow. This includes the eyes, genitals, anus, and skin folds around the neck. The symptoms of these bacterial infections are similar to other bacterial infections, but each area will be affected differently by the condition.


This is a membrane inflammation that lines your dog’s third eyelid.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive watering of the eyes, squinting, and pawing at the face
  • Swelling around one or both eyes
  • Redness of the lining tissue surrounding the eye(s)
  • Bodily secretions coming from the eye(s)
  • Inflamed eyelids – This can be seen as a bump or cyst bulging from the dog’s regular lid and has a moist or purplish appearance.
  • Swollen and reddened third eyelid.

Urine scald

This is when your dog’s skin is irritated by their urine due to a bacterial infection. Symptoms include:

  • Redness, swelling and itching in the area where your dog squats to urinate
  • Licking of the genitals
  • Increased or decreased frequency of urination
  • Skin bumps or red patches on their skin

Helps for this condition usually include cleaning the area with a gentle cleanser and keeping it dry.

Mild cases of urine scald may be treated by keeping the site clean and dry

Keeping moist or damp areas away from your dog, such as avoiding allowing them to rest in wet grass where their face may be pressed into the wet grass

Less commonly, your vet may prescribe a topical ointment if it does not clear up within a couple of weeks after cleaning and keeping it dry.

If your dog is frequently panting, has a high fever, or has diarrhoea or vomiting – these are all signs that your dog might have a bacterial infection. If you notice changes in your pet’s mood or behaviour, they may suffer from one of the many diseases associated with this condition.

Bacterial infections are usually easy to treat with medication or surgery, depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms. Your vet will usually prescribe some antibiotic(s) to get rid of the infection and prevent it from returning later on down the line. If you do not allow them to heal correctly, it can become a recurring problem in the future.

If left untreated, bacterial infections in dogs can cause kidney and liver damage, eventually leading to death.

Symptoms of Bacterial Infection

  • Fever and resting more than normal
  • Loss of energy or decreased appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes (in the neck, groin, or underarms)
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Head shaking
  • Lethargy/tiredness
  • Unusual discharge from the ears (or eyes in some cases)
  • Bad breath
  • Limping or moving with a higher than average gait
  • Whining and barking at night (especially for female dogs)
  • Panting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased thirst and urination

If your dog is suffering from any of these symptoms, then it may be time to take them in for an examination. A veterinarian will then most likely run some tests to determine the level of bacterial infection. If you do not deal with this condition properly, you can become very sick or even die from it. The symptoms of this disease are severe, and you should never ignore the warning signs that your pet is ill.

There are different levels of bacteria in your dog’s body, from mild to severe. If they have what is known as “just a touch of bacteria”, this is not serious and can be treated with an antibiotic regimen. However, if it is severe enough to cause your dog’s immune system to collapse, it may become extremely ill.

Different antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections in pets, including Zithromax, amoxicillin, and cephalexin. Sometimes, your dog must be on medication for a prolonged time to fight it off entirely. Yes, some antibiotics are given more frequently than others – but it all depends on the severity of the condition.


If left untreated, bacterial infections can become fatal, so make sure you take your dog to the vet if you notice any symptoms. This is especially true in cats, who are more susceptible to this condition than dogs are. Treating it early can reduce the amount of damage your pet may suffer from later on down the line. If you leave it untreated, they could get septicemia or an infection in their heart valves.

To prevent the spread of this bacterial infection, you should always keep your pet’s living area clean and dry. Do not allow them to go outside and roll around in dirt or mud, and make sure they do not ingest any substances that could cause bacteria levels to rise. Do not let them sleep with you for obvious reasons.