Pyoderma (Bacterial Skin Infections) in Cats

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Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Feline pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection in cats. Pyoderma translates to “pus in the skin,” and is uncommon in cats, although it may be underdiagnosed.

  • Pyoderma occurs when the normal, resident bacterial population of the skin (microflora), moves through the skin barrier resulting in an infection
  • Underlying causes include parasites, skin allergies, immunodeficiency, and injuries
  • Some cases have no identifiable underlying cause
  • Symptoms include itchiness, hair loss, crusting of the skin, raised bumps, and open wounds
  • Diagnosis involves physical exam, microscopic skin examination for parasites, allergy testing and ruling out underlying triggers 
  • Treatment involves antibiotics, antiparasitics, and anti-itch medication
  • Prevention depends on the underlying cause
  • Flea prevention is very important, as flea-bite sensitivity is one of the most common causes of pyoderma in cats
  • Prognosis is good to excellent with appropriate treatment, however, some cases may recur
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A closer look: Pyoderma (Bacterial Skin Infections) in Cats

Pyoderma is the result of damage to the skin barrier which allows bacteria to move from the skin surface into the skin layer. Pyoderma can be superficial or deep depending on the depth of the infection.

While not life-threatening, pyoderma is a persistent condition which requires long term treatment for resolution and often recurs.

Cats with suspected pyoderma require veterinary attention.

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Risk factors

Pyoderma is an uncommon condition in cats that results in itchiness and skin changes. There are two types of pyoderma, superficial and deep pyoderma.

Superficial pyoderma results in less severe signs.

Deep pyoderma is more painful resulting in:

  • Skin ulceration
  • Non healing wounds
  • Pus draining from tracts in the skin

Rare, severe or untreated cases of pyoderma have systemic symptoms such as fever, lethargy, and lymph node enlargement.

Possible causes

Some cases of pyoderma have no known cause.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of pyoderma involves:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood work
  • Microscopic examination of the skin
  • Bacterial culture
  • Allergy testing
  • Viral blood test - FIV/FeLV

Steps to Recovery

Treatment aims to address the symptoms of pyoderma directly and to resolve any underlying triggers or causes. Treatment options for symptoms of pyoderma include:

  • Appropriate antibiotic medication
  • Topical antimicrobial solutions or shampoos
  • Steroids

Treatment of underlying conditions may include:

  • Antiparasitic medication
  • Anti-itching medication
  • Management of injuries
  • Allergy medications
  • Hypoallergenic food

Overall prognosis is good to excellent as pyoderma normally responds to treatment with an appropriate antibiotic. The duration of treatment is linked to the depth of infection. Superficial pyoderma normally resolves within 2-3 weeks whereas deep pyoderma may require 8-12 weeks of treatment. Recurrence is common as a result of persistent underlying disease.


Prevention of pyoderma depends on adequate control of the underlying triggers. Options include:

  • Routine antiparasitic medication
  • Regular grooming of long haired cats to remove excessive debris and bacteria from the coat
  • Allergy medications
  • Hypoallergenic diets
  • Skin supplements

Is Pyoderma (Bacterial Skin Infections) in Cats common?

Pyoderma is uncommon in cats, but may be underdiagnosed.

Typical Treatment

  • Antibiotics
  • Topical antimicrobial solutions or shampoos
  • Pain relief
  • Antiparasitics
  • Anti-itch medication
  • Management of injuries


Stacie Grannum, DVM - Writing for PetMD
Karen A. Moriello , DVM, DACVD - Writing for MSD Veterinary Manual
Peter Forsythe, BVM&S, DVD, MRCVS - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Ian Mason BVetMed PhD CertSAD DipECVD FRCVS; David Scarff BVetMed CertSAD MRCVS; David Godfrey BVetMed PGDip CertSAD CertSAM DipABVP (feline) FRSB FRCVS - Writing for Vetlexicon
Rosanna Marsella DVM DipACVD; Ian Mason BVetMed PhD CertSAD DipECVD FRCVS; David Scarff BVetMed CertSAD MRCVS - Writing for Vetlexicon

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