What Causes Folliculitis in Dogs & How Do You Treat It?

  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Dogs can be affected by numerous skin conditions, from ringworm and eczema to flaking and blisters. But one you might not be aware of is folliculitis. Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicle often caused by bacteria, explains Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover and Chief Veterinarian at Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital.

For example, “there can be an overgrowth of the bacteria that normally live on the skin to the point of causing an infection,” she says.

Don’t panic if you think your dog has folliculitis; it’s a common skin condition that can be treated. However, to successfully tackle the infection, it’s essential to address the underlying cause and seek out the help of a trusted veterinary dermatologist or general vet immediately. Read on to learn everything you need to know about folliculitis in dogs.

What Are The Symptoms of Folliculitis in Dogs?

Bacterial folliculitis is a skin infection involving pus, inflammation, and abscesses. But what does folliculitis look like in dogs? Greenstein reveals that the primary symptoms include the following:

  • Redness
  • Bumps
  • Pustules
  • Rashes
  • Fur loss
  • Excessive licking or itching
  • Skin irritation
  • Broken skin

Still not sure if your dog’s symptoms match? Think of it like this: “Many cases of folliculitis in dogs present similarly to acne or rashes in people,” Greenstein shares.


What Causes Folliculitis?

Greenstein shares that folliculitis is an umbrella term for inflamed hair follicles and doesn’t reveal anything specific about its causes.

First and foremost, pet parents should know bacteria is the most common cause of folliculitis in dogs. However, bacteria that live naturally on dogs’ skin are generally harmless; issues can occur when underlying causes change the skin’s environment.

Furthermore, Greenstein explains that while the underlying causes of folliculitis vary widely, these are some of the most common:

  • Allergies
  • Trauma
  • Irritation
  • Excessive licking (which can compromise the skin barrier)
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasites
  • Excessive heat or moisture
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Immune-mediated conditions

Is Folliculitis More Common in Certain Dog Breeds?

Similar to other health conditions, some dogs are more prone to developing folliculitis than others. Additionally, Greenstein reveals that the following breeds are at higher risk of folliculitis:

  • Scottish Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Boxers
  • Frenchies
  • Chinese Shar-Peis
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Bulldogs
  • Shih Tzus

If your dog is one of these breeds, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily develop folliculitis. However, knowing they’re at greater risk and the signs to look for can help you nip potential issues in the bud.


How Is Folliculitis Treated?

It is possible to clear up a dog’s folliculitis. However, because there’s no specific cause behind folliculitis, doing so can be tricky.

Treatments vary depending on the root concern. Greenstein explains that successful folliculitis treatment depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause.

  • Bacterial folliculitis. In severe cases, your dog’s treatment might involve oral antibiotics. Antibacterial shampoos, mousses, creams, gels, and ointments can also help clear things up.
  • Fungal folliculitis. Greenstein explains that topical (and sometimes oral) antifungal medications are used for yeast infections of the hair follicles.
  • Parasite-induced folliculitis. When parasites, like fleas and ticks, are to blame, you should target them first. In these cases, folliculitis is usually managed with topical or oral broad-spectrum anti-parasite medicine. As a bonus? Greenstein notes these medications are often used to prevent future infections or relapse.
  • Allergy or hormonal-related folliculitis. With allergies or hormones, Greenstein explains a vet needs to treat the underlying medical concern before folliculitis. Importantly, allergy and hormone-imbalance treatment may involve long-term approaches.

It’s important to understand that folliculitis treatment can take a while, and symptoms won’t disappear overnight. Nevertheless, working with a vet to create a treatment plan is a great first step to combat folliculitis.

Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Folliculitis?

Folliculitis prevention depends on what’s causing it. For instance, some cases of dermatitis, which can then lead to folliculitis, are relatively preventable. However, Greenstein says that dermatitis is more common in hot weather. “Make sure to keep their coats short in summer, dry them off completely after baths or swimming, and stop them from overgrooming or excessive licking,” she adds.

Additionally, if folliculitis is caused by an ongoing medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, there’s unfortunately not much you can do to prevent it. The good news? These can typically be treated and managed by vet-prescribed medication.

Is folliculitis contagious?

Since dogs aren’t the only mammal to experience folliculitis, you might wonder if it’s contagious between dogs and humans. The answer? It depends.

“Skin conditions caused by allergies or other underlying medical concerns are usually confined to the skin of that particular pet,” Greenstein states. However, she says certain parasitic or fungal infections can theoretically be transmitted to people, though this is rare.



While it might seem alarming, many dogs experience folliculitis. While it’s often bacterial, various factors can prompt its development, from hormonal concerns and allergies to excessive licking and fungal infections. Once your vet identifies the root cause, they can discuss and begin treatment.

However, folliculitis isn’t the only skin issue dogs have. Other skin conditions can also happen, including dryness, chafing, and cancer. Fortunately, various treatments, preventative measures, and solutions exist, including sunscreen, dog lotion, and other skin-saving products. So take your dog on a journey to better, healthier skin!

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