How to Treat Yeast Infections in Dogs

Katy Nelson, DVM
Oct 08, 2020
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Yeast are spore-producing fungi that are always present on a dog’s skin, usually in low numbers, as part of the normal flora. A yeast infection happens when there’s an excessive amount of yeast in a certain area.

Yeast infections in dogs are quite common and can occur anywhere on the skin, including the ears. 

Generally, yeast infections are caused by another issue. Anything that diminishes the normal defenses in the skin can make yeast infections more likely. 

Dog breeds that are more prone to yeast dermatitis include:

What Causes Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs are usually secondary problems. This means that there is some other issue that is weakening the skin’s defense mechanisms to allow the yeast to grow in higher numbers than normal.

It is very common to see yeast infections in a dog’s ears or on their skin if they have food allergies or environmental allergies. Other underlying issues that may cause yeast infections in dogs include hormonal problems or other diseases that suppress the immune system.

There are no studies to confirm that any of the following cause yeast infections on a dog’s skin:

  • Antibiotics

  • Brewer’s yeast

  • Oatmeal shampoos

  • Carbohydrates or sugar in food

What Are the Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections can cause red, irritated, or itchy skin or ears, and there is often a sweet or musty odor.

Chronic yeast infections can cause the skin to become thickened and discolored (gray, brown, or black).

Here are the most common areas for yeast infections in dogs and some signs that you can look out for.

Skin

Yeast infections can occur anywhere on a dog’s skin, including the belly. They are often seen in areas that are moist, such as in skin folds, especially in “wrinkly” dog breeds.

The affected skin may be red, irritated, itchy, greasy, or flaky, and there may be hair loss.

If the infection is chronic, the skin may thicken and become darker in color. Yeast infections on a dog’s mouth or face can cause extreme itching or face rubbing.

Paws

A dog with yeast infections on their paws can have red, irritated, and itchy paws.

The underside of the paws, between the pads, is affected most often, but yeast can occur anywhere on the paws. Sometimes a brown discharge can be seen in the nail beds.

Dogs with yeast infections on the paws usually lick their paws more than normal. There may also be hair loss.

Ears

Dog ear yeast infections are quite common, and the ears often smell sweet or musty.

Usually, you will see redness, which may extend onto the flap of the ear, and the discharge is generally brown. The ear may appear to be greasy, and the hair may be matted.

Yeast infections in a dog’s ears can be very itchy, causing dogs to scratch their ears or rub their head excessively.

What’s the Difference Between Ear Mites and Yeast Infections in Dogs?

Yeast infections in a dog’s ears generally cause redness, a brown discharge, head shaking or rubbing, odor, and itching.

Ear mite infections are extremely itchy and can cause many of the same symptoms. The discharge from the ear is usually dark and waxy or crusty. Ear mites are barely visible to the naked eye and highly contagious to other animals.

Your veterinarian can easily determine whether a dog’s ear problem is caused by yeast or mites by taking a swab from their ear and looking at it under a microscope.

What’s the Best Dog Yeast Infection Treatment?

The best treatment for a yeast infection on a dog depends on the location of the yeast infection.

Ears

Your veterinarian may perform cytology (taking a swab of the discharge and staining it to look at it under the microscope) to diagnose a yeast infection in a dog’s ears.

Prescription treatment may include antifungal drops or ointment, an ear cleaner, and in severe or difficult-to-treat cases, an oral antifungal medication.

Skin and Paws

Cytology is also used to diagnose yeast on the skin.

Treatments for yeast infections on the skin can include topical antifungal creams, wipes, sprays, and shampoos.

Topical ingredients that are effective in treating yeast include chlorhexidine, miconazole, and ketoconazole.

In difficult-to-treat or severe cases, oral antifungal medications are used. Oral antifungal medications used in dogs include fluconazole, terbinafine, ketoconazole, and itraconazole. These medications should be used only under the direction of a veterinarian. 

Human medications should not be used unless under the direction of a veterinarian.

Are There Home Remedies for Yeast Infections in Dogs?

People often talk about home remedies for dog yeast infections, but most are not proven to be effective.

There are no studies to confirm that feeding any of the following is beneficial in treating yeast on a dog’s skin:

  • Yogurt

  • Probiotics

  • Herbs

  • Fermented vegetables

  • Coconut oil

  • “Yeast-free” dog foods

  • “Anti-yeast” dog foods

  • Low-carbohydrate dog foods

There are no studies to confirm that topical use of any of the following are useful in treating yeast infections in dogs:

  • Coconut oil

  • Witch hazel

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Tea tree oil/herbal shampoo

  • Essential oils (these may be toxic to dogs)

Vinegar Rinses

Vinegar rinses do have scientific data to support that they may be beneficial in treating yeast. The proper dilution is important to avoid irritation.

Vinegar helps to change the pH of the skin to make it less favorable for yeast. This should only be used under the direction of your veterinarian. 

How To Prevent Yeast Infections in Dogs

Prevention of yeast infections in dogs must include addressing the underlying cause to reduce the likelihood that the infection will reoccur.

Routine bathing with an antifungal shampoo may be beneficial. However, for shampoo treatment to be effective, the lather must sit on a dog’s skin for a minimum of 10 minutes before rinsing.

Dogs with skin folds may need to have maintenance treatment to keep these areas from becoming too moist, as yeast thrive in moist, dark places such as skin folds and ears.

Dogs that have had allergy testing and are determined to be allergic to yeast can be desensitized by including yeast as an ingredient in immunotherapy (allergy vaccine). 

If you suspect that your dog has a yeast infection, consult your regular veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan that is appropriate for your pet.

Featured Image: iStock.com/JBryson

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