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Skin yeast infections in dogs are one of the most common types of infections treated by veterinarians every year. Did you know:
- Many dog breeds are prone to skin yeast infections and require preventive care to avoid suffering recurring infections?
- Causes of yeast infections range from stress and humidity to flea and tick bites?
- Ear infections are yeast infections that can permanently damage a dog’s hearing?
- Side effects of corticosteroids routinely given to dogs with yeast infections include breathing problems, fluid retention, hair loss and behavioral changes.
- Using probiotics for yeast infection in dogs is a safe and effective treatment that has no side effects.
What is Canine Yeast Infection?
Canine yeast infections are produced by colonizing fungal microorganisms that emerge from an imbalance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. In dogs, yeast skin infections begin when the Malassezia pachydermatis fungus outnumbers beneficial bacteria and produce symptoms of otitis (ear infection), seborrheic dermatitis (skin infection), or both. Yeast pathogens thrive in moist, warm, dark conditions such as those found in the ears, armpits and between the toes. If an affected dog does not receive effective medication like probiotics for dog’s yeast infection, sites will enlarge, spread and infect other parts of the dog’s body quite rapidly.
Canine yeast infections commonly target the dog’s ears, between their toes or under their armpits where hair is less thick and moisture remains. Dog with deep folds and wrinkles in their skin (bloodhounds, Shar-Pei’s. basset hounds and cocker spaniels) are also vulnerable to developing itchy, painful yeast infections. Unless a reliable, quick-acting treatment such as beneficial bacteria is administered, the infection will spread, become intensely irritating to the dog and causing them to scratch and chew frantically at the yeast infection.
Causes of Canine Yeast Infections
Possible triggers of a yeast infection include:
- Use of antibiotics
- Prolonged exposure to humid, hot temperatures
- Allergic reactions to ticks, fleas and other parasites
- Food allergies (especially to corn, wheat and “fillers” found in generic brand dog foods)
- Nutritional deficiencies (lack of sufficient proteins, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids will result in poor skin health)
- Prolonged administration of corticosteroids that suppress immune system functioning
- Endocrine/hormone/blood disorders (Addison’s Disease, Cushing’s Disease, hyper-/hypothyroidism and diabetes)
- Metabolic diseases and disorders
Yeast cells normally live on dog skin without causing health problems. Veterinarians aren’t sure exactly why yeast begins reproducing and budding uncontrollably but suspect these triggers play an important role in the development of canine yeast infections.
Signs of a Canine Yeast Infection
- Constant chewing, biting, scratching and licking at the skin. Scratching bouts can be frantic and lead to inflamed skin and bleeding. Dogs with a severe yeast infection may continue biting and scratching even when the area is hairless, raw and oozing blood.
- Dandruff and/or scaly skin
- Excessively oily skin or a greasy-feeling coat
- Skin that smells foul and infected
- Lichenification of the skin (thickened, hyperpigmented skin resembling elephant skin results from untreated, chronic yeast infections)
- Crusty, swelled patches of skin
- Appetite/weight loss
- Depression, lethargy, anxiety
- Acting skittish or aggressive when approached
When internal or external stressors overstimulate a dog’s hair follicles, skin oil production increases significantly and exacerbate yeast infections. Bathing dogs too frequently or using incorrectly formulated shampoos can irritate hair follicles. Dogs suffering psychological problems, especially nervousness and anxiety stemming from a change in owners or residence, may also contribute to the development of a yeast infection.
Ear Infections in Dogs
Canine ear infections are yeast infections that require immediate treatment. Signs of a possible ear infection in dogs include:
- Excessive scratching or pawing of the infected ear. The dog may also rub the ear against the ground or wipe it on the side of furniture
- Yellow, brown or bloody discharge that has a strong, foul odor seeping from the ear
- Redness, crustiness and swelling of the ear
- Head tilting and shaking
- Loss of balance (the dog may also walk in a circle or appear disoriented)
- Hearing loss
Dogs with floppy ears (cocker spaniels, poodles and Labrador retrievers) or hairy, inner ear canals (schnauzers) are susceptible to suffering chronic ear infections. Once yeast cells take over in the moist, dark areas of a dog’s ears, the ensuing ear infection continues spreading into the inner ear and eventually causes fluid build-up behind the eardrum. Unless treated, the eardrum can burst from fluid pressure and irreparably impair the dog’s hearing.
Diagnosing Canine Yeast Infection
Veterinarians examine a skin sample under a microscope for evidence of yeast cells, bacteria, mites or anything else that may be causing the skin or ear infection. A direct impression of the infection can also be taken by simply pressing a microscope slide or piece of acetate tape onto the sore. A vet will also take seepage and wax samples from dogs with ear infections. When veterinarians suspect food allergies are causing a yeast infection, they will order food allergy trials to determine which foods are disrupting the dog’s immune system.
Treating Canine Yeast Infection
In most cases, veterinarians will prescribe one or more the following:
- Topical anti-yeast/anti-fungal/anti-seborrheic ointments, shampoos, dips, sprays or powders
- Oral anti-fungal medications containing terbinafine, ketoconazole or itraconazole
Yeast infections are often resistant to topical and oral medications and tend to flare-up repeatedly even after medications have eliminated the infection. Yeast cells have a unique ability to mutate quickly or adapt to changing environments, which makes them resistant to synthetic medications that are not formulated to eradicate new types of yeast cells.
Probiotics for Dogs
Consisting of beneficial living microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract of dogs (and humans), probiotics play an essential role in keeping dogs in excellent health and preventing yeast infections from developing on the skin and ears. The “good” bacteria in probiotics colonize, overwhelm and eliminate “bad” bacteria existing in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract by producing SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids). SCFAs stop the growth of harmful pathogens, such as clostridium perfringens, E. coli and Malassezia pachydermatis, the most common cause of canine yeast infection.
Using probiotics for yeast infections also means dogs do not need to suffer the undesirable side effects caused by prescription medications. In addition, probiotics not only treat and eliminate yeast infections but can also help prevent fungal skin and ear infections by significantly improving and maintaining the general health and well-being of dogs who take probiotics regularly.
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Disclaimer: the advice and information in this article is not intended to be used as a replacement for seeking medical attention if your dog has a yeast infection or other health issues.