> Welcome to over 1,000,000 other GSD lovers here! Click to see why they are here <

German Shepherd Bacterial Skin Infection


Dermatitis or Hot Spots

While red spots and inflammation on German Shepherds' skin may also be caused by Skin Allergies (see 19), the more severe skin problems generally develop in the form of actual infections or hot spots. The fur recedes, swelling occurs and the dog starts to show signs of an infection - such as reduced appetite, lethargy, general malaise, and possibly even fever.

Bacterial Skin Infections come in many forms. Superficial Pyoderma, also known as hot spots, is the most common and the one your dog is most likely to experience. They are caused by the overgrowth of bacteria on the surface of the dog’s skin and are avoidable and very easily treatable if caught early and treated right.

Hot spots will most commonly occur on the legs, backside, flanks, and paws – the places where a dog can lick and bite most easily, which means your dog is of high risk to ingest the bacteria too which will lead to seemingly unrelated ailments. Severe hot spots can also appear on the neck, ears and head as well.

Who Gets Skin Infections

Dogs most commonly susceptible to hot spots include those with heavy coats, histories of infections and allergies, fleas, mites, problems with their anal sacs, grooming issues and hair tangles. Keep in mind however that even a perfectly healthy short haired German Shepherd can get hot spots out of nowhere, so it is not a limited issue. Humidity and warmth can increase the risk of hot spots due to trapped moisture.

Warning Signs

There are usually no warning signs before the hot spots appear. They will show up one day and need to be treated immediately. A hot spot is usually indicated by circular patches where the hair is missing and the skin gets swollen, itchy, and exudes pus. Sometimes hair can mat over the lesion, obscuring the size and degree of the problem.

The dog will often lick the affected area and hence ingest the bacteria too, which makes the whole situation much worse. In addition, an affected dog may bite and scratch the area to the point of causing injury or even bleeding - thus spreading the bacteria to the paws and then all over the body!

Avoiding and Treating Skin Infections

To avoid Bacterial Skin Infections in future, target the CAUSE of the problem and address that CAUSE - or you will have frequent recurrences:

  • If it's a grooming issue, make sure you're brushing your German Shepherd regularly - when needed even twice a day. For coat care best are this soft-ended rubber brush f f f f f f f f, the Furminator f f f f f f f f, and the Love glove f f f f f f f f. We now only use the Furminator and Love glove, as we find these tools are totally sufficient and very convenient: pressing a button or blowing to get all the hair off. :-)
  • If your dog has allergies then they usually also promote bacterial skin infections, because the underlying CAUSE is the same: a weak immune system! Thus you MUST address this, or you will be facing ever more costly health problems with your dog! The only solution to strengthen the immune system and overall health(!) is: 1) Only feed fresh homemade natural foods, not commercial crap from rendering plants! 2) Avoid vaccination "boosters" - they do only harm, they have no benefit! 3) Avoid antibiotics - they too do only harm! 4) Avoid Steroids and NSAIDs - they too do only harm!
  • If the cause seems to be psychological (nervousness, separation anxiety, etc), you may need to get your German Shepherd more exercise and keep the dog busy so that (s)he doesn’t get so bored as to cause these infections through intense scratching/grooming.

To treat an existing Skin Infection, several steps are needed to ensure success. First look for fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc). Carefully wash away all foreign objects with this soothe cream conditioner. Afterwards apply a strong antiseptic spray to the infected area. When this has dried up (ca 20 seconds), apply Vet's Best Hot Spot Spray as the third step of treatment. Finally, if needed, you may want to hard-bandage the area of the Skin Infection so that your German Shepherd leaves the area alone to heal. Watch your dog closely to ensure (s)he does not lick, chew, or scratch the infected area.

You may be thinking that these three or four steps of avoiding and of treating the Skin Infection are "too much". However, experience shows that dog owners who do anything less or different, generally complain that they can't get rid of the Skin Infection, or that it is recurring. Conversely, the treatment outlined above works. It always works. Only the longer you have already destroyed your dog's immune system with commercial crap (sometimes called "dog food"), with over-vaccination, with antibiotics, and/or with steroids, the longer it will take to heal. Should be obvious. So better avoid all that crap from the start!

Note that an affected dog is usually highly agitated and will not leave the area alone. Some dogs will even growl or snap if the area is touched! So, be very careful with the infected area. Also, don't touch the infected area with your bare hands. Nonetheless wash your hands thoroughly after the treatment, and use an antiseptic lotion on your hands too.

Make sure that you never apply any ointment, lotion, powder, spray, etc close to the eyes, never in the ears, and never in the mouth or nose - unless it is specifically and clearly meant for this body opening! If this happens nonetheless, rinse well under running water, and if serious visit the right veterinarian straight away.

Distract your dog as much as you can to stop licking, chewing or scratching. Outdoor exercise is ideal, unless the sun is burning. Even without an acute skin infection, when the sun is burning, consider to apply a natural dog-suitable sun-block to your dog's lightly haired areas.

Don't let your German Shepherd swim anywhere for at least a week after the hot spot has disappeared completely. Don't bathe your GSD either during this time. A shower is good though because of the cleansing effect of running water and the soothe cream conditioner. Afterwards, again use the strong antiseptic wound spray and Vet's Best Hot Spot Spray. If needed, again hard-bandage the infected area, particularly during night-time.

During the day, ensure that your dog cannot lick, chew, or scratch the treated skin. If (s)he does, you must find ways to prevent boredom! An active dog will not lick, chew, or scratch the treated skin. Some dogs have been known to self-initiate a hot spot out of boredom, pain from a previous injury, or stress-related psychological problems. Hence, consider all these factors as well.

Hot spots that are not treated promptly will often grow and make your dog very irritable and possibly sick. They can also lead to German Shepherd behavior problems. Therefore, immediate treatment as outlined above is advisable.

Note that chronic Skin Infections are often a reason for your vet to test for Hypothyroidism (see 17).

  47 Responses to “German Shepherd Bacterial Skin Infection”


    This explains my dog’s symptoms perfectly. Yet, after visiting three different vets now the problem still remains, in fact, seems worse than ever. I plan to visit a fouth vet next week, however, the feeling of helplessness that I have is becoming unbearable. I just wish I could make this poor dog better again.

    Robert Gray.


      After reading some of these posts, I thought I would share our trials with our dog. After endless research, countless visits to many different vets, and about a year dealing with constant hot spots forming, we found out our dog is allergic to wheat and grain. Wheat and grain is common in many dog treats. Once we changed our food and eliminated treats with wheat and grain, our dog has not had a hot spot in over 6 months. I hope this helps, it broke my heart for such a long time to see our dog suffer from these, but try different foods and/or diet. Best.


        Had you gone through systematically, you would have realized within a day or so that he has an allergy – which is entirely different from an infection. And the money for your “countless visits to many different vets” you could easily have saved (and saved your dog’s health) had you only studied our Periodicals – which are invaluable, yet FREE. Because you can’t measure value by price.


      Use all natural organic coconut oil – I rub it directly on the hot spots and they are cleared up within a few days. If this doesn’t work, use Apple Cider Vinegar, the undistilled “with the mother”. It will sting a little, but it will rapidly kill the bacterial infection.


    I feel the same way it makes me sad and aggravated thaht I can’t do anything about it I have tried a lot of thing but a few of those tips r new to me I’ll give it a try thanks


    All the above symptoms my dog is also suffering, Many potions, creams and shampoos have been tried to no avail, and it is so upsetting to see the animal suffer. I have now tried the above recommendations – and so far, so good!


    My dog also has the same issue. I have visited the vet multiple times and they just keep giving him antibiotics that have done nothing for him. I have a friend of mine that had a dog with the same issues and they tried a shampoo they got on petmed.com. malesab shampoo. you scrub that in there skin while giving them a bath and let it soak for about 15 mins. Im going to try that, she swears by it!! Ill let you all know how it goes.


      HOW MANY TIMES have I warned you – with clear comprehensible reasoning – NOT to take antibiotics! Threehundredtimes?

      anti – biotic
      Against Life!

      Accordingly, unless my dog (or I) was dying, I would NOT take antibiotics. There are always much more effective remedies available that have zero side effects.

      I choose those. You choose what you want. But don’t waste my time with your choice. ;-)


        From what I’ve read on this site your obviously the most informed about German Shepard skin problems what are your recommendations for getting myself up to speed


        Don smith

        Ps I like your no bs pay attention attitude

        Semper Fi


        No idea, getting up to speed with what? Vet exams?


    My Jagermeister has sores on his belly and legs, they are red with a blackish crust on them. They don’t seem to itch him and his hair fell out around them. What could this be????

    Help disperate mom!!!!


    ya I feel really sorry for my dog as well going to try essential oils . we have had him to vet as well, ANTIBIOTIC DID NOT WORK!


    My GSD has hotspots on his backside. I’m going to try all the above. Would you suggest shaving his backside 1st or just use the medication above?


      I wouldn’t shave, no. If you spray the disinfectant at a shallow angle, it will penetrate through the hair onto the skin. If you think it doesn’t, you may want to gently rub a few times against then with the hair-growth to get it onto the skin.
      It may not be an infection, but an allergy?


    Oncein a while my german shepherd bites himself to much above his tail, hes gotten an inspections twice now I’ve taken him to the vet And all they do is cut his hair and give me some Ointment to put on his infection. What can be causing him to bite himself


    Mine has had many episodes of hot spots. After several vet visits and steroid treatments, they kept returning.
    i finally came to the conclusion that wearing a dog cone would keep her from licking and biting at these sites. Dogs wear these after getting fixed so they can’t get to stitches, etc.
    She did not like it, but she healed and now leaves her legs alone:).


      It helps to study the MyGermanShepherd Health Manual, it also explains why steroids one can give to their dog. :-(


    My little guy had this problem occur when I was out of the country and when I got home, I took him to the vet immediately and he was treated with antibiotics, and was doing great for about 7 months, until he started to get them again. This time I just treated it with Neosporen, antiseptic spray and tea tree oil to help the itch. After ripping it back open a few times, it started to heal over… 4 days later, with absolutely no other symptoms, we went to play fetch and he dropped to the ground convulsing and was gone in under a minute. I don’t know what possibly could have caused such a circumstance in an active dog, less than 5 years old, with not one other symptom and no possibility to have consumed any form of poison…. Any suggestions would be comforting.


      I am very sorry to hear of your loss, Brian.

      “This time I just treated it with Neosporen, antiseptic spray and tea tree oil to help the itch.”
      Not quite, you treated it again with antibiotics, Neosporen is an antibiotic ointment. Nowhere on our entire site can you find a single suggestion to give antibiotics. This lack of such suggestion is for good reason, and explained in countless places. I cannot understand why people (and ordinary allopathic doctors) use antibiotics so frivolous, as blanket treatment for ANYthing! – Well, that’s wrong, I do understand the reason: Allopathic medicine has nothing else, only painkillers, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories (steroids and NSAIDS) – which only suppress symptoms, they do nothing to cure the cause! You may want to study our Periodical How to find the right veterinarian (or you may not want to) – it can’t help you with your grief, but it will certainly help you going forward.

      Note that Neosporen (even per its label!) must NOT be given in the mouth (and nose, and eyes, and ears) as this may have dramatic adverse effects. Possibly your dog found a way to lick off the Neosporen. Another possibility (much less likely) is an allergic reaction to the tea tree oil you administered. All possibilities aside, it sounds like your dog had an anaphylactic shock, so sudden was his death. This would likely (not certainly) have been caused by the antibiotics that destroyed his immune system – as they always do! (Linked is another Periodical to help you going forward)

      What did the vet say about the circumstances of death?? And based on what examination?


    Thanks for the support info. Bronx, 6/mth. yr old GSD, chewing legs and scratching different spots. Has 1st hot spot on top of butt, hair falling out, large scab but not biting at it. Put coconut oil on hot spot, gone in 3 applications. Tried 4 different foods and raw diet on whole chicken. Interesting note, on raw chicken, puked it all out for 2 days straight. Did tick & flea baths. Now, changing food to no grains and will try skin care as mentioned above. Will let you know how this goes. New frustration, trying to find a good food for GSD with no grains! Any thoughts?


      Ron, forget the “no grain” mar, domesticated dogs owe their very existence to having been fed grains for thousands of years. What you must not feed is the grain byproducts (husks etc) that now make up the “grain” part in commercial pet foods (which only exist since about the 1950s). They are as bad for your dog as they would be for you – all well explained by our top veterinarian nutritionist in the Dog Expert Interview Series.

      Thus, either feed only fresh homemade natural foods (like we do too), or if you must choose pet food that doesn’t come from rendering plants and that doesn’t follow fashions either – like “no grain” or “raw meat only” etc, that’s all a fashion, nothing of that bears scientific substance.

      Site members see comprehensively what I feed in My New Puppy Diary.


      I found a grain free salmon and pea at Walmart that seems to work well with my GSD and my lab. It’s Pure Balance brand. Not super expensive, and they seem to like it. It seems to have cut down on their skin issues a lot. Also make sure you are washing any bedding regularly as well as their bowls daily. All this has seemed to help. They still get it from time to time, but now I believe it’s mostly seasonal allergies.


        I disagree. As we’ve explained in countless places, ANY commercial dog food you can buy in Walmart & Co is UNhealthy, and WHY.
        Your currently chosen(!) brand may seem to be an improvement over your prior brand, but both/all will ultimately lead to more chronic health issues.
        No need to “believe” me, you too may learn that from the Top Dog Experts in the world. Right on our site.

        Personally, I’d never feed such rendering plant crap.


    My 3 yr old gsd birch has been to vets twice for this it’s still not clearing up he prescribed anti biotics they two didn’t help just gave her the runs the worst Ares affected is her back legs between her paws and elbow has gone bald and swollen up feels squidgy to the touch I have also noticed her heel pads are not black but wig white .


      Right above it says clearly: “It should never require antibiotics – which generally don’t work here anyway – they are inappropriate for both Skin Infections and Skin Allergies (see 19).”

      I will NEVER understand why people do what they learned doesn’t work. Had only you done what we teach your dog would be fine. Maybe you want to start right now. IF so, then this will help:

      1) Choose the right veterinarian – NO lab medicaments, NO blanket treatments (antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDs, vaccines)!
      2) Feed natural homemade foods – NO commercial crap from rendering plants!
      3) Come back, post a before and after photo, and say “Thank you!”

      (3 is irony, you won’t do it anyway ;-) )


    Thank you for the helpful hints and comments. My dog allergy seems to be grain food related. I put her on a fast from all treats & she cleared up with benadryl and olive oil treatments in a couple of days. It’s amazing how red she was.


      Highly unlikely “it’s grain food related”, in commercial dog foods is ho human grade grain but non-edible grain by-products, mixed up in rendering plants with a variety of toxins. This toxic mix is what dogs get allergic to – and people would too!

      Have you ever eaten commercial dog food for an extended period?

      I have not, and so I would never feed such toxic crap to our dogs either.


    I have a belgium malimua shes a rescue from a used tire shop in san diego. Ive had her for 8 yrs now and she has allergies, fleas make her miserable but even when there isnt a flea to be found sometimesher skin goes from white to BLACK.. ACROSS her belly you can almost watch it change. Lately shes been coughing alot right before sun up. Any ideas or help would be appreciated, thank you


      Fleas, more than other insects, are a sign that the dog is VERY unhealthy: Parasites primarily affect dying livestock, same with dogs. Feed her only natural fresh homemade meals and she will prosper!


    My GSD was in the lake all weekend, running in the woods and now has a slightly red rash between the dew claw. Assuming this is from the moisture, the anti-septic spray you mentioned above and some soothing cream would help?


    My dog is a double coated german shepherd, 1 & a half years old.. He is suffering from skin problems. Firstly he had Ticks & then mites ,resulting in skin rashes n loss of hair frequently.. He keeps on licking n scratching them . Originally he had beautiful white skin on the inside portion, but now its getting black ..including the genital areas ..n also rashes all over .. Now there are NO ticks n mites .. but the skin has not recovered yet .. there are NO Good vets here..my family has doctors but NO Vets …Please tell me what to do ???????


      1. Pl first STUDY the above
      2. In your case also study Skin Allergies
      3. In your case also study homemade food

      If your environment isn’t toxicating the dog’s body (house chemicals etc), I bet you’ll cure him within 4 to 8 weeks after you start healthy homemade feeding.

      4. Obviously NO antibiotics, NO steroids, NO needless vaccinations.


        we aren’t giving him any artificial dog foods.. he is onlyfeeding on homemade things.. but surely now we’ll try more . thank you ..


    My 2 yr old German Shephard developed a rash 2 days ago on his back a little past the neck area. It is now pussing. I was wondering what I should apply to it first to clean the infection now that it’s gotten to this point.



    Hi plz help me all the symptoms dicussed above are in my dogs I am visiting vet from last one year yet no change in the problem plz help me


      Rahul, I have finally taken the time to improve this page drastically based on my today’s knowledge. Please study it again, this will help – if only you actually apply it.


    Have had our 10 month old GSD for three months and been dealing with allergies of some sort, won’t stop scratching, (did see vet, no bugs of any sort) finally changed to a sweet potato and fish food and he was getting better then but he didn’t really like it, we tried his old food (canidea) but a different formula and within two days he was rubbing his face, licking his paws and scratching his side that appeared to have had hives. I now have him on Orajin large puppy for 5 days, his hives are goin away but he’s still scratching like crazy and now I’m seeing red raw spots on the side of face, under his chin and his back leg and hot spots in both sides of his hips (treating him for a day with the vets hot spot foam) could he be reacting to this new food too or still the old food after 5 days? I don’t want to keep changing his food but he seems miserable! I don’t see how to upload pictures.


      Did you even look at “Avoiding and Treating Skin Infections” above, not to mention STUDY it?


    My 10 year old German Shephard is a direct import of top German & Belgium Bloodlines. The breeder breeds title dogs in Schutzhund that have OFA hips/elbows or A-stamp hip/elbow ratings.

    Even with this Maximus has been plaques with allergies his entire life. I am at my wits end now, he has hot spots that have gotten bad and has caused the bacteria to get into his digestive system – causing him to have really bad diarrhea. He is eating Bill Jac food now witch is great – but I don’t know if he is allergic to chicken, wheat or what…I am pretty sure it is outside allergies. We live in NC and there is always something blooming and it’s the worst for Max in the Spring and Fall. I will try the above remedies and also Apple Cider Vinegar. I have heard a lot of good things about that. In the past they have put him on anti biotics and sterroids but I don’t want to do that. Any other advice would be great!!


      Ann dear, on mygermanshepherd.org you can simply go through the decision tree (go through it, yes) to reach the solution you need. Quite amazing, really!

      I’ve done this for you: You’d reach this page, and this page. Both pages spell out what you need to change to make Maximus healthy again.

      I lost count in how many places I have written about the 2, 3 health FUNDAMENTALS that pretty much guarantee that a dog stays HEALTHY. It’s probably in a comment **here above** as well. EDIT: Yes, it is! Seen this?

      Sadly, these days dog owners seem to **surf** the internet, post their dog problems wildly, don’t read what’s already there right in front of their eyes(!), and worst they don’t even come back to LOOK if maybe someone was so kind to spell out the answer to their question AGAIN. They don’t come back because they can’t remember in just how many places they have posted their dog problem…

      This is NOT the way to go to solve a problem for our dog. Sad and disappointing really. :cry:

      PS: Just post another comment here so that we can see that you did come back. We’ll look out for your comment #2…


    Hi i have read the comments so far. My gsd has bad skin problems and unfortunately i have already taken him to the vet for his problems where they treated with antibiotics then a 8 week course of injections for his problem. But of course the problem is back. He gets red spots, also what seems to be rashers under his chin on his face and his top back legs his thighs his hair has all gone and his skin is black. Should i take him back to vet im at wits end im confused upset and dont know where to start. I was recommended eukanuba dermatosis pet food should i start on this straight away ?


      John, what does it say above in BOLD numbered as 1) ?


        Yes but what type of homemade food i have no idea whats causing this problem. I have no idea what home made dog food is. Do i cook him up rump steaks this dog is costing a fortune and i need to fix this problem. Any ideas on meals i can cook up


        John pl see my earlier replies here, here, and here. This will answer ALL your questions.

        And as for “this dog is costing a fortune”, pl see here.

        When you’ve seen all that, pl reply back here.

 Leave a Comment?

Please first check:

  • To go live any question must be relevant to this page
  • Random visitors cannot expect a reply from anyone
  • To fight SPAM anything with a link lands in SPAM

MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG is a nonprofit organization, only the income from own product offers and suggested dog remedies allow us to support you!