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Yeast Infection in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Learn all about yeast infections in dogs, including what the symptoms are and how to spot them. We’ll discuss every treatment option, from medication to shampoo, and answer the internet's most frequently asked questions.

Written by Raquel Astacio. Published in October 2022.

If you're like most pet parents, you want to do everything possible to make sure your dog is healthy and happy. And if you think your dog might have some sort of illness or infection, you want to get it treated right away. One of the most common types of infections when it comes to your pet’s skin is a yeast infection.

But how can you tell if your dog has a yeast infection?

In this post, we'll discuss what causes skin yeast infection in dogs and the most common symptoms. We'll also offer some tips on treating yeast infections and discuss the importance of being proactive (especially if you have a dog that is prone to allergies).

To bulk up your knowledge on yeast infections in dogs, keep reading!

What Causes Yeast Infection in Dogs?

Your dog's skin is home to billions of microbes, including yeast. Normally, the yeast co-exists with other bacteria on the skin in a delicate balance. The presence of yeast, in this context, is healthy and normal.

However, when something disrupts that balance, such as allergies, systemic illness, or even poorly tolerated topical medications, the yeast can grow at an out-of-control rate and create a common skin condition known as a yeast infection. Here’s what you need to know about this pesky problem.

The Most Common Causes of a Yeast Infection in Dogs

Put simply, skin yeast infections in dogs are caused when the microbial balance on your pup’s skin is upset or aggravated. This aggravation causes an overgrowth of yeast, which is the primary catalyst for infection. Some of the most common instigators include:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Cushing's Disease
  • Excess moisture
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Nutrition deficiencies
  • Poor grooming
  • Stress
  • Systemic illness (such as diabetes, leptospirosis, and lyme disease)
  • Topical medications (like steroid or antibiotic creams)

Skin yeast infection in dogs typically causes irritation, itching, and redness in the affected skin area. Your dog may also have bald spots, flaky skin, or an oily coat as a result. If the infection spreads to your pup’s ears (a common occurrence for dogs prone to allergies), your dog may shake his head frequently or paw at the ears to relieve the itchiness. Keep reading for more information on the symptoms of yeast infection in dogs.

Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Dogs

Just like people, dogs can easily be prone to yeast infections. And just like with human yeast infections, dog yeast infections can make your furry family member feel pretty miserable. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your pup feel better and clear up the infection. But first, let's look at some of the most common signs that your dog has a yeast infection.

Itchy Skin

One of the most common signs of a dog yeast infection is itchy skin. If your dog is scratching uncontrollably, licking non-stop, or seems to be in discomfort, it might be because of a yeast infection.

Hair Loss

Another common sign of a yeast infection is hair loss. This usually happens as a result of all that scratching!

Hot Spots

Hot spots are another possible sign of a yeast infection, often caused by excessive licking, chewing, or grooming of the irritated skin area and surrounding fur. If you notice any red, smelly, or irritating patches of fur on your pup's skin, have them checked out by a veterinarian right away.

Ear Problems

Yeast infections can often lead to ear problems in dogs. If your dog is shaking their head frequently or if you notice a bad odor coming from their ears, they might have an ear infection caused by yeast. Read more about yeast-based dog ear infections on our blog.

If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, it's important to consult your family veterinarian for an evaluation so that the proper treatment can be recommended. Left untreated, a yeast infection can lead to some serious health problems for your dog, such as secondary bacterial infections or damage to the ears.

Types of Yeast Infection in Dogs

There are three primary types of skin yeast infections in dogs, categorized as superficial, systemic, and opportunistic. Superficial yeast infections are the most common type and typically occur in the ears or on the skin or paws. Systemic yeast infections are less common and can affect multiple organ systems in the body, and opportunistic yeast infections occur when a dog's immune system is compromised in some way. Let’s dive into the details of each type of dog yeast infection.

Superficial Yeast Infection in Dogs

The proper way to refer to superficial yeast infections in dogs is to use the term Yeast Dermatitis. The word dermatitis is derived from the Greek words dermat- (of or pertaining to the skin) and -itis (diseases characterized by inflammation). When the word yeast is added to signal type or cause, the term Yeast Dermatitis literally translates to describe a yeast-based inflammatory disease of the skin.

Yeast Dermatitis is, without a doubt, the most common type of yeast infection in dogs. This type of infection is caused by the overgrowth of yeast microbes on your pup’s skin and can impact any superficial skin area of the body, including the ears and around the nose or mouth.

Superficial yeast infections are entirely treatable and nothing to fret over so long as they are addressed efficiently.

Systemic Yeast Infection in Dogs

As we’ve learned, most skin yeast infections in dogs are caused by an overgrowth of yeast. While skin is the most common target of a yeast infection without question, it can also affect the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and urinary tract (to name a few). Systemic yeast infections are less common but can occur when yeast enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. These infections are more serious and can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of systemic yeast infections may include fever, lethargy, weight loss, and seizures. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Systemic yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal medications, but early diagnosis and treatment is essential for the best possible outcome.

Opportunistic Yeast Infection in Dogs

Opportunistic yeast infections occur when the yeast that is normally present on the skin or in the gut overgrows and colonizes other areas of the body. This is a catalyst for infection.

Opportunistic yeast infections are more likely to occur in dogs with compromised immune systems, allergies, or other underlying skin conditions.

Clinical signs of opportunistic yeast infections in dogs can include itchiness, redness, hair loss, and a strong odor. If your dog is showing any of these signs, it's important to see a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment may include topical antifungal medications, oral antifungal medications, or a combination of both. In some cases, environmental changes or another underlying condition may need to be addressed in order to fully resolve the yeast infection. This type of infection is as ruthless as it sounds, taking every opportunity to run amuck in your pet’s body.

Treatment for Yeast Infection in Dogs

There are several different ways that skin yeast infections can be treated in dogs. The type of treatment that your own dog will need depends entirely on the severity of their infection and symptoms. This can be determined by your family veterinarian and is often done using skin cytology.

Determining the severity of your pet’s yeast infection is an important first step because the list of potential treatment options for yeast infections is pretty vast. If your pet is experiencing a mild infection, for instance, you may be able to treat it with over-the-counter antifungal shampoo or cream. However, more severe infections may require prescription-strength oral or topical medications. And if the infection is really bad, your dog may need to be hospitalized so that they can receive intensive treatment.

As with most common health conditions, a quick visit to your family veterinarian can be a great place to start.

Medication for Yeast Infection in Dogs

If you think your dog has a yeast infection, the best thing to do is take him to your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to give your dog a thorough examination and confirm whether or not he has a yeast infection. This is usually done using skin cytology, during which your veterinarian will take a small sample of your pet’s skin cells, place it on a microscope slide, and examine the contents.

If your pet does, in fact, have a yeast infection, your vet may be able to visualize the individual yeast on a microscopic level. They will then count the number of yeast present per field, which can be a helpful marker of severity and can also help guide your pet’s treatment plan. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the yeast count, the greater the degree of infection.

If the vet does diagnose a skin yeast infection, they will likely prescribe antifungal medications to help clear it up. Antifungal medications are created in a variety of forms, from pills to creams.

Deciding which form is the best for your pet will depend on the degree of infection. If the infection is significant, your vet may even recommend an antibiotic or routine use of a prescription-strength antifungal shampoo.

Note: If your pet is started on a course of antibiotics, it is important to finish the medication in its entirety, even if your pet’s symptoms begin to improve. We also recommend starting your pet on a probiotic afterwards to replenish your pet’s good gut flora.

Shampoo for Yeast Infection in Dogs

Frequent use of antifungal shampoo can be a great way to treat skin yeast infection in dogs. Not only can routine bathing provide relief to itchy skin, but it can be an effective way to kill yeast and take back control of your pup’s skin. Prescription-strength options can be purchased online or through your veterinarian’s office, while over-the-counter alternatives can be purchased from a trusted pet supplier.

Below, we’ve listed a few helpful tips should you choose to use antifungal shampoo as a treatment for your dog’s yeast infection.

Antifungal shampoo works best when it is allowed to rest on the skin for a full ten minutes. And, no, this doesn't mean that you need to keep your pup in the tub that long. Simply follow these four easy steps:

  1. Wet your pup's coat thoroughly.
  2. Massage in the shampoo, paying special attention to aggravated areas.
  3. Do something fun for ten minutes while the shampoo does its job. This can mean taking your pup for a walk or allowing him to play in the yard for a while. And, yes, it's okay if he rolls around in the grass.
  4. After ten minutes, rinse off the shampoo and dry your pup thoroughly.

Antifungal shampoo is meant to be used as a treatment and should be used frequently to obtain the best results. If your dog’s yeast infection is in full swing, bathing him once a week will do you no good. To actively fight a yeast infection using medicated shampoo, you must bathe your pet at least 2-3 times per week.

Keep in mind that you do not have to shampoo your dog’s entire body in order for this to be an effective treatment option. If there is a yeast infection in your dog’s paws, for instance, you can easily bathe the paws by themselves using the same process while leaving the rest of your pup’s body clean and dry.

Home Remedies for Yeast Infection in Dogs

There are many effective home remedy options that you can use to help treat your dog's yeast infection and prevent it from coming back. Some of the most popular include:

Bathing and Brushing Your Dog Regularly

This will help remove any dead skin cells, dirt, and debris that could be contributing to the infection. Always be sure to use gentle, pet-safe grooming products when brushing or bathing your dog to limit skin irritation.

Avoiding Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals can irritate your dog's skin and make their yeast infection worse. Stick to using gentle cleaning products around the house and avoid using flea collars or spot-on treatments on your dog when they are experiencing an episode of skin irritation.

Giving Your Dog Probiotics

Probiotics contain healthy bacteria that can help fight off infection and restore balance to your dog's gut microbiome. You can give your pup probiotics in the form of supplements or using everyday pet-approved dairy products such as yogurt or kefir.

Giving Your Dog Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce itchiness and irritation caused by yeast infections. Two of the most popular methods for administering Omega-3s include the use of supplements or fish oil capsules.

FAQs About Yeast Infection in Dogs

Q: "Are yeast infections in dogs contagious to humans?"

Yeast is a normal occupant of both human and animal skin. As we’ve discussed, yeast infections are usually caused by an overgrowth or overpopulation of the already-present yeast on a dog’s skin. For this reason, your pup’s yeast infection is not contagious either to humans or other animals.

In general, a dog’s yeast infection has everything to do with their own microbial imbalance and nothing to do with viral or contaminant disease.

Q: "Are there any foods that can cause yeast infections?"

Yes, there are a few foods that can contribute to yeast infections. Foods high in sugar, processed foods, and dairy products, for instance, are all known to promote the overgrowth of yeast within your dog’s body.

Q: "Is there anything that can kil yeast naturally?"

There are a few things that can help kill yeast naturally. Probiotics, for instance, can help create an environment that is unfavorable for yeast growth. Pet-safe antifungal herbs like oregano can also be effective.

Q: "How to treat yeast infection in the ears?"

It is not uncommon for dogs to develop an ear infection in response to microbial imbalance. If your dog has a yeast infection in the ears, it is important to clean the ears thoroughly and treat the infection with appropriate prescription-strength medication. To learn more about proper ear-cleaning techniques and treatment options, visit our blog!

In Conclusion

Skin yeast infections in dogs are a common ailment that can leave them feeling itchy and miserable. Fortunately, they are entirely treatable, and there are many options from which to choose. The best treatment option for your own pup will depend on the severity of the infection and his symptoms, so be sure to consult your veterinarian if you think your dog might have a yeast infection.

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