Yeast. Great for baking bread and making beer. Not so great when it is growing all over your dog and causing them a world of grief. Yeast infection in dogs is one of the less palatable health problems that pet parents have to deal with.
As gross as it is to learn all about how yeast is colonizing your dog’s body, it is important to be clued up on the condition. If you don’t treat a yeast infection, it can have some devastating consequences. There is no time like the present for pet parents to learn about identifying yeast infection in dogs and how to treat it.
What is a Yeast Infection in Dogs?
Yeast infection in dogs is technically a fungal infection. There are various types of fungi which occur naturally in your dog. For instance, in the same way that your dog has a bunch of good bacteria, they have naturally occurring fungi which do no harm. Generally. However, the problem with yeast starts when there is an overgrowth and it colonizes different parts of a dog or their organs.
The types of yeast which cause infections are “opportunistic pathogens”. The fungi will lay low and not be a bother to anyone until an opportunity presents itself. If, for example, a dog has a suppressed immune system or damaged tissue, the little colonizers will move right in and set up shop. Then, they reproduce until the overgrowth results in clinical signs of a yeast infection.
Types of Yeast Infection in Dogs
Two of the more common types of fungi which cause infections in dogs are Malassezia Pachydermatitis and Candida yeast. It is really important that you have your veterinarian diagnose your dog and tell you what type of fungi is causing the infection.
Fungal infections always have an underlying cause. Knowing the type of yeast causing the infection will help your veterinarian know where to start in their quest to find the underlying problem. Hopefully this will make treatment easier, and help prevent the infection from recurring.
Candidiasis (Candida overgrowth) causes yeast infection in dogs. Candida forms part of your dog’s natural flora. Apart from being found in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, the candida fungus can also be found in their ears and ear canals, mouth, nose, and genital tracts. A Candida overgrowth is most commonly found in dogs with suppressed immune systems, damaged tissues and wounds, or in dogs who have been given too many antibiotics.
Lastly, Candidiasis can be found in a localized area, such as in the digestive tract or in a dog’s ears. Alternatively, it can be systemic, with the little organisms spreading and forming colonies throughout the entire body.
Malassezia Pachydermatitis is a type of fungus which lives mostly on or in a dog’s skin, paws, and ears. Like Candida, it is naturally occurring and does not present a problem unless there is an overgrowth. Malassezia dermatitis is the most common yeast dermatitis in dogs. It tends to go hand in hand with bacterial infections. Dogs who suffer from allergies and, as a result, bacterial infections, will often get a secondary fungal infection. The Malassezia Pachydermatitis swoops into the infected area and makes itself right at home.
Considering that the skin is a dog’s largest organ, any skin infections should be taken very seriously. Yeast dermatitis when left to thrive can add fuel to already dangerous conditions such as Demodectic Mange, Cushing’s Disease or Hot Spots.
Malassezia dermatitis can be localized (restricted to specific areas), generalized (all over the body), or in the ears. The Malassezia Pachydermatitis blossom in warm, humid conditions and in dogs with hypersensitivities. Allergies are their jam. Allergies denote infections, damaged tissues, and weakened immune systems. Yeast loves all of these things.
Yeast Infection on Skin
A dog needs to comfortable in their skin. After all, the spend their entire lives in it! An overgrowth of yeast on and in the skin causes infection right down to the hair follicles. The skin will become inflamed, sore, and itchy. It can also become hardened, and your dog can loose their hair. Yeast infection on the skin will often make a dog’s coat very greasy and gives off a very strong sweaty, cheese odor.
Another problem caused by a fungal infection on the skin is that it can become quite flaky, and it will look like your dog has a dandruff problem. Yeast infections truly leave little room for dignity of the well kempt pooch.
Dog Ear Yeast Infection
Ear infections (also known as Otitis) are no fun. Unfortunately for our canine companions, yeast overgrowth does not end with skin infections. Yeast becomes a serious pain in the ear for many pets.
Yeast happens to be the most common cause of ear problems and infections. A close runner up is bacterial infection, related to allergies. A veterinarian will diagnose an ear yeast infection by taking a swab of the ears. The inflammation in the ears might have been caused by something entirely unrelated. Your dogs ears might have been attacked by ear mites, or just need a thorough cleaning.
If you even vaguely suspect that your dog may have a fungal ear infection, it is of paramount importance that you take your dog to the veterinarian and let them make a diagnosis. All yeast infections are triggered by an underlying problem. Your veterinarian will treat the symptoms of the infection. However, most importantly, they will figure out the underlying cause. Don’t give those little colonizers an opportunity to grow!
Diagnosing Yeast Infection in Dogs
All yeast infections have triggers. No veterinarian worth their salt would be satisfied with treating only the yeast infection itself. With this said, veterinarians will generally try to find the underlying cause. There are a series of tests which will help the veterinarian diagnose the type of yeast infection. Once that has been established, they will move on to diagnosing the underlying condition which brought on the infection.
Here are a few of the methods used to test for a yeast infection:
- Urine sample – This will prove the presence of a systemic yeast infection if there is one.
- Swabs – This is most commonly done to test for fungal infections in ears.
- Biopsy – Tissue samples can be tested for the presence fungi colonies.
- Catheter cultures – The catheter will be cultured to test for fungi as well as bacteria.
Hint: You should ask your vet to talk you through the tests and show you what they find. Ask them if you can look into the microscope or petri dish, and to explain what you’re seeing. Science is cool.
Yeast Infection Causes in Dogs
The list of causes of yeast infection in dogs is quite a long one. Pet parents would do well to learn the causes so as to know how to prevent fungal infections in their pets.
Candida is a type of yeast which basically lives on sugar. It absolutely loves sugar! Carbohydrates are chains of sugars, which once digested, turn into bite sized sugary treats for the candida to snack on. Grain free: 1, Carbs: zero!
Allergies most commonly result in an autoimmune response. Your dog’s body starts fighting against the allergens and, in the process, your dog will develop clinical signs. With a weakened immune system and traumatized skin, fungi such as Candida Albicans and Malassezia Pachydermatitis are in no position to give up the opportunity to expand their empire and set up colonies elsewhere.
Compromised immune system
There are many things which can compromise a dog’s immune system. Allergies, immunosuppressant medications, infections or illnesses, such as Diabetes or Cushing’s disease, are all factors which affect a dog’s immune system.
By now everyone knows that antibiotics cause havoc in the gut. It upsets (read “destroys”) the natural flora in the gastrointestinal tract, and Candida colonies start sprouting like dandelions in spring.
Yeast, especially Malassezia Pachydermatitis absolutely loves all things warm and humid. Malassezia infection is no stranger to pet parents living in states with high temperatures and humidity levels. If it’s warm and damp, it’s a breeding ground for yeast. Let’s all take a moment and think of those poor, water loving pets who spend most of their time with wet coats. And an extra thought goes out to pets with webbed feet. Bred to love water and develop infections because of it.
Some breeds are far more likely to develop yeast infections. For instance, wrinkled breeds are at high risk. Pet parents of pups with lots of wrinkles and creases need to be vigilant in wiping and drying their dog’s skin. Yeast infection prone chart topping breeds are: Cocker Spaniels, all of the Retrievers, Basset Hounds, and Shar Peis.
Any trauma to the skin is an open invitation to yeast colonies. This includes (but is not limited to): cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, and skin traumatized by allergies and inflammation.
Catheters and Post-Op Lesions
Where there are catheters, there is traumatized tissue, as well as exposure to all sorts of fungal or bacterial infections. The catheter basically acts like a tight rope, which fungi and bacteria use to move into and out of a dog’s body. Yeast also tends to bee-line for tissues traumatized during surgery.
Some of the mentioned causes of yeast infection in dogs simply cannot be avoided. If your dog needs a catheter, they needs a catheter. The important thing is to be aware of the possibility of a bacterial or yeast infection, and to know the signs and symptoms thereof. A good pet parent is a prepared pet parent!
Yeast Infection Symptoms in Dogs
The tricky thing with diagnosing a yeast infection in dogs is that the infection does an Oscar worthy imitation of allergies. The symptoms of yeast infections and allergies can be difficult to tell apart because they share so many similarities. The two are often confused, but luckily there are a handful of tell-tale symptoms which shout YEAST!
Skin Color Change
In the early stages of a yeast infection, a dog’s skin will be red and inflamed. After a while, in chronic cases, it changes the color of a dog’s skin to darker shades of gray or even black.
Nobody knows your dog’s drool better than you do, so you should be able to tell when there is more drool than usual. Excessive drooling can have many causes, but a yeast infection, although less likely, is one of them.
This is a typical sign of and advanced yeast infection.
Hardened or Thickened Skin
Think “elephant skin”.
Sweaty Cheese Smell
Some pet owners say Cheetos, some say sweaty cheese. Either way, when your dog’s skin, paws or ears start to give off a strong, unpleasant odor, an alarm should be going off in your head!
A yeast infection in dogs could manifest itself as red, painful, and swollen inflammation. It is especially something to look for around the entry point around a catheter.
Greasy, Oily Skin & Coat
Everyone loves a glossy, shiny coat. But when shiny turns into greasy, it’s time to go see a vet.
This is a more serious symptom of a yeast infection because it means that the infection is systemic (on the inside).
In most cases you will be able to differentiate between a yeast infection and a normal case of dry skin. Dry skin does generally isn’t dry and greasy at the same time. Flaky + greasy = yeasty.
Repeated Head Shaking & Tilting
This symptom is just about exactly the same as that of a bacterial ear infection. Dogs with an infection in their ears will continuously shake, tilt and scratch at their ears. A yeast infection in a dog’s ears is incredibly painful irritating and itchy. Most dogs don’t help their ears, by scratching them bloody in an attempt to ease the pain and scratch the itch.
If your dog can reach the infection, they will lick it. Most pet parents will quickly differentiate between a dog grooming himself, and one who is obsessively licking certain areas of their body.
If they can reach it, they will scratch it. Yeast infections are incredibly itchy and bothersome.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, lesions are a tell-tale symptom of Candidiasis. “Gross lesions of the skin and mucosae are generally single or multiple, raised, circular, white masses covered with scabs.”
How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection in Dogs
The best treatment of a yeast infection is to treat the symptoms as well as the underlying condition which caused it.
The treatment plan for a pet with a yeast infection depends on the type of yeast, as well as its manifestation. If the infection is localized, you can treat it topically. If the dog has a yeast infection in their ears, it can also be treated topically with anti-fungal ointment and ear cleaners. For any serious, advanced or systemic yeast infections, a vet will recommend a treatment plan which involves oral anti-fungal medications.
Hint: Ear infections are the most common type of yeast infections. They also the easiest to avoid. Check and clean your dog’s ears routinely and everyone wins. Except for the yeast.
Apart from treatment plans of medications and ointments prescribed by a vet, there are various other ways of getting rid of a yeast infection in dogs:
Anything that is going to strengthen your dog’s immune system and their skin’s defenses will make a great addition your dog’s diet. Fish oil, Spirulina, Coconut oil, Vitamin E, Echinacea are just a few of the many wonderful immune system boosters out there.
Prebiotics & Probiotics
People no longer get prescribed antibiotics without a course of probiotics. Probiotics are really important. Especially if your dog is on antibiotics. They will help to keep the flora in your dog’s gut happy. Not to mention, the prebiotics will keep the probiotics happy, and yeast will not stand a chance.
Pet parents who give their dogs a grain free or raw diet really are onto something. If your dog’s yeast infection was caused by food allergies, it might be a good idea to discuss other options with your vet. Sugar and carbs do not make a great diet for hypersensitive pets.
This is helpful when you are dealing with a topical yeast infection. A good, pet-friendly anti-fungal shampoo can go a long way in controlling yeast colonies on your dog’s skin.
Home Remedy for Yeast Infection in Dogs
There is a myriad of home remedies that can help treat or prevent yeast infections that are not serious or advanced. The thing to remember when it comes to using home and natural remedies for dogs is that which works wonderfully for humans is not always safe for dogs.
Unfortunately, the science is just not there to back up a definitive answer. The question you need to ask yourself, and hopefully your vet, is not “could you” use say, hydrogen on your dog to treat a yeast infection. You should ask yourself “should you”. Because in many cases, the answer is probably not! Safety first!
There are, however, many home and natural remedies which you could, AND should, use to treat your dog’s yeast infection.
Some of the more popular (and safe) home remedies are:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is pretty much a cure all. For humans as well as dogs. Among it’s long list of health benefits, there are a couple which make it very useful in a fight against yeast. Apple cider vinegar can improve your dog’s digestion, as well as prevent or treat topical yeast infestations. On top of that, it is great for cleaning a dog’s ears!
Also, please don’t use white vinegar: it’s your dog, not a boat!
There are essential oils with phenomenal anti-fungal properties. The same goes for essential oils that can soothe your dog’s raw, itchy skin. Pet parents need to do their homework before using essential oils though. You can’t for example just rub some Tea Tree oil onto your dog’s sore skin. Tea Tree oil is incredibly toxic to dogs, especially in a pure, undiluted form. Read up on how to safely use essential oils on your dog before you use it on them.
Coconut Oil for Yeast Infection
Oh coconut oil. What would human or canine-kind do without you?
Coconut oil is a triple threat to any colony of yeast which hopes to expand its empire. When added to a dog’s diet, coconut oil really does wonder for their immune system. It also help to strengthen a dog’s skin, making for a healthy, shiny (but not greasy) coat.
Coconut oil also has a bunch of nifty topical uses. You can use it as a carrier oil when you want to dilute essential oils or make a herbal ointment. The best thing about coconut oil is probably its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. When used topically, it can treat a bacterial skin infection, a fungal infection, or both!
Yeast infections are horrible, horrible things. Luckily, probably because they are so common, they can be caught early and treated easily. This is definitely a condition every pet parent can handle!