Does My Dog Have a Yeast Infection

yeast infections in dogs
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Tips for Diagnosing, Treating, and Preventing Yeast Infections in Dogs

When you hear some of the symptoms of yeast infections in dogs, it will suddenly click.

Your dog’s incessant head-shaking and preoccupation with its paws as of late has had you perplexed. And they keep rubbing their ear against the couch. Upon closer examination, you can see agitated areas of skin are red, and WHOA…dangerously pungent. This probably isn’t normal, but your dog isn’t acting distressed. What’s going on here?

What are Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections can occur in dogs when they have too much yeast growing in one area of their bodies. While yeast is typically a benevolent fungus, high levels can cause problems.

Most dogs house low concentrations of Malassezia pachydermatis on their skin, but rapid growth can lead to dogs having issues with their lips, ears, groins, skin folds, and skin between their paws.

What Dogs Are Prone to Yeast Infections?

Certain dogs are more susceptible to developing yeast infections. Breeds like American Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Poodles, and Daschunds – which have multiple skin folds, dangling ears, and hair growing inside their inner ears – are among those more likely to develop yeast infections.

Some dogs like Shih Tzus, West Highland White Terriers, English Setters, and Boxers may even be genetically predisposed to having yeast infections. Finally, dogs who suffer from allergies are more likely to develop a yeast infection.

What Are the Symptoms?

Dog owners are likely to recognize the first signs of yeast infections in the moist areas of their dog’s bodies, like inside the ears and between skin folds of the neck, joints, and face. There are multiple changes in the dog’s appearance, behaviors, and other factors which may reveal a yeast infection in a dog. 

Skin Issues

  • Excessive oil presence
  • Pinkish/reddish color (in the early stages of a yeast infection)
  • Thick and leathery texture (in cases of chronic yeast infections)
  • Scaly, flaky, and itchy skin (especially on the paws)
  • Cheesy or musty odor (especially coming from inside of the ears)
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Red, inflamed paws
  • Brown discharge at nail beds

Behaviors

  • Excessive scratching or rubbing
  • Excessive licking or drooling
  • Excessive chewing of paws

What is the Difference Between Ear Mites and Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Based on symptoms alone, ear mites and yeast infections in dogs are commonly confused. Both cause itchiness, discoloration, and discharge.

With yeast infections, a dog’s ears will usually appear red and emit a brown discharge. In response, the dog may constantly shake its head or rub it against an object to achieve relief.

Unlike yeast infections, ear mites are contagious and invisible to the human eye. Ear mites cause similar symptoms, but the discharge is usually darker and crustier.

The best thing to do is make an appointment with a veterinarian, who can quickly diagnose and treat the issue.

What Causes Yeast Infections in Dogs?

We know that yeast infections arise from too much yeast, but what causes the excess of yeast?

A yeast infection in a dog could be a symptom of another issue related to their immune system function. A hyperactive immune system can make dogs more susceptible to allergic reactions. Common allergens include pollen, dust, mold, smoke, and chemicals. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a dog could have a hypoactive immune system, which means its defenses to foreign skin invaders like rapidly reproducing fungi are lowered.

Yeast infections may also be the result of an environmental condition. Remember that yeast loves moist environments. Hot and humid weather in some areas of the country can cause yeast overgrowth. In other instances, foreign objects like bugs, grains of sand, or other particles may become trapped inside the dog’s ear.

Finally, yeast infections can develop due to poor hygiene. It is not healthy for a dog to remain wet for too long, and there is no good reason to bathe a dog excessively. Some people may purchase ear drops promising to keep a dog’s ears clean, but the chemicals in their products actually disrupt the ear’s biome for the worse.

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose the Infection?

Veterinarians administer several tests to rule out fungal or bacterial infections in dogs.

If a dog’s ear is irritated, the veterinarian will likely use an otoscope to peek inside the ear canal. They can remove samples of wax or crust to analyze underneath a microscope.

Skin cytology exams allow doctors to closely examine skin cells under a microscope. If the dog is showing red, flaky skin in between two folds, the vet can conduct a skin cytology exam using the dandruff-like skin flakes within the folds.

Alternatively, a tape impression test is another way to identify bacteria presence. After taping an area of irritated skin, the veterinarian then moves it from the dog and stains it to test for bacteria like Malassezia pachydermatis.

How Do Veterinarians Treat Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Veterinarians take specific treatment courses depending on the area of the dog most affected. A standard course of treatment will involve topical therapy in combination with antifungal treatment.

The veterinarian will likely prescribe antifungal drops or ointment if a yeast infection occurs in a dog’s ears. In more severe cases, the dog may take oral antifungal medication, like fluconazole, itraconazole, or terbinafine. Potent antifungal medicines should only be employed under a veterinarian’s recommendation.

When yeast infections irritate a dog’s skin and/or paws, you may treat it with antifungal creams, sprays, or wipes. If the webbed area between a dog’s toes is affected, for example, you might use wipes containing ingredients like chlorhexidine or ketoconazole to clean in between them.

The good news is that yeast infections in dogs are curable – the bad news is that some dogs may be prone to chronic infections. Especially in cases of chronic yeast infections in dogs, veterinarians may conduct elimination trials to determine potential food allergens. 

What are the Best Home Remedies?

Let’s be clear: most home remedies targeting the treatment of yeast infections in dogs have not proven effective.

Currently, no studies confirm the use of yogurt, probiotics, coconut oil, witch hazel, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil/shampoo, or any essential oils for treating yeast infections in dogs.

If you believe your dog may be suffering from a yeast infection, it is best to talk to your veterinarian to determine a course of treatment. 

The only research-supported remedy that dog owners can perform at home – a vinegar rinse – may change the pH levels of a dog’s skin to make it less hospitable to yeast. That being said, pet owners should only attempt a vinegar rinse under the guidance of their veterinarian.

How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Yeast Infections?

There are several ways to prevent your dog from developing yeast infections, starting with an allergy test. Chronic yeast infections are often in response to food allergens, and the cost is budget-friendly.

As some yeast infections result from poor hygiene, prevention for your dog may start with more regular bathing, perhaps with an antifungal shampoo. With many of these products, a dog will need to allow the shampoo to remain on its skin for five to ten minutes before rinsing it off.

Certain breeds with multiple skin folds, which are more prone to developing yeast infections, might benefit from regular maintenance via skin wipes and sprays. When it’s especially hot and humid outside, make sure to limit outdoor time – this will keep the ears from housing too much moisture.

Finally, regularly trimming hair at the opening of your dog’s ear canal can keep yeast from coalescing inside your dog’s ears.

There are two things all pet owners can do to prevent yeast infections. The first is to stay attuned to your dog’s behaviors and appearance, enabling you to more acutely sense when something is “off.” The second thing is to maintain a relationship with a caring and qualified veterinarian best suited to diagnose and treat yeast infections and any other issues that arise in your dog.

For more information about this subject or general questions you can contact:

Christi Knight, CPDT with Posh Paws Pet Care, LLC
843.900.0438
Visit our website at PoshPawsPetCareSC.com
Or send us a note from our contact page here.

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