Some dogs are prone to developing yeast infections on their bodies. These infections need special treatment from a veterinarian to be cured but some remedies may help to manage your dog's discomfort at home before you get to the vet.
What Is a Yeast Infection in a Dog?
A yeast infection in a dog occurs when there is an overgrowth of yeast, a type of fungus that is naturally present in the skin. This causes skin redness, itching, scaling, and even an odor that is obvious to most pet owners.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
Yeast is a type of fungus naturally present in the environment and on the skin that grows and multiplies in warm, moist environments. There are many different types of yeast but, usually, only one type of yeast causes infections in dogs - Malassezia pachydermatis. Yeast can only be seen microscopically.
Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of this yeast that is normally present on the skin. There is usually an underlying reason for the overgrowth to occur, such as allergies, oily skin, or immune-mediated disease. These infections are not contagious from dog to dog but these dogs with chronic underlying conditions may be prone to frequent yeast infections.
Where Do Dogs Develop Yeast Infections?
Dogs are most likely to develop yeast dermatitis (skin infections) or yeast otitis (ear infections) but some dogs may have both types of yeast infections at the same time. Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin and otitis means inflammation of the ears. Both sites of yeast infections can cause discomfort, itching, and bad odors, so owners usually notice the symptoms right away if they know what to look for.
Yeast otitis usually causes redness inside the ear, scaling of the ear flap or pinna, head shaking, scratching at the ear, face rubbing, and an odor.
Yeast dermatitis can occur anywhere on the skin of a dog but is most common in the armpits, feet, and any skin folds. Redness, scaling or skin flaking, itching, and odor are most commonly noticed on these parts of the body if they are harboring a yeast infection.
How is a Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will diagnose your dog with a yeast infection after collecting a sample and examining it under the microscope. Samples are usually taken on a cotton swab or by pressing some tape or a microscope slide onto the affected skin. All samples are stained with a dye to highlight the yeast and/or other organisms so that they can be identified.
Yeast looks different from bacteria and other causes of infection and requires different treatment. Because of this, it is important for your veterinarian to diagnose the specific type of infection present. Some dogs may develop multiple kinds of infections at the same time.
How Can You Help a Dog With a Yeast Infection?
There are a few things you can do to help your dog if it has a suspected yeast infection while also getting a clear diagnosis from your veterinarian to ensure a quick recovery. All of these remedies must be used alongside the prescription therapies recommended by your veterinarian.
- Apple cider vinegar: Vinegar may create an acidic environment so that the yeast cannot grow easily when it is applied topically. This has not been proven by scientific studies but may provide a small amount of relief to your pet temporarily. You can use a solution of one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water to wipe an infected area. This solution should not be used in the ears, near the eyes, or genital area. Keep in mind your dog will smell like vinegar after this treatment.
- Beta-glucans: This supplement contains polysaccharides found in the cell walls of yeast, mushrooms, and cereal grains. They are thought to stimulate the immune system and may be helpful in fighting infection and inflammation. This could be beneficial in dogs with underlying conditions that lead to recurrent yeast infections. Beta-glucans can be found in pet products like Imuquin® and Zenapet Dog Immune Support.
- Ear cleaners with drying agents: If your dog has frequent episodes of yeast otitis, then an ear cleaner designed with a drying agent can help to prevent recurrent infections. This cleaner can be used after baths and after your dog goes swimming to help decrease the moisture in the ears. Make sure your veterinarian instructs you on the proper ways to clean the ears to avoid injuries.
- Avoid allergens: If your dog is sensitive to certain foods or things in the environment, avoiding them can help decrease an allergic reaction and the likelihood of a secondary yeast infection. This includes using regular flea prevention as some dogs have more serious allergies to flea bites.
- Frequent baths: Regular bathing can help control excess oils on a dog's skin, as well as remove yeast from the surface of the skin. Prescription shampoos are most effective and your vet can prescribe the right one for your dog's specific medical needs. For dogs that have oily coats and are prone to yeast infections, even routine bathing with an over-the-counter dog shampoo can be a helpful step.
- Fatty acid supplements: Fatty acids are fat molecules typically obtained through the diet that is necessary for many functions in the body. They are especially beneficial in reducing inflammation and as a result, can help to relieve the itching that occurs in dogs with yeast infections and other skin diseases. They also may improve the natural barrier of the skin which prevents future infections and improve coat quality. Look for dog-specific supplements that can be dosed at 180mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) per 10lbs of body weight, or consider a diet formulated to contain this supplement.
Many other remedies are often touted as being safe options for treating yeast infections in dogs but little to no scientific evidence is available to support their use.