Not many dog owners are aware of the fact that a healthy dog’s skin is normally populated by a vast array of organisms, including yeast. Under healthy circumstances, when the dog’s immune system works well, the numbers of yeast are held under control and all goes well. Problems start when the immune system for one reason or another, becomes weakened leading to yeast overgrowth. The most commonly affected body parts are the dog’s ears and skin which are vulnerable to annoying bouts of itching, scratching and infections. A common strain of yeast found in dogs is malassezia. This strain commonly populates the dog’s ears and can also be found between the toes, genitals, anal sacs and rectum, according to Pet Education.
What Causes the Yeast Infection in the First Place?
Yeast are opportunistic organisms that will patiently wait to grow in numbers when the conditions are just right. A course of antibiotics may strip the dog’s body of healthy bacteria causing yeast to take over and thrive. Steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs may also play a role. When a dog’s skin becomes increasingly oily, as seen in allergies or certain skin conditions, yeast will thrive. Yeast also thrives in warm, humid and dark areas which is why you often see yeast deep in the ears and why it commonly affects dogs during the warm summer months or when their ears are left humid after a bath.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs
When a dog develops a yeast infection, he will likely be very itchy. Unfortunately, the dog’s scratching only makes problems worse, as the area becomes traumatized and more vulnerable to the spread of infection. The skin of dogs with yeast infections may emit an unpleasant, musty odor and may appear scaly, thickened and oily. Ear infections cause the all-too-known scratching, head shaking, redness and foul odor in the ear.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Dog Yeast Infections
Upon seeing the dog, the vet will look at the problematic areas and will likely take a skin sample for testing. The sample can be obtained through a skin scrape, impression smear, cotton swab or clear tape collection. The sample is then looked at in-house or sent out to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. Under the microscope, it can be determined if the skin problem is triggered by bacteria, yeast or something else. Further proof suggesting a yeast infection is also obtained by observing how the dog responds to treatment.
What treatments are out there for yeast infections? For skin yeast infections, special shampoos may be prescribed to create an inhospitable environment for yeast. Oral anti-fungal medications are often prescribed for severe cases. These medications may include fluconazole, ketoconazole and itraconazole. Ear infections are often treated with ear cleaners that contain acid. Yeast thrives in alkaline environments, therefore, acid inhibits the growth of yeast. After the ear is dried out, the ear cleaning process is followed by the application of anti-fungal ear drops.
It’s important to understand that yeast will tend to recur if the underlying cause isn’t addressed. According to VCA animal hospitals, the prognosis for yeast problems depends on how manageable the underlying condition is. If the dog has allergies or an immune-system disorder, these conditions will need to be properly addressed.