A dog skin yeast infection can easily be detected by simply looking at your pet’s behavior. Had he or she been scratching like mad for the past few days or had you noticed any black spots or markings in their belly or other parts of the skin which were not there previously? Had they been smelling a bit pungent and musty over the past few days?
If so, then chances are your pet is suffering from the yeast infection which can also be an indication that they are suffering from an underlying medical condition. It is important to address it early on so as to avoid any further complications.
Yeast infections are one of the most prevalent yet often neglected skin conditions that a dog can have especially during the early stages. They are often treated as mild skin infections that will just clear up after a matter of days. The problem though lies in the fact that yeast infections can spread very easily if not treated early on and when this happens, it can damage your dog’s skin and health in a way which cannot be reversed by future treatments.
Curing this condition at the outset will help not only to stop the spread of the fungus but will also greatly improve your pet’s health as well.
What is skin yeast infection?
To better understand what this condition is, we first need to know what causes it. A skin yeast infection in dogs is often caused by a fungus known as Malassezia pachydermatis. Under normal conditions, this fungus does not present any problem for the dog and it remains in its yeast form as its growth is checked by the natural acidity of the dog’s skin.
When an underlying medical condition or when external conditions have changed the dog’s skin pH level making it more alkaline, it spreads by producing spores that penetrate the skin where it obtains its nutrition. At this stage, the yeast had become a pathogen which is capable of destroying the skin and producing toxins which can affect your dog’s health.
Another possible cause of a skin yeast infection is Candida Albicans which is a type of fungus normally found in the dog’s gut. When the internal balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is thrown into disorder, it can reproduce and spread throughout the body by entering the bloodstream.
One of the ways in which this is manifested is through skin infections and it can be a very serious condition since this can only mean that the fungus may also have spread to the various organs in the body. Since an average person cannot easily tell which of the two is the cause of the infection it is always a good idea to bring your pet to a veterinarian.
How do you spot a yeast skin infection?
As a general rule, taking your pet to a vet is always the best way to determine if your dog has a yeast infection but there are also ways in which you, as the owner, can tell if they are having a bout of this infection or not.
Remember though that you always have to get professional advice before trying to treat your dog for this type of infection. Here are some of its common symptoms:
- Redness and itching in the ears accompanied by a foul smell. One of the areas where Malassezia is commonly found in dogs is inside their ears so when you see your pet persistently scratching them, then it may be infected by yeast. You will also be able to see some sort of whitish to yellowish discharge which has a musty smell. This does not mean though that all skin itchiness is brought about by yeast. Foreign objects, insects, and insect bites can also trigger this type of reaction.
- Oily skin and “dandruff.” If your dog does not naturally have an oily skin and he presently has developed one, then chances are that they are already infected with yeast. When the skin becomes overpopulated with yeast, one of the skin’s immediate reactions is to produce oil in excessive amounts. The overproduction of sebaceous oils in turn, causes the yeast to thrive and produce some sort of “dandruff.” You may want to learn more about oatmeal shampoos that are soothing for your dog’s itch, so check out our article on the topic.
- Thick, dark and scaly skin. A dog that has been seriously infected with skin yeast will have a dark or pigmented patch of skin which can either be scaly or thick. This is due to the actions of the mycelial forms of the fungus which had spread and produced root-like spores on the skin. The skin will also give off an unpleasant smell which is yeast-like or pungent and musty.
- Infection of skin folds. Since yeast thrives on humid areas, they can most likely be found on skin folds where moisture can gather and be retained. Some of these areas include the areas between the toes, the rectal area, the neck, the snout in some breeds, and the vagina. If you see your dog is often butt-scooting, chances are they are yeast infected in the rectal area. You may also see abnormal vaginal discharges if your dog is a female.
- Changes in your pet’s behavior. If the yeast has gone into the bloodstream, your dog may also exhibit some behavioral symptoms. These include loss of appetite, aggression, anxiety, and depression.
What causes this type of infection?
As we have already learned, skin yeast infection is brought about by the uncontrolled growth of fungus in your dog’s skin. What we are going to discuss here are the circumstances which allows for this “uncontrolled growth” which is unhealthy for your dog. There are different reasons why fungus can multiply without warning and sometimes, the owner can unwittingly trigger those actions. It is therefore important to learn how you can also contribute to your pet’s skin infection so you can avoid them.
Here are some reasons why Malassezia and Candida can easily spread and infect your pet’s skin:
- Too much carbohydrate in the diet. Carbohydrates are a fungus’ source of nourishment and so, over-feeding your dog with them will help the yeast to thrive and grow. Not only that, a diet rich in carbohydrates can also alter your dog’s skin pH level by alkalinizing it and thus lessening their resistance to yeast.
- Insufficient nutrition. Your dog’s immune system is what keeps yeast in check and in order to function normally they need specific nutrients to be present in your dog’s diet. This includes protein, vitamins, and minerals without which your dog would be unable to produce the antibodies that they need. Read our article on important tips on dog nutrition to help you in this area.
- Frequent bathing and shampooing that lower their skin’s pH level. Although it is good to have your dog smelling fresh and clean, it is not a good idea to strip them of their natural pH levels by giving them a dog bath every day. Water is more alkaline than acidic and there are also dog shampoos which lower the natural acidity of a dog’s skin. You may also check on our piece regarding DIY dog shampoos which are safer and more natural for your furball.
- Antibiotics kill the good or beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut which keeps yeast growth in check. Antibiotics also weaken or even totally eradicate the phagocytic actions of the white blood cells which guard the body against infections. More often than not, treating a dog bacterial skin infection with antibiotics will lead to a yeast infestation.
- Steroids and hormonal changes. Steroids which are used to treat allergies shut down the immune system and this can give free-rein for the yeast to multiply. A study had also shown that yeasts actually thrive or get their nourishment from steroids. Changes in hormonal levels can also trigger yeast infections and this is why you can easily spot them on pregnant, lactating, or older female dogs.
- Just like in humans, prolonged stress in dogs can lower their immunity as the body is sent into emergency mode and release hormones that turn off the immune system. Stress also releases a lot of blood sugar into the body which the yeast can then take up and help them spread.
- Heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Heavy metals can be found in a variety of food and water sources and these can affect various metabolic processes in the body. For example, oxygen intake by the cells can be blocked by heavy metals and they in turn, can be metabolized by yeasts and release them as toxic compounds which interfere with the immune system. Toxic chemicals are known to affect various aspects of health which includes lowered immunity to diseases.
How is skin yeast infection treated?
A yeast infection on the surface of the skin can be treated by topical solutions, proper diet, and the use of medications. Remember that even though it seems to only affect the surface of the skin, the reality is that it may have progressed to affecting the internal organs as well. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that a holistic approach to treating this condition is often the best way to address it.
Not only will it help prevent the spread of the disease towards other areas on the surface of the skin but it will also strengthen your dog’s overall immunity against the growth of any type of yeast as well. View your dog as a whole, as an organism which survives through different parts that work in harmony together. When one of these parts is not working properly, then the others will not as well.
External or topical treatments for skin yeast infection include the removal of the oily layer in the skin. This is done either by wipes containing acetic acids; by shampoos containing sulfur, salicylate, or benzoyl peroxide; or by giving your dog an astringent rinse made by combining a gallon of water, a cup of hydrogen peroxide, and a cup of apple cider vinegar. After the oil has been removed, topical application of ointments containing anti-fungal medications such as Ketoconazole, miconazole, and Nizoral will be done.
If you prefer a more natural approach, you can try herbs that are known to have anti-fungal properties such as aloe vera, taheebo, tea, tea tree oil, garlic, coconut oil, olive leaf extract, calendula, chamomile, and oregano. Another good alternative is colloidal silver which starves the yeast of a specific enzyme and eventually kills the fungus.
A proper diet is also important when it comes to treating yeast infection. One of the best approaches to treating this condition is by starving the yeast of its source of nourishment which is sugar. As much as possible, avoid giving your pet any food which contains simple carbohydrates. These include processed foods, fruits, breads, dog biscuits, kibbles and sweet treats. Since the sugar is readily available, the yeast can easily feed on them and provide them with what they need to propagate. Read our article on organic food for you dog to give you more information and options.
The next step is to give your dog probiotics to promote the growth of good bacteria. These can come in yogurts or through food supplements. Studies have shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus is the best probiotic that can inhibit yeast growth. Biotin had also been shown to control the development of spores in yeast. Adding digestive enzymes and essential fatty acids to their diet will also aid to control yeast.
When all else fails, giving your dog an anti-fungal oral medication would be the best. The dosage and the type of medication to be used, however, can only be determined by your vet. Do not try to medicate your dog by yourself as an underlying condition can be aggravated by an improper dosage or type of drug used. Some of the more commonly prescribed medications for yeast infections are Fluconazole, Itraconazole, and oral Ketoconazole. Giving oral medication should also be supplemented by a proper diet and hygiene in order to gain the best results.
How do you keep your dog from getting yeast infection?
The best way to prevent your dog from acquiring a yeast infection is by removing all the factors that will contribute to its development. Take a look at their immediate environment: what areas in your house are prone to getting molds and mildew? Check their diet. See if they are consuming large amounts of carbohydrates. By looking at the possible triggers of this condition we will be able to see what you can do to prevent yeast overgrowth from occurring:
- Maintain a clean and dry environment inside your home or where your dog sleeps.
- Restrict the type and amount of carbohydrates that they eat.
- Provide a diet that is sufficient in protein, vitamins, and minerals to develop a strong immune system.
- Avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Use natural methods of treating bacterial infections.
- Lower the amount of stressors in their environment such as excessive noise, chemicals, and uncomfortable living quarters.
- Provide a steady supply of fresh water to help flush out toxic chemicals and bacteria.
- Avoid too frequent bathing. Bath your dog about once a month to help maintain their natural acidic skin pH level.
Your dog can develop skin yeast infections if they also come into contact with objects that are infected with the fungus. Avoid having them play in areas where there is a constant amount of moisture that will provide a good breeding ground for the yeast. Clean their feeding and drinking bowls to eliminate any chances of infestation and always keep your dog on a good hygiene.
Clean their paws by soaking them in an astringent rinse and then dry them thoroughly afterwards. Keeping your trash out of their reach is also very important since it is in these places where fungi are also known to grow predominantly due to decaying matter.
A yeast infection on your dog’s skin can occur in two ways: an overgrowth of either the skin yeast Malassezia or the spread of the Candida Albicans fungus from their gut to the skin. Either way, it means that your pet’s natural resistance which keeps these yeasts in check has already been compromised and is not functioning effectively.
What is needed then is to address the overgrowth of yeast by applying anti-fungal natural and synthetic medications and by building-up their immune system. This means involves a lot of steps which will include maintaining your dog’s cleanliness as well as providing him with the right type of diet and living environment.
One of the key ideas that you need to remember regarding yeast skin infections is a healthy immune system. Yeast is a normal part of your dog’s body and they do have some specific role in maintaining it as well. The problem begins when the immune system malfunctions and fails to regulate yeast growth inside and on the surface of your dog’s body.
To treat it therefore, you must get back to the root cause of the problem and help build up what was broken. Any other method which only tries to address the superficial symptoms will only be temporary and the infection can come back again and again.