Is your dog acting like they want to crawl out of their skin? Scratching, redness, biting, and general irritation on the skin or ears may be signs of a yeast infection. What should you do? Yeast infections in dogs are uncomfortable and can be recurring if not treated. Unfortunately, topical treatment won’t be enough.
Stick to this article like some growing fungi and you can find out how to deal with a yeast infection in your four-legged friend.
What is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast on the skin is normal and healthy. It’s a beneficial fungus for animals and humans, and part of the normal flora. Unfortunately, some health conditions can disrupt the yeast fungi balance, and that is when an overgrowth of yeast causes havoc. A lowered immune system allows excessive yeast to take control, and infections occur. Your pet’s troubles may range from mild to severe.
Dog yeast infections are common and can infect and multiply in warm and moist environments on the skin (dermatitis) or the ear (otitis). Two main yeasts cause infections in dogs:
- Malassezia is caused by an overgrowth of the Malassezia pachydermatis fungi. This type of infection primarily invades the ear canal but can also be present on lip margins, groin area, neck, facial folds, or tail folds.
- Candida yeast has over 200 species. It’s the most common type of fungal infection in humans and their fur babies and can invade any location on the body.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
Yeast infections in dogs are a secondary problem, meaning an underlying condition has led to yeast overgrowth. Yeast overgrowth occurs when the immune system is compromised.
A number of things can lead to a lowered immune system, including:
- Underlying skin disease, mainly atopic dermatitis or flea allergy dermatitis
- Hormonal disorders or imbalances
- Medications that suppress the immune system
- External skin parasites
- Recurrent bacterial pyoderma
- Endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s Disease
- Regular antibiotic therapy or chronic corticosteroid therapy
Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs
Make an appointment to see your veterinarian as soon as you identify a yeast overgrowth. Symptoms of skin yeast infections include:
- Itchiness, skin irritation, and skin redness or crusting
- Body odor
- Hot spots
- Excessive grooming in the affected site
- Dull or greasy coat
- Hair loss
- Dark skin patches (hyperpigmentation)
- Elephant skin – dry and leathery
Symptoms of an ear infection include:
- Excessive shaking of the head due to discomfort
- Scratching ears themselves, or rubbing up against furniture or you for relief
- Yellow, black, or brown buildup of debris in the ear flap
- Loss of interest in food due to the discomfort of chewing
- Hearing loss
- Unbalanced and disorientated movement
- Redness or swelling of one or both ears
- Bald patches around the ears
- Smelly ears
Are Yeast Infections Contagious?
Don’t worry about canceling your puppy’s playdate; yeast infections are not contagious. Some dogs are more prone to it than others, especially if they have seasonal allergies, have atopic dermatitis, or have naturally oily skin.
Does Your Dog Breed Have Skin Folds? Beware!
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to developing skin infections. This is mainly because of their body traits. Unfortunately, that rolly-polly skin is a hot spot for yeast growth.
Breeds that are commonly diagnosed with yeast infections include, but are not limited to:
- West Highland White terrier
- English Setter
- Shih Tzus
- Basset Hound
- American Cocker Spaniel
- German Shepherds.
Keep in mind that yeast infections in dogs are secondary to an underlying cause, and any dog can get a yeast infection if they are immunocompromised.
Yeast Infection Treatment Options
A yeast infection in dogs is apparent, and your instinct may be to focus on topical treatment and relief. While relieving symptoms is an integral part of the treatment plan for a yeast infection, external care cannot be the focus. Treatments may vary, depending on the location of the condition.
Treatment for Skin Yeast Infection
When you take your dog to the vet, the first step will be to diagnose the yeast infection with a Cytology process, which involves the study of cells. A skin sample will be removed either with a swab or skin scraping.
Anti-itch (antipruritic) drugs, antibiotics, and sometimes dietary elimination trials can also treat the infection. Topical treatment will involve the use of antifungal creams, sprays, and shampoos. Topical ingredients that are effective in treating yeast include itraconazole, chlorhexidine, miconazole, and ketoconazole.
A vital part of the treatment plan is to identify causative factors. According to Dr. Bajwa, a board-certified dermatologist who reviewed Canine Malassezia Dermatitis, “If an underlying disease or predisposing factors are not controlled…regular antifungal therapy may be indicated.”
Dermatitis treatment can be straightforward once there is control of the primary disease.
Treatment for Ear Yeast Infections
Diagnosis for ear infections in dogs also involves Cytology, where skin cells are examined under a microscope slide.
Prescription medications for ears may include antifungal drops or ointment for the ear canal. Your vet can also suggest an effective ear cleaner for dogs with a drying agent. Oral antifungal medication will be prescribed for severe cases.
Again, your vet will need to run some tests to identify the potential underlying issues causing the yeast overgrowth.
Home Remedies for Yeast Infection in Dogs
If your dog is prone to yeast infections, some natural remedies may help in treating early infection. Spot treatment can help in easing flakey and itchy skin. The following home remedies have not been tested, and it’s best to use them as part of the treatment plan. If your dog shows signs of a yeast infection, your first stop should be to see your veterinarian.
Coconut oil is a popular skin moisturizer. It’s full of fatty acids, including linoleic acid and lauric acid. Studies have shown that coconut oil can act as an anti-inflammatory and a protective skin barrier.
CBD hemp oil and hemp seed oil may help maintain the average moisture content of the skin and support skin health.
A CBD relief balm with coconut oil offers a combination of two great oils that can serve your pet’s skin health.
Apple Cider Vinegar
By making an acidic solution of apple cider vinegar and water, you can clean infectious spots on your dog’s skin or in their ears. A vinegar bath can ease itchiness and neutralize the skin pH to make it less favorable for yeast to grow. Don’t ever pour ACV into your dog’s ears, rather use cotton balls and gently wipe the external ear flaps. ACV is a great ear cleaner for all dogs.
Some essential oils can soothe your dog’s skin condition with anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Witch Hazel, Tea Tree, or Myrrh are good options, but remember to dilute them. Tea tree oil is toxic for dogs, so use it only for topical treatment. Another plus of essential oils is that they combat that infected skin odor.
Medicated dog shampoos are often part of a treatment plan for a skin infection. Degreasing shampoos will help to strip excess oils and dry the skin of fungi overgrowth. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the right shampoo.
Probiotics for Yeast Infections in Dogs
Probiotics are tiny bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract. When the beneficial probiotic bacteria suffer and die due to medications or illness, your dog becomes more prone to infections, gastrointestinal upset, allergies, and other health problems.
How Do Probiotics Help?
Since yeast infections are secondary to other health problems, boosting your dog’s immune system and supporting their gut flora population may aid in reducing unwanted health conditions. Studies have shown that bacterial imbalances in the gut are associated with inflammatory skin conditions, such as Malassezia or yeast dermatitis.
Frontiers of Immunology experts stated in their report that “the microbiome can be considered a therapeutic target for treating inflammatory diseases.” They go on to claim that interventions with probiotic supplements “seem promising” for restoring the damaged microbiome functionality.
Buying your dog a probiotic product may improve healthy bacteria levels in the gut, internally working to strengthen the immune system, which impacts the rest of the body, skin included.
When to See the Vet
It would be best if you were taking your dog to the vet one to two times a year, depending on their stage of life and their history. Regular checkups can prevent serious illness down the line, including endocrine diseases that can trigger yeast overgrowth.
Illness can often be unavoidable, though, and if your pet is showing redness and inflammation on their skin or around the ears, it’s best to take them to the vet for a diagnosis. Just think, underlying severe illness is often at play when the yeast flora is unbalanced, and dealing with those issues early on can lead to correct care for your companion animal.
Yeast Infection Prevention
The prevention of infection in dogs involves knowledge of symptoms. Once you are aware of the signs, you know what to observe. Preventing yeast infections can be done with the following steps:
- Regularly check your pet’s skin and ears for signs of redness and inflammation. In the ears, look for any discharge or strange ear odor.
- After your dog has gotten wet, whether from a bath or playing outside, make sure you dry them thoroughly, especially in folds where moisture builds up and encourages yeast growth.
- Avoid wetting your dog’s head and ears, and instead, wipe them clean with a damp cloth or cotton ball. Ask your vet for an ear cleaner with a natural drying agent.
- Grooming is vital for skin health. Keep your dog’s hair and nails trimmed and treat them to a day at the doggy spa now and then.
- Speak to your vet about getting antifungal shampoo for preventative measures.
- Sometimes allergy tests are necessary.
- A change of diet can make a difference, as well as the addition of supplements that can boost your pet’s immune system.
The best way to prevent recurring yeast infections in your dog is to deal with the root cause.
Final Thoughts: Yeast Infection in Dogs
Shampoos and natural remedies may treat skin or ear infections, but more importantly, you need to partner with your vet to address the causative illness. Finding a vet that you trust is the first step in your animal’s care plan. Natural remedies and supplements can form part of that plan, but professional treatment is necessary for yeast infections.
Over and above wanting to snuggle your pet’s soft skin, you want them to live an itch-free life.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do probiotics help my dog’s yeast infection?
Probiotics can increase the healthy gut bacteria population. Since yeast infections are secondary to other health problems, boosting your dog’s immune system and supporting their gut flora population may aid in reducing unwanted health conditions.
How do I prevent yeast infections?
Regular checkups with your dog’s vet can prevent serious illness down the line, including endocrine diseases that can trigger yeast overgrowth. You can also prevent yeast infections by cleaning your dog and making sure they are dry after a bath.
When should I take my dog to the vet for a yeast infection?
If your pet shows redness and inflammation on the skin or ears, it’s best to take them to the vet for a diagnosis.