Yeast infections in dogs are common, especially in certain breeds or dogs with underlying conditions and compromised immune systems. While they can occur anywhere on the skin, they are often seen in your dog’s ears. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing serious complications. Here’s what to know about yeast infections in dogs to keep your dog healthy.
What Causes a Yeast Infection in Dogs?
Yeast is a live, single-celled microorganism classified as a member of the fungus kingdom. It’s normally found on every dog’s skin, but in small amounts. A yeast infection occurs when a substantial amount of yeast excessively builds up in one area.
Yeast infections often occur if there is an underlying medical condition, such as food sensitivities, environmental factors, or parasites, such as fleas, which can cause allergies, as well as the dermatological condition seborrhea. Bacterial infections or underlying hormonal problems may also throw the skin’s defenses off-balance. In the case of yeast infections of the ear, the most common causes are water or debris trapped in the ear or food sensitivities. Yeast infections of the ear could also be caused by underlying mechanical issues such as damage to the eardrum, a polyp, or even a mass or tumor in the ear canal.
Are Some Breeds More Susceptible to Yeast Infections?
Certain dog breeds are thought to be genetically predisposed to developing yeast infections. These breeds include the West Highland White Terrier, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Silky Terrier, Australian Terrier, Maltese, Chihuahua, Poodle, Shetland Sheepdog, Lhasa Apso, and Dachshund.
Dogs with floppy ears who swim often, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, are more likely to get yeast infections. Breeds such as Miniature Schnauzers, Bichon Frise, and Shih Tzu are also more susceptible to infections because the thick hair in their ear canals hampers the airflow necessary to keep ears dry.
Any dog with allergies is also more likely to develop yeast infections.
Types of Yeast Infections in Dogs and How to Recognize Them
Yeast Infections in Ears
The ear canal of a dog is L-shaped, dropping down and toward the head. This dark, warm, moist environment is the perfect setting for a yeast infection to thrive. The two types of yeast most often found in a dog’s ears are Candida and Malassezia.
Yeast infections can occur in any part of the dog’s ear. A dog with a yeast infection in their ear may exhibit these symptoms:
- Scratching and digging at the ear
- Rubbing the head on the floor, walls, or furniture
- Excessive shaking of the head
- Musty odor
- Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
- Crusted skin or fur on the ear flap
- Swelling and redness
- Hair loss around the base of the ear
Early diagnosis and treatment of a yeast infection in the ears are critical before it spreads deeper. If a yeast infection spreads deeper into the ear, it can cause serious pain and complications, such as loss of hearing, vestibular imbalance, or neurological damage.
Yeast Infections on Paws
A dog’s paws are susceptible to yeast infections because they encounter wet, dirty ground, which means moisture and dirt are likely to be trapped between the toes and pads. Contact with grass and weeds can also trigger allergies or result in cuts and scratches. Dogs are likely to lick their irritated paws, which doesn’t help, instead adding even more moisture.
If your dog has a yeast infection on the paws, you may see the following symptoms:
Excessive licking and chewing of the feet
- Redness and irritated skin
- Brown discharge in nailbeds
- Pink salivary staining on the hair around the paws
- Hair loss
There could be many reasons a dog excessively licks their paws, including anxiety, boredom, injury, parasites, bacteria, or allergies, including food sensitivities. Early examination, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment by a veterinarian can relieve discomfort and prevent complications. This is made using a combination of their medical history and diagnostic swabs of the debris or accompanying cells.
Yeast Infections on Skin
Yeast dermatitis, a skin inflammation caused by yeast infections, can spread to any area of a dog’s skin. But it’s most likely to occur at the site of a rash or wherever there are skin folds that can trap moisture. Wrinkly breeds, such as the Chinese Shar-Pei, are especially vulnerable.
Symptoms of yeast infections of the skin include:
- Intense itching
- Red, irritated, inflamed skin
- Greasy, crusty, or flaky patches
- Thickening (elephant-like) skin
- Darker skin color
- Hair loss
- Musty smell
Although a yeast infection of the skin may start in a very specific area, if left untreated, it can spread and affect the entire body, including the dog’s face and mouth. Often, there may be a secondary bacterial infection accompanying the yeast infection.
How to Treat Yeast Infections in Dogs
Depending on how deep in the ear canal a yeast infection is, the treatment will vary. The veterinarian will prescribe a topical antifungal cream for an infection in the outer ear. An infection of the middle ear may require antifungal drops or oral medication. The vet is likely to recommend a thorough cleaning of the ear and possibly ongoing treatment with ear-drying solutions.
Yeast infections on the paws may require treatment with a disinfectant spray to kill germs, as well as daily application of a topical antifungal lotion or spray. It may also be necessary to use an Elizabethan collar to keep the dog from licking the paws so they can stay dry while they heal.
Skin infections may require topical and oral treatment. Cleansing shampoos may clean up the greasy skin. Your vet may recommend using a medicated, antifungal shampoo and leaving it on the dog’s skin for about 10 minutes. Bathing may need to be repeated for up to 12 weeks. The veterinarian will also prescribe an antifungal medication, as well as an antibiotic, to treat any bacterial skin infection that may occur along with yeast dermatitis.
How to Prevent Yeast Infections in Dogs
The good news is that yeast infections in dogs are not contagious to other dogs or humans. The most important thing to remember to prevent yeast infections is to keep the area clean and dry.
Too much moisture is a common cause of ear infections, so thoroughly drying your dog’s ears after swimming and bathing can prevent moisture build-up. If your dog has a skin rash, musty smell, or is scratching or licking excessively, taking them to the veterinarian can prevent an infection from spreading and becoming more serious.
The prognosis for yeast infections is good when you follow the treatments your veterinarian gives you. It’s important to understand that unless an underlying problem such as allergies, hypothyroidism, or seborrhea is controlled, a yeast infection is likely to come back.