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dog with white paws in dirt

The essentials

  • The skin is an organ — It protects the body from harm, just like the immune system. And skin issues are the number one reason that dogs and cats end up at the vet.
  • Yeast infections or Malassezia dermatitis affects dog paws — This is common in dogs and can affect the lip margins, ears, armpits, groin, the underside of the neck, and skin in between the toes.
  • Clinical signs vary, but your dog may be uncomfortable — Symptoms of a yeast infection in dog paws include licking, chewing, scratching, and a ‘yeasty’ odor.

Skin issues like yeast infections aren’t life-threatening, and vets say cases are common. Yet a yeast infection in dog paws will cause dogs to lick their paws, which is maddening for canines. A dog’s yeast-infected paw may look red or discolored, feel itchy, and may even have a brown discharge at the base of the paw. A vet can diagnose Malassezia dermatitis by performing a tape impression test, which means applying a piece of clear tape to the affected skin. Once the cause of the excessive licking is determined, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan to treat your dog’s yeast infection paw.

What causes yeast infections in dogs?

The most common organism that causes yeast infections in pups is Malassezia pachydermatis. “Malassezia pachydermatis is a commensal yeast that is normally present in low numbers in dogs,” says veterinary experts with the Canadian Veterinary Journal . It’s normal to find a small number of these organisms on dogs. When a dog’s skin is unhealthy, it’s common for these organisms to quickly overpopulate, which causes a yeast infection.

In other words, yeast infections happen when there’s an overgrowth of yeast.

Yeast dermatitis occurs most commonly in animals with the following underlying causes and conditions and skin diseases:

  • Environmental allergies. Vets will ask about fleas, diet, and exposure to pollen.
  • Endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are recurring ear and skin infections as well as unexplained weight gain. The common causes of Cushing’s disease are increased thirst, urination, panting, thinning of fur on the rump and tail, and a pot-bellied appearance.
  • Food allergies. Always address any food allergies in your dog with your veterinarian.
  • Bacterial pyoderma. There’s typically a rancid odor, crusts, and pustules associated with this condition.
  • Autoimmune diseases: These diseases weaken your dog’s immune system and make them more prone to yeast infections.
  • Skin cancer. This cancer can make the skin’s barrier weaker, allowing yeast to multiply more easily.

Yeast dermatitis is very common in pets and can affect a dog’s ears, the interdigital skin in between the paws, lips, groin, facial skin, underneath the neck, and elsewhere.

👉 Your veterinarian can diagnose and confirm your dog is suffering from a yeast infection.

Are some dog breeds more likely to get yeast infections?

Dogs of any breed can be susceptible to yeast infections. However, these five commonly affected breeds may end up at the vet a lot with skin issues:

What are the clinical symptoms of yeast infections in dogs?

Yeast infections have a very specific odor (usually very musty or cheesy smelling). If you smell your dog’s paws and suspect yeast, it’s time to see the vet. There are many signs pet owners need to watch for, and all of these mean a veterinarian appointment is likely the next step.

  • Excessive chewing and licking of paws. Dogs are often seen chewing and licking the red, irritated areas of their feet.
  • Scratching. Itchy skin and redness are other signs of a yeast infection in dogs.
  • Pungent odor. The yeast odor is very pungent, and you’ll probably be able to smell this right away, especially when they lick and itch.
  • Red, irritated, and itchy paws. Always look for red and moist skin when you examine the paws.
  • Dark brown discoloration at the base of the toenails. It may seem odd, but yeast infections may affect the nails. During regular grooming sessions, it’s important to take a good look.
  • Flaky, crusty skin on the paws. You may find yellow crusting and scaling, and the skin can become hyperpigmented on the paws.

Diagnosing and treating yeast infections in dogs

Diagnosing a dog paw yeast infection Your vet will perform a series of tests to determine why the paws are infected. These tests rule out both fungal and bacterial infections. The actual diagnosis of Malassezia is determined after a veterinarian performs skin cytology (studying skin cells under a microscope) or a tape impression test.

The tape is then removed and stained. The vet will then examine the stained tape under the microscope to see if yeast or bacteria are present on the skin. Once the cause of the compulsive licking is determined, your vet can create a treatment plan for your pup.

The good news is that dog yeast infections are treatable. The treatment for Malassezia dermatitis usually involves topical therapy with antifungal shampoos, sprays, wipes, creams, and lotions or systemic treatments:

  • Anti-yeast oral medications. Including ketoconazole, fluconazole, itraconazole or terbinafine
  • Prescription-medicated shampoos. When using a medicated shampoo, it’s important to lather the shampoo over the affected skin lesions and allow the shampoo to soak for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. One of our vet’s favorite medicated shampoos is Tropiclean OXYMED Medicated Shampoo.
  • Medicated wipes. Dechra TRIZCHLOR wipes can be good for gentle cleaning between your dog’s toes.
  • Food elimination trial. Your veterinarian may recommend a food elimination trial to determine if your dog’s ongoing skin issues are due to food allergies.
  • Topical sprays. Like Dechra’s MiconaHex + Triz Spray Conditioner and Vetone Conzol 1% spray.

👉 It can take up to four weeks to treat yeast infections in dogs, so patience is key.

Our favorite medicated shampoo: Tropiclean OXYMED Medicated Shampoo

How to prevent yeasty dog paws

Yeast infections in dogs, particularly specific breeds, are common but not inevitable. These steps will help you protect your pup from a yeast infection.

  • Make it a habit. Always dry your dog’s paws off when they come in from a walk or the outdoors. This step is especially important during rainy seasons when your pup’s paws are more likely to get wet.
  • Be thorough. Spend time getting between the toes, and take a few minutes when you’re done to ensure they’re not licking after you dry them off. A walk or hike may actually cause more irritation, and your dog will start to lick their paws when you get them back to the house.
  • Take a bath. Regular cleaning can help prevent an inflammatory skin condition. Again, make sure your pup is dry after you’re done.
  • Watch for licking. According to vet expert Dr. Diener, “It is also essential to prevent your dog from licking the paws. The saliva from a dog’s mouth easily gets trapped between the toes, leading to a moist environment for yeast to thrive.”
  • Look for other symptoms. Dogs may even show hair loss around their paw pads, but the skin folds may be inflamed. Try smelling your dog’s paw pads as yeast or a yeast overgrowth has a very specific odor!
  • Consider allergy testing. Rule out allergy issues. If your dog does have allergies, they’re more prone to yeast infections, so know the signs of an allergic reaction
  • Work with your vet on a treatment plan. If your dog has an underlying condition, like a weakened immune system, work with your vet to manage it. Should your dog develop a yeast infection — regardless of underlying conditions — seek prompt care.

👉 Remember that yeast infections can only be diagnosed by a vet with diagnostic tests.

Don’t forget that the skin is an organ

Healthy skin is important to your pet’s health! Like the immune system, the skin protects our bodies, including internal tissue. A dog’s skin protects the internal tissues, regulates body temperature, and absorbs or secretes materials into and out of the environment. Skin is also one of the primary sensory organs.

A dog’s skin is also a sensitive organ, and mild inflammation can cause discomfort and affect their quality of life. “Our pets are susceptible to hundreds of bacterial and fungal infections, parasites, and autoimmune disorders of the skin—ranging from the merely annoying to the downright deadly. So it’s no wonder that dermatological issues are the number one reason that dogs and cats end up at the vet,” according to experts at Tufts Vet University.

Frequently asked questions

Does apple cider vinegar help yeast infections on dogs’ paws?

Unfortunately not. Veterinarians agree that apple cider vinegar isn’t effective in treating yeast infections. The best way to start treating a dog’s yeast infection is to talk to your vet.

Are Epsom salt baths effective treatment?

Epsom salt baths to treat their dog’s yeasty paws or any other infected area are not recommended as they aren’t considered effective.

What home remedies treat yeast infections in dog paws?

It’s best to work with your veterinarian to determine a treatment plan for your dog’s infection. They’ll take a closer look at your dog, go over treatment options, and prescribe antifungal shampoos, sprays, wipes, and lotions or systemic treatments.