Yeast Infection in Dogs

By: Sharon Dianora

A Yeast Infection in dogs causes lots of discomfort with itching and scratching being the main symptom.  

Yeast is more prevalent in the summertime as it thrives in hot and humid weather and often gets mistaken for allergies. 

But, yeast and allergies are not the same things, although your dog could be allergic to yeast. But, more on that later.


So, What is a Yeast Infection in Dogs?

Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast/fungus that likes to grow in moist areas of a dog. It's generally found on the paws, ear canals, armpits, jowls, anal area, and any skin folds that your pooch may have.  

Finding small amounts of yeast on dogs is normal, it only becomes a problem when yeast grows out of control.  When this happens its known as Malassezia Dermatitis or a yeast infection.  

Yeast may also be a problem for dogs if they become hypersensitive to Malassezia. In other words, they become allergic to the fungus on their body.  

How Yeast Affects Your Dog

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.  

My dog, Ava, is allergic to yeast.  I discovered this through skin allergy testing after many years of Ava's itchy ears. This means that even a small amount of yeast will cause her to itch and scratch like crazy.

So, to reiterate. All dogs have yeast on their skin, but it doesn't usually bother them unless it grows out of control. OR, if the dog is allergic to the fungus. In that case, it's known as "hypersensitivity reaction to Malassezia."  

You can find more studies on this here. But I wanted to share this with you as it took me four years to figure out it was this that Ava suffered from.  


Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs

You can usually tell if your dog has a yeast infection by watching for these signs and symptoms.

First, the paws. 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 hair between their toes.  

Yeast Infection in a Dog's Ear.Yeast in a Dog's Ear

The ears will also be an area that you can easily detect yeast.  

Dogs with yeast in their ears will be itching and scratching at their ears.  

They'll also be shaking their heads a lot.  But the biggest clue is you should be able to see yeast in the ears. 


Other Symptoms Include:

  • Lots of itching and scratching
  • Licking, biting or chewing at paws
  • Shaking head and scratching at ears
  • Pungent smell
  • Affected skin may become crusty, darkened, hardened, leathery, or elephant-like 
  • Regional or generalized hair loss
  • Discolored fur (rust colored) at affected areas
  • Possible inflammation of the toes, nail bed discharge may be present

Possible Causes

An overgrowth of Malassezia is often associated with other underlying health issues.  These dogs have a lowered immune system allowing the fungus to proliferate.  

Overuse of antibiotics or steroids is also one of the leading causes of yeast overgrowth.  Here's why.

A dog's gut has billions of beneficial bacteria (the good guys) that keep fungus in check. Antibiotics do an excellent job of killing the harmful bacteria, but, unfortunately, the "good guys" get wiped out too. This leaves the door open for the fungus to take up root and grow out of control.  

Prolonged use of steroids causes a similar situation.  Steroids suppress the immune system, again leaving the door wide open for yeast.


Which Dogs Fall Prey To Yeast?

Healthy dogs that are fed a nutritious diet don't usually succumb to yeast infections.  However, any dog can be affected by yeast overpopulation.  The ones that are vulnerable are those that have existing health issues, are on antibiotics, or have been on steroids for a prolonged period.  

Also, certain breeds are more likely to suffer from a yeast infection than any others, these include:  

  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • Basset hounds
  • Dachshunds
  • English Setters
  • German shepherds
  • Shih Tzus
  • Springer Spaniels
  • West Highland 
  • White Terriers

Treatment for a Yeast Infection in Dogs

Managing yeast infections in dogs is tricky because once the fungus starts to overpopulate, it's difficult to get under control.  The most effective way is to treat the digestive tract and skin simultaneously AND ensure the immune system is working optimally.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract accounts for 70% of the immune system. As mentioned above, yeast starts to grow out of control when the immune system is compromised. Starting here helps your dog's immune system fight potential invaders such as yeast.  

The first thing to do is to ensure the digestive tract has all the essential nutrients it needs to work efficiently.  Adding a supplement that contains beneficial amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 is a good start. Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that are essential to dogs and support a healthy immune system.  These EFAs are found in fish oils,  salmon, in particular, has an abundant supply.

Be careful when selecting salmon or salmon oil as there is a vast difference between wild-caught salmon and farm-raised salmon.  Be sure to choose wild-caught over farm-raised salmon as studies have shown that farmed fish is full of contaminants. 

Pawsome Naturals Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil

I recommend and use Pawsome Naturals Wild Alaskan salmon oil. 

It's made from fresh-caught wild Alaskan salmon, is manufactured here in the USA in a facility that has earned the Good Manufacturering Practices (GMP) stamp.

You can find my review of salmon oil, here which goes into more detail of why it'll help with a yeast infection.  

Click on the image above to buy or use this link to go to the home page of my store that contains other natural products for dogs.

Or, if you'd rather purchase on Amazon, you can use the below link. 


Probiotics

Another excellent supplement for the digestive tract is adding a good source of probiotics to your dog's diet. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to fight bacteria and crowd out yeast.  

Look for a brand that has been formulated for dogs and has at least ten different strains of live probiotics. At a minimum ensure it contains L. Acidophilus.

An excellent probiotic for dogs is NWC Naturals Total-Biotics. Formulated for dogs by a Naturopathic Doctor it contains 14 strains of friendly bacteria and comes in an easy to administer powder.

NWC Naturals - Total-Biotics

Click on the above image to purchase from my online store.


Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes assist in improving the absorption of nutrients necessary for a healthy immune system.  They aid in balancing nutrients and enzymes in the gut.  

Many commercial dog foods put stress on a dog's digestive system as they lack the enzymes needed to breakdown the food. Adding a quality digestive enzyme to their food enables their gut to digest the food. It also brings the nutrient intake closer to that of being fed a raw food diet.


NWC's Total-Zymes Pet Digestive Enzymes is a high-performance digestive enzyme.

It works in harmony with Total-Biotics to strengthen the immune system and has 16 different enzymes to break down foods.

Click on the image to the right to purchase.

NWC Naturals - Total-Zymes

What Do You Feed A Dog With a Yeast Infection?

The best diet for dogs that suffer from yeast overgrowth is either a raw diet or home-cooked meals based on meat and vegetables.  Most commercial dog food, especially kibble, contain high amounts of carbohydrates and sugar, both of which feed yeast.  And you don't want to feed yeast, the aim is to starve it.

Yeast thrives on sugar so any diet high in sugar will make a yeast problem worse. That includes carbohydrates because carbs break down into sugar once in the system.

Even most grain-free diets aren't free of carbohydrates.  Check the label of your dog's grain-free food and I'm sure you'll see either potato or sweet potato as one of the main ingredients.  Both of which are high in carbs.

Make sure you're just as fussy about the treats you give your dog.  Many of the commercial treats as even higher in sugar and carbohydrates than the food.  A good resource for figuring out which ones are safe and which ones to avoid is www.puredogtreats.com.   They have a ton of information on dog treats and have plenty of homemade recipes if you feel like giving that a go.


Treating the Skin

Most dogs suffering from yeast infections have itchy skin.  Yeast is a fungus that loves a warm, moist environment, so the paws, ears, groin, and skin folds are perfect spots for the yeast to proliferate. And when it does, it itches.  A lot.

When this happens, the best solution is to bathe your dog with an antifungal shampoo.  Most antifungal shampoos will need to stay on your dog's skin for at least 10 minutes to remove the yeast.  Once removed there should be less itching. However, it quickly returns so frequent bathing is necessary until the yeast is under control.

Many antifungal shampoos contain Chlorhexidine gluconate which is a synthetic ingredient that can strip your dog's skin and coat of its natural oils. It also upsets the natural microbiome of your dog's skin which leads to more allergies and itchy skin. 

That's why I choose a shampoo that contains a natural antifungal agent such as Neem oil.  Neem oil is derived from the seeds of the evergreen tree, Azadirachta indica) and is widely used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines.  

There have been many studies on the effectiveness of neem oil including its antifungal activities.  

When choosing a shampoo for yeast, avoid any that contain oatmeal.  Although oatmeal provides relief for dry itchy skin, oatmeal is a carbohydrate so will feed the yeast on your dog's skin.

Dog shampoo for yeast infection

A good one to try is Nature's Specialties Quick Relief Neem Shampoo.

Based on Neem oil, it's antfungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial.  

It also contains a blend of other herbs and essential oils, such as Aloe Vera, known to soothe and restore the skin.

Quick Relief Neem can be used to treat a wide varity of skin conditions in dogs, such as hot spots, eczema, dry skin, and itching due to flea and tick infestations.

Safe for use on puppies, kittens and small animals.

Click on the image of the shampoo bottle above to purchase.



Treating the Paws

For a dog that constantly licks and chews their paws, a daily wash with an antifungal shampoo works well.  This can be done in between baths as you may find your dog is itching here more often than anywhere else.  Most dogs' paws itch because they sweat from their paws. It also tends to be a moist area yeast love to thrive in.

An antifungal spray can be used a couple of times a day to control yeasty areas, particular the paws. Look for a spray that has natural ingredients to prevent further irritation.  

Products containing tea tree oil are a good choice for anti-itch sprays.  Tea tree oil is an excellent antifungal as well as an antiseptic so prevents the growth of bacteria and resist pathogenic microorganisms.  The best thing about applying tea tree oil to areas that dogs lick is its bitter taste - dogs hate it.  

Its antiseptic property makes it therapeutic, the antifungal component makes it effective, and, given the taste, is likely to stay on longer to do its job.

Don't use tea tree oil neat as this may cause irritation to your dog's skin. Also, not to be used internally.

Wham Anti-Itch Spray is PH balanced, contains a blend of tea tree oil, aloe vera, and vitamins A, D & E.

It works immediately to stop itching and has a bitter taste dogs won't want to lick off.

Works well against yeast, hot spots, dry flaky skin, seborrhea (dandruff), flea and tick bites, or for when your dog is itching and you don't know why. 

To purchase click on the image to the left and follow the prompts.


Dog Yeast Allergy

Some dogs have small amounts of yeast that give them big problems.  My dog, Ava, has this.  She's allergic to yeast.  I don't see the typical signs of yeast overgrowth in Ava, there is no pungent smell, but she itches like crazy.  

After having gone through the rounds of immune-suppressing drugs, I decided to take her to an allergy clinic to get tested.  It was here that showed she was allergic to yeast and even a small amount would bother her. 

I now give her weekly allergy shots which helps her develop a resistance to the yeast reducing the symptoms.  You can find out more about that here. For Ava, or any dog with a yeast allergy, regular bathing with antifungal shampoos is paramount to keeping the yeast at a manageable level. 

You can find more information on allergy testing in your area by finding a Veterinary Dermatologist here. 


Treating Dogs With Ear Yeast

The ears are probably one of the most difficult areas to treat for yeast. Dogs' ears are prone to yeast especially dogs with floppy ears.  Once they have a yeast problem it seems like its never-ending. However, there are lots of treatments you can try.  

I cover a selection of treatments on a different page here that include; a one-time treatment, over-the-counter ear-drops, natural ear cleaner, and a home remedy for yeast infections of the ears.  I also have a separate page just for ear infections.

Heal Your Dog Naturally Book

For more information on natural remedies, there is a great book entitled "Heal Your Dog Naturally".  

It was written by a Canine Naturopath, Research Scientist and Zoologist and includes how to heal repeated ear infections.

If you're not happy with the book, for whatever reason, a full refund will be issued, no questions asked. 


To Summarize

A yeast infection in dogs is a fungus that grows in moist areas, particularly in warmer weather. Some dogs suffer from a yeast overgrowth usually associated with a lowered immune system whereas others may just be allergic to yeast.

Treating yeast infection in dogs requires changing the diet, repairing the immune system, and treating the skin locally with antifungal products. 

You can find more specific treatments for yeast infections in dogs here.

References:

Åberg, L., Varjonen, K., & Åhman, S. (2017). Results of allergen-specific immunotherapy in atopic dogs with Malassezia hypersensitivity: A retrospective study of 16 cases. Veterinary Dermatology,28(6), 633-E157. doi:10.1111/vde.12475

Hnilica, K. A., Patterson, A. P., & Hnilica, K. A. (2017). Small Animal Dermatology. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Polvi, E.J., Li, X., O’Meara, T.R. et al. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2015) 72: 2261. Opportunistic Yeast Pathogens.https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-015-1860-z

Morris, D. O., Olivier, N. B., & Rosser, E. J. (01 jul 1998). Type-1 hypersensitivity reactions to Malassezia pachydermatis extracts in atopic dogs. American Journal of Veterinary Research,59(7), 836-841. Retrieved February 9, 2019, from https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9659547.

Ahmed, A., M, & Vishnupriya, G. R. (2016). Anti-fungal Activity of Neem Oil. Int. J Pharm. Sci Rev. REws.,39(1), 200-202. Retrieved February 26, 2019, from http://globalresearchonline.net/journalcontents/v39-1/38.pdf


Other Pages You Might Like.....

Dogs with allergies
Dogs with skin infections
Dogs with dandruff
Dogs with hot spots

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