You may think you don't know what a yeast infection in dogs looks like now, but if you have an itchy dog, especially the ears and paws, then you may be looking at exactly that. Yeast!
If you want to know what it literally looks like, below is a close-up photo of my dog's ear when it was infected with yeast. Yuck!
Yeast is more prevalent in the summertime as it thrives in hot and humid weather and one of the biggest things I can tell you about yeast is that it often gets mistaken for allergies.
But make no mistake, yeast causes lots of itching, paw chewing and butt scooting for your dog.
Well, yeast is a fungus that likes to grow in moist areas. Yeast on a dog typically affects a dog's skin resulting in an itchy dog. Malassezia is the most common type found on a dog's skin and is usually found on the paws, ear canals, armpits, jowls, anal area and any skin folds that your pooch may have.
The areas most affected are the ears and paws. Yeast in dog's ears is very common especially with dogs with floppy ears. But, it's not restricted to floppy-eared dogs and swimming will make it worse. Most often the ears will give off a rather unpleasant pungent smell that's hard to ignore.
Although finding small amounts of yeast on dogs is normal, it only becomes a problem when yeast grows out of control. Well, that's usually the case, but the next secret is an exception to that rule. Dogs that are allergic to yeast will react to the smallest amount of yeast so, for them, it doesn't need to be out of control at all.
There aren't many articles or websites on the topic of yeast infections in dogs that mention this, but I thought I would as it took me about 4 years to find out!
After many years of Ava's itchy ears I finally had skin allergy tests done which showed she was allergic to yeast, among other things. This means that even a small amount of yeast will cause her to itch and scratch like crazy.
So let me re-phrase that. Yeast can be found on most dogs but doesn't usually bother them unless it grows out of control OR if the dog is allergic to the yeast.My Mum's dog (Tess) had really smelly ears, but it took my Mum a couple of years to get to the bottom of the problem. You can read her story here and see if it sounds familiar.
Dogs sweat from their paws so it's the paws that contain a moist wet environment that yeast loves. You can usually tell if a dog has yeast on their paws by the pungent smell...it's a bit like Fritos. They'll also be licking and chewing at their paws a lot. Their saliva discolors the fur making it a rust color. You'll notice this on any areas that they lick, including the fur between their toes. Of course, if your dog is already this color or has dark fur, you won't notice the discoloration that much.
Dogs that suffer from yeast infections often have a lowered immune system allowing the fungus to proliferate.
Another thing that has been revealed lately, is that antibiotic use often causes the fungus to start growing out of control. However, some dogs (mine and my Mum's included) just suffer from the itchy symptoms of yeast as soon as the weather gets hot and humid.
The secret to really conquering yeast infections in dogs, is to do it with a two-pronged approach:
As with many things, prevention is key to treating the cause and treating at the root is essential. By starting with treatment at the digestive tract you are getting to the root cause of many skin issues in dogs, yeast included.
Treating the digestive tract is probably the easiest method of combating a yeast infection in dogs. Salmon oil will boost the immune system and probiotics will start to work on clearing out the yeast internally which, in time, will stop the itching...externally!
As mentioned above, yeast grows out of control on dogs that have an immune system that is lowered. Simply by boosting the immune system you can equip your dog to battle a yeast infection internally.
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Probiotics are probably the most vital supplement for a dog suffering from a yeast infection.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in the gut and provide a natural defense against bad bacteria and yeast. All dogs (and humans) have a certain amount of yeast in their system, it only becomes a problem if the yeast starts to grow out of control and takes over. Probiotics prevent this from happening by crowding the yeast out. But not all probiotics are created equal and not all probiotics are suitable for canines.
Most dogs will benefit from a supplement that contain digestive enzymes to aid in the proper balance of nutrients and enzymes in their body. The process of cooking commercial dog food typically destroys the delicate digestive enzymes and nutrients required to keep your dog's skin healthy and the immune system strong.
By providing a supplement rich in nutrients and enzymes you can restore your dog's skin and boost his immune system. I recommend NWC's Total-Zymes Pet Digestive Enzymes. It has 16 different enzymes that work as a high performance digestive enzyme improving your dog's absorption and utilization of nutrients.
If your dog has a severe yeast problem, I mean has yeast growing everywhere, then you may need to consider cutting out sugar and carbohydrates entirely from your dog's diet.
Yeast feeds on sugar and a diet high in sugar will make a yeast problem worse. That includes carbohydrates as carbohydrates break down into sugar once in the system.
This is really difficult if your dog is on a dry kibble diet as most kibble foods are full of carbohydrates. This includes grain-free diet as they typically replace grain with potatoes which are a carbohydrate. The best way to avoid sugar and carbohydrates is to feed a raw or homemade diet.
It's not just dog food that is high in carbohydrates, many store-bought dog treats are also loaded with sugar, carbohydrates and unnecessary fillers. Pure Dog Treats is a great website that tells you what treats are best, which ones to avoid and, if you're so inclined, how to make them yourself!
For Ava, and because she's allergic to yeast, I switched her to a raw food diet and only use treats I find on Pure Dog Treats.
Secret Revealed: It's no good treating the digestive tract if you leave the existing yeast on your dog's skin!
Now the topical approach. Bathing your dog regularly with a good quality anti-fungal shampoo will control the amount of yeast on your dog's skin and reduce the itching.
Even if your dog only has yeast on certain areas, such as the ears and paws, it's extremely important that you bathe the entire body to control a yeast infection in dogs.
This means you need to use a shampoo that contains an anti-fungal agent. Preferably one that is derived from natural ingredients as too many harsh chemicals will strip your dog's skin of it's natural oils. And, given that you'll need to bathe frequently to keep the yeast at bay, you need a shampoo that's also kind to your dog's skin. Following with a good quality conditioning rinse will also help to re-moisture the skin and coat.
I recommend using Nature's Specialties Quick Relief Neem Shampoo|
It has antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties so works perfectly for yeast and other conditions that cause itching such as ringworm, hotspots, eczema and dermatitis.
16 FL. OZ $17.99
How often is enough? Well, that depends on your dog and how much scratching is going on. For a really itchy dog I would start by giving her a bath two or three times a week for a month. After that, scale back to once a week for a month, and then finally once a month.
For Ava as soon as I see her scratching her ears and chewing her paws I bathe her once a week for about a month and then once a month after that. This usually gets her through the summertime without constantly itching and scratching. I also use an anti-itch spray in-between baths for those one-off butt scoots or the occasional paw chew I witness.
Basically, the frequency of baths will depend of the severity of your dog's itching. If you start out with at least a weekly bath you can increase or decrease the frequency based on your own dog's symptoms. I find that the best way to control the yeast, is to start out strong with more frequent baths and then go on a maintenance program of once a month.
For the paws, and between baths, you can use an anti-fungal spray to disinfect the paws daily. Just ensure you get the liquid deep in-between the toes as that's where it gets really itchy!
You can also clean the paws with the home remedy mentioned here.
The best one I've found is Wham Anti-Itch Spray.
It's an antimicrobial and anti-fungal medicated spray that immediately relieves itching.
It works great against yeast but also works well on other skin problems that cause itching such as hot spots, dry flaky skin, seborrhea (dandruff), flea and tick bites, or just for when your dog is itching and you don't know why.
16 Fl. Oz. $19.99
If you have a dog, like mine, that is allergic to yeast then you might want to consider getting allergy shots to help your dog develop resistance to the yeast. I say this as I know all to well how difficult yeast can be to eradicate entirely.
If you're wondering how you can tell the difference between a yeast infection in dogs and a yeast allergy, then I would say the biggest difference will be the smell. A dog suffering from an overpopulation of yeast will likely have smelly ears and paws. A dog that is just allergic to yeast usually doesn't have enough of it to smell.
If you're not sure then speak to your veterinarian about allergy testing or you can find a Veterinary Dermatologist here.
As the ears are very sensitive it is important that you handle a yeast infection in dogs ears a bit differently. Don't use the sprays in the ears as these are too harsh for the ear canals.
If your dog's ears are affected, she'll need specific anti-fungal ear-drops. Personally I took Ava to her veterinarian to get an examination and a proper diagnosis when she first started with the symptoms.
Ava was prescribed EasOtic which works really fast. That was a blessing for me as Ava's none too keen to have drops in her ears.....and what dog is?
EasOtic only needs to be administered once a day for five days. The good thing is it's fast, improvement is seen usually within one or two days.
But....it is only available via prescription, however, repeat prescriptions are usually given without requiring another appointment or further examination.
A great OTC alternative is Zymox which you use once a day for 7 days or for chronic infections, treat once a day for 14 days.
Click on the image below to order your bottle of Zymox.
For yeast infections of the ears, you can create your own ear drops using a friendly strain of bacteria which targets yeast. Although the ears are not the normal environment for Probiotics - they normally live in the gut intestines - they can help to cut down on the amount of yeast in your dog's ears.
If your dog's ears are anything like Ava's where the yeast comes back as soon as I clean the ears out. You can try the below method.
As mentioned above, the normal environment for probiotics is in the gut so it will not survive long in the ears but it should be long enough to attack the yeast and chase it out. You'll just need to repeat this until the yeast is under control.
Although I think all of these options work well, I just want to mention that since Ava has been undergoing her allergy shots, I haven't had to use the ear ointments at all. She underwent allergy testing in 2016 and it is now two years later (2018) and her ears are finally clear. You can find out more about canine allergies here.
There is research showing that the ears, the oral cavity and so on, all can support and need good bacterial colonization. By creating and applying a homemade remedy containing probiotics you can crowd out yeast and bad bacteria topically.
A yeast infection in dogs is very common in warm weather and often gets
misdiagnosed as allergies. If your dog is scratching her ears, chewing
at her paws, and doing a lot of butt scooting, then she may have fallen
prey to the dreaded yeasty beasties.
You'll see this much more often in the spring and summertime as yeast grows rapidly when the weather gets hot and humid.
Bottom line, treating a yeast infection in dogs requires a two-pronged approach with anti-fungal shampoos and sprays along with probiotcis and wild alaskan salmon oil. If you have a dog that suffers from chronic yeast infections, then dietary changes may need to be made.