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Home remedy for dog yeast infections

Have you noticed that your dog has been having skin problems? Is your dog licking their paws or excessively scratching their ears? They could have a yeast infection. Fear not though as yeast infections in dogs are quite common. Keep reading to find out what causes yeast infections and how you can treat them from home or with the help of your veterinarian.

Causes of yeast infections in dogs

Yeast dermatitis is caused by fungal yeasts, either Malassezia pachydermatis or Candida albicans. These fungi are found on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract. They can spread almost anywhere on the body, causing dermatitis, inflammation and a great amount of discomfort for your dog. 

Due to the itching and inflammation, sometimes owners misdiagnose a yeast infection as allergies or mites. If left untreated, this yeast can quickly overtake and cause problems all over the skin, ears, and between the toes.

Under normal, healthy conditions yeast is harmless and actually quite abundant on your dog’s skin. However, when the skin is inflamed or weakened, its population can multiply and spread. Yeast infections are particularly prevalent in a dog whose immune system is compromised.

White dog with hair loss, laying on a pillow looking lethargic

Unhealthy food

One common reason that dogs may develop a yeast infection is because they are eating a poor diet. Food is fuel and sets a baseline for how all organs and systems function. Did you know that 70-80% of immune function is closely related to gut health? Dogs need to eat a healthy, balanced meal to support a strong immune system. Food that is full of fillers, preservatives and other unhealthy ingredients can take a toll on your dog’s immune health, leaving them susceptible to yeast infections.

Feeding dogs a diet with healthy superfoods, antioxidants, omega 3s and other functional ingredients can help prevent yeast infections by improving immunity and balancing hormones. A few great ingredients to look for are cranberries, blueberries, fish oil, leafy greens, flaxseeds and sweet potatoes!

Hormonal imbalance

Certain hormonal diseases such as Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism can leave your dog predisposed to developing a yeast infection. This is because dogs with hormone-linked diseases have a tendency to suppress the immune system.

Illness

Dogs with chronic diseases such as cancer, liver disease and kidney disease are more susceptible to yeast infections because of suppressed immunity. The immune system tends to become less effective as certain long-term illnesses progress.

Stress

Living in a stressful environment can take a major toll on immune health. This is because during times of acute and chronic stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol is immunosuppressive in its function, and elicits its immunosuppressive effects by down regulating the production of inflammatory proteins.

Dogs can become stressed for a variety of reasons. Immunosuppression due to cortisol production is more of a concern during long-term or chronic stress. Examples of chronic stressors may include factors such as: 

  • illness
  • a new environment
  • housing changes
  • routine changes
  • generalized canine anxiety

Symptoms of yeast infections in dogs

Yeast thrives and multiplies in a moist, wet environment. This is why you’ll commonly find yeast infections starting in areas like your dog’s ears, groin, “armpits”, paws and the folds of skin on wrinkly breeds. If you suspect your dog has a yeast infection, keep and eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Musty “corn chip” smell
  • Inflamed (pink or red) skin
  • Oily or greasy skin
  • Flaky or scaly skin
  • Thickened skin
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching, chewing or itching 
  • Incessant licking of one area
  • Hair loss
  • Drooling
  • Reoccurring ear infections
Dog paw with missing hair and skin irritation

How dog yeast infections are diagnosed

If you know what to look for, you may be able to diagnose your dog at home. However, it is always recommended to get a veterinarian’s opinion. Your vet can make a definitive diagnosis by sampling the hair or skin cells from the affected area. Then utilizing either cytology (looking at single cells under a microscope) or culturing (growing the yeast on a plate), they can diagnose your dog.

What is the cost of treating yeast infection in dogs?

The cost of treating a yeast infection in your dog may vary depending on the prices of your specific vet and where you live. You will likely need a veterinary consult, which can range anywhere between $45-$150, depending on the length of time and the specialty of your veterinarian. If your dog requires a prescription treatment, expect to pay between $5 to $50. Certain products may also require multiple treatments to address the issue.

How to tell the difference between ear mites and a yeast infection

Ear mites and ear yeast infections have many of the same symptoms including head shaking, itching and redness. However, there is one core difference in symptoms. Ear mites cause a dark brown discharge from the ear that appears waxy or crusty. Ear mites are not visible to the naked eye, so if you are unsure if your dog has ear mites or a yeast infection, a veterinarian will be able to help you diagnose them with the use of a microscope.

Dog ear infection

How to tell the difference between allergies and yeast infections

What many dog owners are unaware of is that allergies may be the cause of yeast infections. This is because many dogs with allergies have an imbalance in their immune system and may not be able to fight off yeast overgrowth. Furthermore, allergies can cause red, inflamed skin that is very itchy. When a dog is frequently itching and scratching their skin, there is an increased risk for introducing yeast species into the skin. Most yeast infections due to allergies present as skin abnormalities but there can also be systemic symptoms as well, such as walking in circles, head tilting, bladder infections and excessive drooling.

Are yeast infections in dogs contagious for humans or other pets?

Good news! Yeast infections are not contagious to humans or other dogs. However, yeast infections may be reoccurring in the same animal. 

Inside knowledge on dog yeast infections from Kabo’s in house veterinarian, Dr. Suzee Camilleri

“If you suspect your dog has a yeast infection, it is really important to get it diagnosed accurately as soon as possible. You don't want it mistaken for a bacterial infection or allergies, otherwise home remedies will not work and the infection may get worse. Once it is determined that the cause of infection is from yeast, depending on the severity of the case, your vet may prescribe medication. Milder cases and intermittent flare ups can be managed by owners at home with appropriate home remedies. An owner that is fully aware and educated on what yeast infections look like, how to manage and prevent them, will help keep a dog comfortable and healthy.

Keeping a dog’s immune system robust is also key. I highly recommend adding probiotics to their meals and feeding high quality unprocessed, fresh cooked foods. More and more research is showing that high quality ingredients help support gut health, which leads to an overall better immune system.” -Dr. Suzee Camelleri, DVSc, DVM

Dog breeds prone to yeast infections

Yeast infections are not necessarily breed specific but like many diseases, certain breeds are more susceptible to developing a yeast infection than others. This is especially true of breeds that drool a lot, have multiple skin folds, floppy ears or are predisposed to developing allergies. Some of the breeds that commonly develop yeast infections are:

  • Shar-pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Bloodhound
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Schnauzer
  • Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Basset Hound
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Maltese
  • Dachshund
  • Poodle

Best home remedies for dog yeast infections

Vinegar

There is only one true home remedy for yeast infections that has scientific support. That remedy is as simple as white vinegar! White vinegar is the most effective when treating Malassezia dermatitis in dogs, while apple cider vinegar is superior for treating Candida albicans infections.

A vinegar rinse is made by diluting vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio and is applied to the skin and left to dry. White vinegar is able to help lower the pH of the skin, making it more acidic and a less desirable environment for yeast to grow. It is very important to speak to your veterinarian prior to treating your dog with vinegar, in order to ensure their safety!

Golden Doodle being dried off by human after bath

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is another option for owners to use on a yeast infection. This is because coconut oil has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties! Studies indicate that coconut oil may be effective against the yeast species Candida albicans and may even result in a 10-fold drop in colonization. To treat a yeast infection with coconut oil, simply apply a small amount of coconut oil to the affected areas on your dog’s skin, similar to other over the counter creams.

Probiotics

Probiotics are “good” or “beneficial” bacteria, which help foster a healthy balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal system and on the skin. The most common probiotic used to treat yeast infections are Lactobacillus acidophilus. Probiotic bacteria stop yeast overgrowth by crowding out yeast growth and are specifically effective against Malassezia. Probiotics can either be purchased from your veterinarian or over the counter at your local pet store. Look for a brand that has at least ten different strains of live probiotics for it to be effective. As of now there are few clinical studies supporting probiotics as a cure for yeast infections, however there is some research and clinical cases that show a lot of promise!

Antifungal shampoo

The best and most effective treatment for yeast dermatitis is an antifungal shampoo. Antifungal shampoos are most effective when used on your dog every 3-5 days for 2-12 weeks. To optimize the activity of antifungal shampoos, leave the shampoo on your dog's skin for at least 10 minutes before rinsing. Look for shampoos with chlorhexidine or neem oil on the ingredient list. Try to avoid oatmeal shampoos as they can actually promote yeast growth. While oatmeal shampoos are great for relieving dry itchy skin, it is actually this moisturizing effect that promotes yeast growth.

Dog having a bath covered with bubbles and soap suds

How to prevent yeast infections at home

Prevention is always the best method! If your dog suffers from chronic yeast infections, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the frequency of an outbreak. Here are a few suggestions for preventing yeast infections in your dog:

Fresh, healthy food

Try switching your dog’s diet to something that is free of fillers and preservatives. Kabo is made from fresh, gently cooked, human-grade ingredients. Every ingredient serves a purpose and is chock full of immune boosting antioxidants like sweet potatoes, green beans and chia seeds!

If you’re looking for a short-term fresh food solution, try out our Salmon and Sweet Potato fresh recipe! This recipe will not cure your dog’s yeast infection but it could help boost their immune system so that they have the power to fight it off! It is full of superfoods to help build a strong immune system and boost immunity against infection. Not to mention, it contains digestible ingredients because after all, a happy tummy equals a happy immune system!

This recipe is not designed or balanced for long term feeding and is only meant as a supplementary, short-term solution.

Don’t over bathe your dog

Try to only bathe your dog every month or so. If you are bathing your dog more than once a week, it’s too much! Over-bathing pooches with already irritated skin can cause further dehydration of skin and increase inflammation. Too many baths will also wash away the good bacteria and microbes on your dog’s skin that help to fight infections.

Clean their ears

Ears are one of the most common spots for yeast infections. This is because dog ears, especially breeds with floppy ears, are a moist environment perfect for harbouring yeast. Use an ear cleaning solution on your dog’s ears every few weeks to kill any excess yeast. Remember to use a cotton ball or cloth and never a Q tip as it could damage your dog’s ears.

Husky getting ears cleaned by human

Keep skin folds and paws dry

A dog’s sweat glands are primarily located in their paws, so this area can get more moist than others. Wipe down your dog’s paws and between their toes after long, vigorous exercise or when it’s hot outside.

Prevention is the best method for most health conditions, however even by doing all the right things, there is still a chance that your dog could develop a yeast infection. The good news is that yeast infections are unlikely to be life threatening but they are very uncomfortable for dogs. The best solution for treating a yeast infection is with veterinary help and an antifungal shampoo. For mild cases, a vinegar wash, probiotics and coconut oil may be an at home remedy that you can use to reduce yeast overgrowth.

Back leg of a dog with hair loss and inflamed skin due to a yeast infection
Back leg of a dog with hair loss and inflamed skin due to a yeast infection

View Sources

Oregon State University: Gut microbes closely linked to range of health issues (2013). http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2013/sep/gut-microbes-closely-linked-proper-immune-function-other-health-issues 

Small door vets. “Yeast infections in dogs”. (2021). https://www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/yeast-infections-in-dogs 

VCA. “Yeast dermatitis in dogs”. (2020). https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/yeast-dermatitis-in-dogs 

Dr. Dobias Naturals. “9 STEP NATURAL TREATMENT PLAN FOR SKIN YEAST INFECTIONS (MALASSEZIA) IN DOGS”. https://peterdobias.com/blogs/blog/9-step-natural-treatment-plan-for-skin-yeast-infections-malassezia-in-dogs#food 

Wag Walking. “Can dogs get yeast infections?”. https://wagwalking.com/wellness/can-dogs-get-yeast-infections 

Vet Derm Clinic. “​​What You Need to Learn About Yeast Infections in Dogs”. (2019). https://www.vetdermclinic.com/what-you-need-to-learn-about-yeast-infections-in-dogs/ 

Wag Walking. “Cures for chronic stress in dogs”. https://wagwalking.com/condition/chronic-stress 

Fan, Yi-Ming, Wen-Ming Huang, Shun-Fan Li, Guo-Feng Wu, Kuan Lai, and Rong-Yi Chen. "Granulomatous skin infection caused by Malassezia pachydermatis in a dog owner." Archives of dermatology 142, no. 9 (2006): 1181-1184.

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