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canine health problems
Dog with yeast infection

The essentials

  • Yeast infections are common in certain breeds — Dogs with skin or tail folds or hair in their ear canals are more at risk.
  • Food or environmental allergens can lead to yeast infections in dogs — Weakened immune systems or moisture are also common causes.
  • You’ll need to talk to a vet for diagnosis and treatment — Home remedies aren’t proven to be effective.
  • These infections aren’t contagious — Unless they develop into bacterial or fungal infections.

What's a yeast infection?

Yeast infections in dogs are known as yeast dermatitis or Malassezia dermatitis. These infections are caused by Malassezia pachydermatis, a type of fungus. A yeast infection is a skin disease that occurs when something, like a weakened immune system, lowers the skin’s defenses.

Allergies and inflammation may also cause “breaks” in the skin’s barrier, allowing yeast to make their way into the skin. When that happens, a dog’s skin can no longer maintain the low amount of yeast that naturally occurs.

Signs your dog has a yeast infection

Yeast infections are common in dogs and are usually easy to spot (and smell), although a vet will need to formally diagnose the issue. That’s because bacterial infections, parasitic infections, and ringworm can all have similar clinical presentations.

Typically, yeast infections cause dry, itchy, flaky, red, smelly, hardened, or hyperpigmented skin. But yeast infections can also occur on the paws or in the ears, so there are many signs to keep an eye out for if you suspect your dog has one.

  • Ears. If your dog has recurring ear infections, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. The ears might also be red or will have brown discharge.
  • Paws. The paw or the area between the toes can become infected. Red or itchy paws can be a sign of a yeast infection, and your dog may lick the paws frequently if there is a yeast infection. You might also see brown discharge between the toes or under the nails.
  • Skin. Any changes to the texture or color of the dog’s skin could be a sign of a yeast infection. The skin might become dry, hard, hyperpigmented, scaly, or crusty. The skin may also present a yeasty or musty odor.
Ear infection in cocker spaniel

Yeasty dog ear

How do dogs get yeasty skin?

Dogs have naturally occurring fungi on their skin. If something weakens the immune system or changes the balance of fungi and bacteria on the skin, opportunistic infections, including yeast infections, may occur.

There are many factors that can weaken the immune system, including allergies or skin parasites. Other causes, like hormones or medications, can also weaken the immune system or change the balance of fungi on the skin.

But there are other ways for a yeast infection to occur aside from a weakened immune system. Even a fun afternoon of swimming can create a moist environment in the ears, which will allow the yeast to flourish.

Hormonal disorders. Hormonal disorders, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can create a higher risk for pets to develop yeast infections. The imbalances can cause the yeast populations to overgrow.

  • Environmental allergies. Similarly, allergies can lead to an imbalance in “good” bacteria and yeast bacteria. Itchy skin, a common symptom of allergies, can cause your dog to scratch open the skin. If this happens, the wound may create a breeding ground for an infection, too.
  • Food allergies. Like environmental allergies, food allergies for dogs can lead to a yeast infection. The most common food intolerances for dogs are meat, soy, and eggs.
  • Antibiotics or other drugs. Antibiotics and some other medications will affect the naturally present bacterial populations, which can lead to yeast overpopulation. This is especially common for long-term drug use.
  • Skin parasites. Mites and other skin parasites will cause inflammation and irritation to your dog’s ears and skin. Mites and yeast infections in the ear are often confused for one another.

👉 Mites are common for young puppies with weaker immune systems, which can also lead to yeast infections.

  • Other skin disorders. Yeast infections develop on the skin. Skin disorders can lead to lower amounts of “good” bacteria and higher amounts of yeast populations.

Breeds more likely to get yeast infections

Some doggies are more susceptible than others. In particular, dogs with skin or tail folds or hair in the inner ear canal are prone to yeast infections. According to one study, these breeds have a higher risk of yeast infections compared to other dogs:

  • West Highland white terrier
  • Basset hound
  • American cocker spaniel
  • Shih tzu
  • Poodle
  • Boxer
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • German shepherd
  • Dachshund

How are they diagnosed?

A veterinarian will use cytology to diagnose a yeast infection. The vet will swab the discharge in the infected area, collect a skin sample, or use acetate tape preparations to collect the yeast, then evaluate the sample on a microscope slide to look for Malassezia yeast. The yeast will appear in clusters or will adhere to keratinocytes.

While a yeasty odor or specific lesion patterns may suggest a yeast infection, cytology is the most effective way for a vet to officially diagnose the problem. Keep in mind, though, that the vet may need to conduct more testing to identify the underlying cause of the infection.

6 ways yeast infections in doggies are treated

Your vet will advise you on the most effective treatment plan for Fido’s infection. Treatments are usually topical, oral, or both. Sometimes severe yeast infections can lead to secondary bacterial infections, so the vet may also prescribe antibiotics.

1. Vet treatment

If you suspect a yeast infection, you should take your dog to the vet for an evaluation. The vet will be able to prescribe the best treatment based on the severity of the infection and where on your pup’s body it’s located. The vet may prescribe a topical or oral treatment, or both.

According to our vets, treatment depends on the severity of the pet’s clinical presentation. Superficial infections may take one or two weeks to heal, but deeper infections could take weeks or even months. If allergies are the cause, the treatment could be lifelong to prevent more yeast infections in the future.

2. Shampoos

Antifungal shampoos will help keep the skin clean and treat the yeast infection. Your vet may prescribe a shampoo or recommend over-the-counter options depending on the severity of the skin infection. Our vet’s favorite medicated shampoo is Dechra Miconahex + Triz Shampoo.

3. Ear cleaners

The ears are a hot spot for yeast infections. If your dog has a yeast infection in the ears, your vet will prescribe ear cleaners to treat the infection and keep the ears clean to prevent it from getting worse. 

4. Paw soaks

Yeast overgrowth can happen around paws or between your dog’s toes. Your vet may prescribe paw soaks to help clean the area and treat yeast infection. There’s also paw soaks available over the counter.

5. Antifungal medications

Your vet may prescribe oral antifungal medications to treat yeast infections, especially if they are more severe. Antifungal medications for dogs’ yeast infections include fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, and terbinafine.

6. Topical ointment

Topical ointments are another option to help treat the yeast infection. They can also provide your dog with some relief from the intense itchiness and inflammation. Your vet will need to prescribe this type of treatment.

Tips to prevent your dog from getting a yeast infection

These infections can be uncomfortable for your furry friend, but unfortunately it’s easy for them to return if the initial cause isn’t treated. For example, if your pup is allergic to poultry but continues to eat dog food with chicken, the yeast infection may return. Dog breeds that have wrinkly skin are more prone to yeast infections, but keeping the folds clean can help prevent future yeast infections.

Keep your dog indoors during hot, humid days — Yeast flourish in moist environments. Particularly for dogs with lots of skin folds, these folds or even the spots between the toes can quickly become warm and moist on hot, humid days, creating a breeding ground for yeast. 

Frequently clean your dog’s ears and paws — Keep your pup’s ears and paws clean and dry to avoid a yeast infection. To prevent infection and/or mites, consider using some of betterpet’s favorite ear cleaners, such as Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser or QualityPet Ear Nectar Organic Ear Cleaner.

Use a balm to clean your dog’s wrinkles and skin folds — Yeast thrive in the warm, moist folds of a dog’s skin. Natural Dog Company’s Wrinkle Balm is an all-natural, organic product that allows you to easily clean between the folds of your dog’s skin. Simply apply it to a towel and swipe through the folds to clean and soothe the area.

Dry your dog off after a bath or swim (ears too!) — Again, yeast will overpopulate in a moist environment, even in the ears. Make sure after you thoroughly dry your dog off, making sure to dry the ears and feet, too.

Keep an eye on your dog’s diet and appetite — Food allergies are a common trigger for a yeast infection in dogs. Especially after making a change to dog food, watch your pup for any signs of an allergy, including itching, inflammation, weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Watch for seasonal sneezes and itches — Environmental allergies are also a common cause for yeast infections. Dogs may sneeze or itch their skin, so watch for these cues as potential signs for seasonal or environmental allergies.

Frequently asked questions about yeast infections in dogs

Why does my dog keep getting yeast infections?

There are many reasons why a dog may get many yeast infections. Sometimes, allergens can cause yeast infections. Your dog may experience seasonal yeast infections. Yeast infections can also occur based on the types of food they eat, especially if your dog has food allergies. Medications or even oily skin can also cause more frequent yeast infections.

Are yeast infections in dogs contagious?

Dogs’ yeast infections aren’t contagious. If they become a bacterial skin infection, then that infection would be transferable to other pups through skin-to-skin contact.

What foods cause yeast infections in dogs?

Food allergens can cause yeast infections in dogs, but the allergens can vary by dog. Common food allergies for dogs include proteins and dairy. Many dogs with food sensitivities are prescribed a hypoallergenic diet.

Are there any home remedies for yeast infections in dogs?

Most alleged home remedies for dog yeast infections have not been clinically proven to be effective. You should consult your vet for treatment options for your dog’s yeast infection.