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How to treat yeast infections in your dog

“Happiness is having a scratch for every itch” - Ogden Nash. It's not uncommon to hear about dogs getting yeast infections. Yeast dermatitis is caused by a fungal yeast called Malassezia pachydermatis. Malassezia is a fungus that is found on the skin and can spread almost anywhere on the body, causing itchy red dermatitis and inflammation. 

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.

How do dogs get yeast infections?

Under normal, healthy conditions Malassezia 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. 

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 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.

Over bathing

Yeast loves to grow on moist skin. This is why dogs who are bathed more frequently are more susceptible to developing a yeast infection. Living in a hot, humid climate may also pose the same problem. Try keeping certain moist areas like ears, groin and skin folds dry with a soft microfibre cloth to minimize the opportunity for yeast to proliferate.

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 downregulating 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. 

There are a few ways to mediate stress in dogs including, taking them on a long walk, dietary changes, natural supplements (like chamomile or CBD), and keeping their mind occupied with toys and puzzle games.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

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
  • Reoccuring ear infections

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

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.

Are yeast infections contagious?

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

Breeds that yeast infections are common in

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

How are yeast infections diagnosed?

Your veterinarian is your best resource! 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.


How are yeast infections traditionally treated?

If your dog has a severe yeast infection, your vet may recommend a medicated bath with an antifungal medicated shampoo to help get the yeast infection under control. You will likely be instructed to wash your dog every 3-5 days for 2-12 weeks. 

Alternatively, your dog may be prescribed a topical antifungal cream for you to apply to the affected area. If the yeast infection is rooted in your dog’s ear, your vet may also recommend an ear cleaning solution designed to lower pH levels. In extreme cases, your dog will be prescribed an oral anti-fungal medication.

How to treat yeast infections at home

With veterinary approval, there are also a few ways that you can treat and prevent yeast infections right from your home, using natural methods.

How to prevent yeast infections

Prevention is always the best method! If you prevent your dog from getting a yeast infection, then you don’t have to worry about treating it, right? Here are a few suggestions for preventing yeast infections in your dog:

  • Switch to a 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!

  • 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!

  • Clean their ears

Ears are one of the most common spots for yeast infections. 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.

  • 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.

Treating yeast infections at home

There is only one true home remedy for yeast infections that has scientific support. That remedy is as simple as white vinegar! A vinegar rinse is made by diluting vinegar with water and is able to help lower the pH of the skin. This makes your dog’s skin a less than desirable environment for yeast growth. It is very important to speak to your veterinarian prior to treating your dog with vinegar, in order to ensure their safety!

Home cooked recipe to help treat yeast infections

As previously mentioned, a healthy diet can do wonders for the immune system and can help reduce a dog’s chance of developing a yeast infection. If your dog has a yeast infection, try feeding them this recipe.

Why this recipe can help

This recipe will not cure their 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. 

Salmon and sweet potato fresh recipe

Dog chewing their skin because they are itchy
Dog chewing their skin because they are itchy

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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