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Yeast Infections in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If you're a dog owner, you may have noticed your furry friend scratching their ears, licking their paws, or rubbing their snout on the floor.

These behaviors could be signs of a yeast infection, which is a common condition that affects many dogs.

Yeast infections in dogs are caused by an overgrowth of yeast, which is a type of pathogen that can thrive on their skin or in their ears.

Although yeast is normally present in small amounts on a dog's skin, it can sometimes multiply and cause irritation, inflammation, and infection.

In this article, we'll explain what causes yeast infections in dogs, how to spot the symptoms, and how to treat and prevent them. BestForPets'll also offer advice on how to keep your dog healthy and happy.

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Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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1. What Is a Yeast Infection in Dogs?

A yeast infection in dogs is characterized by an overgrowth of yeast, a type of fungus, on their skin or ears.

Normally, yeast is present in small amounts on every dog’s skin, but sometimes it can proliferate and cause irritation, inflammation, and infection.

The most common yeast causing infections in dogs is Malassezia pachydermatis. This yeast thrives in moist areas such as the feet, ear canals, armpits, jowls, anal area, and skin creases.

Candida is another type of yeast that can affect dogs and cause infections in the pharynx or gastrointestinal tract.

Yeast infections in dogs are usually secondary conditions, meaning that another issue is reducing the skin’s defense mechanisms and allowing yeast to grow in abnormally high numbers.

These issues can include allergies, bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances, parasites, moisture or debris in the ear canals, and skin or ear canal injuries.

Depending on the location on the dog’s body, yeast infections can produce a variety of signs and symptoms. These include redness, irritation, odor, discharge, hair loss, scaling, thickening, and discoloration.

Yeast infections can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog and can significantly reduce their quality of life.

2. What Causes Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs are typically secondary conditions, meaning that another issue is weakening the skin’s defense mechanisms and allowing yeast to grow in unusually high numbers.

The following factors can cause or worsen yeast infections in dogs:

2.1. Allergies

Many dogs are allergic to specific foods or environmental chemicals, such as pollen, dust, or mold.

These allergies can cause inflammation and irritation on the skin, which can weaken the skin’s barrier and increase its susceptibility to yeast infections.

2.2. Bacterial infections

Bacteria can sometimes infect a dog’s skin or ears, causing pus, ulcers, or scabs. These infections can also disturb the normal balance of microorganisms on the skin, thereby promoting the growth of yeast.

2.3. Hormonal imbalances

Some dogs have hormonal imbalances that affect their skin health. For example, dogs with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) or Cushing’s disease (high cortisol hormone) may show yeast-prone, dry, flaky, or oily skin.

2.4. Parasites

Parasites like fleas and mites can cause irritation and discomfort on a dog’s skin and ears. These parasites can also transmit diseases or bacteria that weaken the skin’s immune system and increase the likelihood of yeast infections.

Dog scratching because of fungus

2.5. Moisture or debris in the ears

Dogs with floppy ears or matted ear canals may accumulate moisture or debris in their ears. This can create a dark, warm, and humid environment in which yeast can thrive.

Dogs who swim frequently or suffer from ear infections may also have moist ear canals.

2.6. Skin or ear canal damage

Any injury or trauma to a dog’s skin or ear canal can compromise its natural defenses and enable yeast to invade. This may be the result of scratching, chewing, rubbing, grooming, cleaning, or surgical intervention.

Some breeds are more susceptible than others to yeast infections. These breeds include West Highland White Terriers, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Dachshunds, Maltese, and Shih Tzus.

There may be genetic factors in these breeds that affect their skin’s resistance to yeast.

3. What Are the Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Depending on where the yeast infection occurs on your dog’s body, various signs and symptoms may be present. These are some of the most common sites for yeast infections:

3.1. Ears

Redness, swelling, itching, shaking, rubbing, odor, discharge, and crusting are all symptoms of yeast infections in the ears. Hair may be matted, and the ear may appear oily.

The discharge can be brown, yellow, or even red in color. Yeast infections caused by the ears can be extremely painful for your dog and may impair their hearing.

3.2. Skin

Yeast infections on the skin can cause redness, irritation, itching, licking, odor, hair loss, peeling, thickness, and discoloration. The skin may appear greasy or scaly.

The abdomen, armpits, groin, and folds of the face, neck, and tail are the most common sites for yeast infections on the skin.

Yeast infections on your dog’s skin can be irritating or inflamed, and they can lead to secondary bacterial infections.

3.3. Paws

Yeast infections can result in redness, inflammation, itching, licking, discharge, odor, and hair loss on the paws.

Yeast most commonly affects the underside of the soles, between the pads, but it can appear anywhere on the paws. Occasionally, a brown discharge is visible in the nail beds.

Dogs with paw yeast infections typically lick their paws more frequently than usual. Hair loss is also possible.

3.4. Face

Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs

Yeast infections can cause redness, irritation, itching, rubbing, and odor on the face. The yeast may affect the mouth’s borders, the nostrils, and the eyes.

Dogs with face yeast infections may rub their faces on the floor, walls, or furniture to alleviate the irritation.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your dog, you should consult a veterinarian immediately.

Examining the affected area, obtaining a sample of the skin or ear discharge, and performing a microscopic analysis or fungal culture can diagnose yeast infections.

4. What Are the Treatment Options for Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs are treated based on the severity and location of the infection. Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the treatments listed below:

4.1. Topical medications

These include lotions, ointments, shampoos, sprays, and washes that are directly applied to the affected area. They contain antifungal agents that inhibit or eliminate yeast growth.

Some examples are ketoconazole, miconazole, clotrimazole, chlorhexidine, or nystatin. Topical medications may also have anti-inflammatory or antibacterial properties to reduce swelling or infection.

Typically, they are applied once or twice daily for several weeks or until the infection clears.

4.2. Oral medications

These are tablets or capsules that are taken by mouth. They also contain antifungal agents that eradicate yeast from the body systemically.

Some examples are ketoconazole, itraconazole, fluconazole, or terbinafine. Oral medications may be used to treat severe or chronic infections that do not respond to topical treatments.

In most cases, they are taken once or twice daily for several weeks or months. The side effects of oral medications may include nausea, diarrhea, liver problems, and hypersensitivity reactions.

4.3. Ear drops or cleaners

These are liquids that are inserted into the ear canal. They help to remove excess moisture, debris, and yeast from the ear.

They may also contain antifungal, anti-inflammatory, or antibacterial agents to treat the infection. Some examples are acetic acid, boric acid, salicylic acid, gentamicin, or neomycin.

Ear drops or cleansers are typically used once or twice a day for several weeks or until the infection has resolved. If used improperly, ear drops or cleansers may cause irritation, stinging, or deafness.

4.4. Natural remedies

These are medicines obtained from natural sources that may have antifungal properties. Apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, yogurt, garlic, oregano oil, and tea tree oil are some examples.

Natural treatments may be applied topically or administered orally to your dog. However, there is insufficient scientific data to support their effectiveness or safety in treating yeast infections in dogs.

Natural remedies may also cause drug interactions or allergic reactions. Consult your veterinarian before administering any natural remedies to your dog.

The best treatment for your dog will depend on the diagnosis and recommendation of your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions and monitor your dog’s response to treatment.

During and after treatment, you should also keep your dog’s skin and ears clean and dry to prevent reinfection.

5. How to Prevent Yeast Infections in Dogs

The most effective way to prevent yeast infections in dogs is to address the underlying causes and maintain healthy skin and ears. Here are some tips for preventing or reducing the occurrence of yeast infections in canines:

Prevent Yeast Infections in Dogs

  • Identify and avoid allergens: If your dog is allergic to certain foods or environmental substances, you should try to identify and eliminate them. You can do this by conducting an elimination diet trial or undergoing allergy testing under the supervision of your veterinarian. In addition to feeding your dog hypoallergenic diets, supplements, and medications, you can manage their allergies and reduce skin inflammation and irritation with these treatments.
  • Keep your dog’s skin and ears clean and dry: Bathe your dog regularly with a mild shampoo that is appropriate for their skin type and condition. After bathing, thoroughly dry your dog and avoid using human products that may irritate their skin. If your dog’s ears are dirty or smelly, clean them with a gentle ear cleaner on a regular basis. Also, protect their ears from water when bathing or swimming.
  • Regularly groom your dog and trim excess hair around the ears and paws: Brush your dog’s coat regularly to remove loose hair and debris that can harbor yeast. Additionally, trim excess hair around their ears and feet to prevent the accumulation of moisture or debris, which can lead to infection. You can do this yourself or take your dog to a professional groomer.
  • Feed your dog a balanced diet and add probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement: Provide your dog with a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional requirements and promotes skin health. Additionally, you can supplement their diet with probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids, which may restore intestinal flora balance and reduce inflammation and infection. Before changing your dog’s diet or giving them supplements, consult with your veterinarian.
  • Exercise and stress management can boost your dog’s immune system: Give your dog regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy. Exercise can increase blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the skin and ears, which can help prevent infection. Also, avoid exposing your dog to stressful situations that can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to yeast infections.

Conclusion

Yeast infections are a common problem that affects the skin and ears of many dogs. They are caused by an overgrowth of yeast, a type of fungus, on the skin or in the ears.

Yeast infections can cause a variety of symptoms and signs, including redness, irritation, odor, discharge, and hair loss.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. The affected area should be examined and a microscopic examination or fungal culture can diagnose yeast infections.

Yeast infections can be treated with topical, oral, or aural medications, as well as natural remedies. However, the best treatment for your dog will depend on the diagnosis and advice of your veterinarian.

You can also prevent or reduce the recurrence of yeast infections in dogs by treating the underlying causes and maintaining healthy skin and ears.

This can be achieved by identifying and avoiding allergens, keeping your dog’s skin and ears clean and dry, regularly grooming your dog and trimming excess hair around the ears and paws, providing your dog with a balanced diet and supplementing with probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids, and boosting your dog’s immune system through exercise and stress management.

BestForPets hope this article has helped you gain a better understanding of yeast infections in dogs and their treatment.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or experiences to share regarding yeast infections in dogs. We would love to hear from you.

  • If you’re interested in learning about the best dog foods for yeast infections, you may want to check out our article on the topic, which provides detailed information and recommendations for managing this common condition in canines.

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Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler

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