Emergency Appeal

In this time of crisis, our front-line staff are working hard to ensure we're still there for the UK's most vulnerable pets. We need your support now more than ever to keep our doors open.

Skin fold dermatitis in dogs

dog on white background

Overview

  • Skin fold dermatitis is an infection in a pocket between two folds of skin.
  • Skin fold pockets are warm and moist, providing a perfect place for bacteria and yeast to grow.
  • Skin fold dermatitis is common in overweight dogs, dogs with wrinkly skin and dogs with short noses.
  • The first sign of skin fold dermatitis tends to be smell and red skin between the folds.
  • Prevent skin fold dermatitis by regularly cleaning and drying in between your dog’s skin folds.
  • Contact your vet if you notice your dog has skin problems.

General information

Yeast and bacteria live naturally on your dog’s skin but, only cause a problem if they overgrow. Pockets in between skin folds provide a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to grow, and for infections to develop. Skin fold dermatitis is most common in skin folds above the nose, tail and vulva.

Dogs with skin folds require lifetime care from their owners to keep their skin healthy.

Skin fold dermatitis is common in:

  • Overweight animals (that develop skin folds due to their weight)
  • Short nosed dogs with fold above their noses such as the British Bulldog, Pug, and French Bulldog
  • Dogs with wrinkly skin such as the Shar Pei.
Illustration of pug with skin fold dermatitis

Skin fold dermatitis is common in flat-faced breeds

Symptoms of skin fold dermatitis

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet if you think your dog has a skin fold infection. Infected skin can cause a lot of discomfort and left untreated, can cause much more serious problems.

Treatment

Treating skin fold dermatitis involves regular cleaning, reducing inflammation and sometimes antibiotics/anti-yeast treatment.

Cleaning

  • It's very important to keep infected skin folds clean and dry.
  • Your vet may prescribe your dog a special anti-microbial shampoo, or ask you to use salt water (see illustration below). It's important to clean each skin fold pocket thoroughly.
  • It is very important to stop your dog (and other pets) licking or scratching infected skin. It may be necessary to use a buster collar to stop them licking or scratching. You can purchase these yourself at your vets, a pet shop or online.

Reducing inflammation

  • Cleaning alone can sometimes be enough to allow skin to heal, but if necessary, your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication (usually steroids). This could be a tablet, spray or a cream.

Antibiotics/anti-yeast

  • Antibiotics tablets/cream may be necessary if your dog’s infection is bacterial.
  • Antibiotics won’t be necessary if your dog’s skin infection is caused by yeasts, instead your vet may prescribe an antifungal shampoo/cream.
Illustration showing method to make saline solution at home

Use fresh cotton wool pads and saline to clean infected skin pockets

Outlook

Skin fold dermatitis usually improves very quickly with the correct treatment and care.

In rare cases, surgery is needed to remove the folds of skin and stop infection coming back. Speak to your vet if your dog is suffering from skin fold dermatitis regularly.

Prevention

To prevent skin fold infections, clean and dry your dog’s skin folds regularly. Use cotton wool pads soaked in salt water (see instructions above) and dry the skin thoroughly afterwards. Don’t use anything else to clean your dog’s skin unless it’s something your vet has advised.

Breeds prone to skin fold dermatitis

Skin folds are much more common in certain breeds due to excess skin and body shape, if you are thinking of getting a pedigree dog make sure you research the breed thoroughly and get the healthiest dog possible. Breeds prone to skin fold dermatitis include:

Two dogs, one with a wrinkly face.

The shape of a dog's face and skin can make them more prone to skin fold dermatitis

Published: June 2020

PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery 

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst