Treatment of Bacterial Skin Disease in Cats

Prompt treatment of bacterial skin disease is a smart idea to prevent unnecessary complications. For all types, both superficial and deep, there are certain principles that should be followed when treating such diseases.

If there is an underlying cause for the infection, it must be identified and corrected first. For instance, if fleas seem to be the source, insecticidal treatment is warranted. If this problem is not controlled, the infection will recur after other treatments are stopped. Skin lesions should be kept clean and dry at all times.

This is especially true for cases of acute moist dermatitis. Astringents (drying agents) should be applied daily to assist in healing and prevent further spread. Many of the ear cleansers available have excellent drying properties and can be used topically for such a purpose.

Creams and ointments should not be used on moist skin lesions, since such vehicles are counterproductive to drying efforts. Ideally, bacterial skin lesions should be allowed direct access to surrounding air, which means that the hair in the affected region(s) should be shaved and bandages avoided.

High doses of antibiotics used for extended durations are the mainstay of treatment for bacterial skin infections. Mild, superficial infections might require only 10 to 14 days of medication to afford a cure; severe, deep infections might require antibiotic therapy that can last as long as 8 weeks!

Bacterial resistance to the effects of certain antibiotics has become an unfortunate reality. As a result, do not be surprised if a veterinarian elects to perform a bacterial culture or sensitivity study to determine the exact antibiotics that are effective against that particular infection.

If a pet is placed on oral antibiotic therapy for a skin infection, it is imperative that owners complete the entire prescription as directed, even if the skin clears up after only a few days of medication. Topical therapy for bacterial skin infections is an important adjunct to any treatment regimen.

Many medicated shampoos are available that can be used to help speed healing. Those shampoos containing chlorhexidine are preferred, since this substance has excellent antibacterial properties. In some cases, these medicated shampoos should be used daily until the infection is brought under control.

For best results, medicated shampoos should be allowed to remain in contact with skin in the affected area(s) for at least 15 minutes before rinsing. Remember to follow all veterinary recommendations concerning the frequency and duration of this type of topical therapy.

Pets should be shampooed and rinsed thoroughly, then dried off completely. This last step is vital because moisture will only serve to promote the infection. If needed, a handheld blow dryer set on low heat can assist in this task.

Medicated creams and ointments are also popular therapeutic additions for pets with skin infections. Triple antibiotic formulations available over the counter or by prescription are preferred, and should be applied three to four times a day to the lesions.

As mentioned before, use these products only on lesions that have been properly dried; do not use on moist lesions. When using a medicated cream or ointment, avoid those preparations containing hydrocortisone or other steroid anti-inflammatories unless specifically prescribed or recommended by veterinarians.

Indiscriminate use of such products could actually delay healing and allow the infection to worsen.