Did you know that yeast is actually the main cause of common skin conditions in dogs, such as dermatitis? Red, itchy or flaky skin on dogs is not something your dogs have to live with long-term
Along with bacteria and fungi, yeast are microscopic organisms that live naturally on the skin of most dogs. When the natural balance between yeast and other microorganisms gets disrupted (often because of idiopathic reasons), yeast dermatitis can occur in dogs.
What is a Dog Yeast Infection?
Yeast is a type of fungus that can live on the skin or in other areas of your pet's body. Some types of yeast are normal inhabitants of healthy skin and may pose no threat to your dog's health; however, if the amount of yeast grows too large, it can cause irritation and discomfort to your pet.
The most common form of canine yeast infection, also called Malassezia pachydermatis, causes itching and inflammation along with redness and flaking skin. It usually appears as black spots on white-haired dogs or light brown spots on dark-haired dogs.
Candida albicans can also cause skin infections in dogs. The most common locations for this infection include the ears, paws and between the toes.
The reason why dogs develop a Candida albicans infection is not always clear. Some dogs have allergies, so they may be more susceptible to Candida albicans infections because their immune system is already compromised by the allergies.
Other dogs who don't have allergies can still develop an overgrowth of Candida albicans in their intestines if they eat too much sugar or carbohydrates.
What Causes Yeast Infections in Dogs?
Yeast infections can affect any part of the body, but they are most commonly seen in the mouth, skin, and digestive tract. However, an infection can occur anywhere in the body where there is moist, warm tissue such as the ears or anus.
The most common causes of dog yeast infection include:
- Immune system problems (autoimmune disease): If your dog has a compromised immune system, such as from cancer treatment, he may be more likely to develop yeast infections because his body can't fight off the infection as well as it should.
- Diabetes: Diabetic dogs tend to be more prone to yeast infections because diabetes affects hormone levels in the body, which can throw off your dog's normal healthy bacterial balance.
- Medications: Certain medications can make it easier for your dog's immune system to become weakened and allow yeast to grow out of control. These medications include steroids (prednisone) and antibiotics (erythromycin).
There are also certain breeds more prone to yeast infections than others, including:
- Basset Hound
- Lhasa Apsos
Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Infections in Dogs
Yeast infections cause the same symptoms as they do in people, but they can be harder to detect in dogs.
The most common symptom of a yeast infection is itching and scratching. Itching may be localized to a particular area or generalized. The dog may have redness and sores on his skin due to scratching and biting at the area of irritation. Some dogs also develop secondary bacterial infections because of the constant licking and chewing that goes along with an itchy yeast infection.
If your dog has an ongoing problem with yeast infections, he should be tested for allergies, which are often associated with yeast infections. In addition, if you've recently changed your dog's food or started giving him antibiotics, these changes could have triggered the outbreak of a fungal infection.
Diagnosing a Yeast Infection
There are several tests that can be done to diagnose a yeast infection in dogs. These tests include:
- A cytology test. This test involves taking a sample of the dog's skin with a swab and examining it under a microscope for signs of fungus.
- A culture test. This test is performed by taking a sample from the infected area and placing it in a Petri dish containing agar, which is a gelatin-like substance that encourages growth. This method helps identify the type of fungus causing the infection and its sensitivity to medications used to treat it.
- A fungal antigen test. This test involves taking blood from the dog and then testing it for antibodies that fight off fungal infections
How to Treat Yeast Infection in Dogs Through Diet
If you have a dog who is constantly battling yeast infections, one of the easiest ways to help them is to change their diet. Dogs are carnivores and some may not be able to tolerate grain products such as rice, wheat, corn, or soybeans. These types of foods can contain gluten, which may lead to yeast overgrowth in the body that will cause itching, skin problems, and other issues, including ear infections that often accompany yeast infections.
Feeding a raw diet to your dog is one of the best things you can do for them, especially if they are prone to yeast infections. It's not only healthier than commercial pet food, but it also gives you more control over what goes into his body. Raw diets are made up of unprocessed meat, organs, bones, and other parts of animals.
There are many advantages to feeding your dog a raw diet. These include:
- A healthier gut: The digestive system of dogs evolved from carnivorous ancestors, so their digestive tracts are designed to process meat. Vegetables and grains don't digest as easily, which can lead to problems like allergies and diarrhea.
- Better skin and coat: Dogs who eat a raw diet have shiny coats and soft skin because their bodies produce less natural oils than those that eat commercial diets full of carbohydrates. A healthy coat shows that the dog is getting enough moisture from his food, or from drinking water, so a dry coat on a dog who's eating kibble could mean he's dehydrated (or sick).
- Improved energy levels: Dogs who eat high-quality protein sources such as chicken, beef and fish tend to have more energy than those who eat mostly carbohydrates like wheat or corn (which are found in most commercial foods).
Feed Digestive Enzymes
Yeast cells have a protective shell that shields them from invaders. The tough outer shell is known as a biofilm, and it's the reason yeast is so difficult to get rid of. However, if this biofilm is broken, the yeast cells no longer have protection, and the body's natural killer cells can get to work.
Digestive enzymes have the ability to destroy the biofilm. Some yeast types can build a resistance to medication, but they don't build resistance to digestive enzymes, making these compounds even more beneficial.
Feed your dog digestive enzymes in between meals so the enzymes digest the cell walls of the yeast rather than your dog's food. The digestive enzymes also aid in making a less hospitable environment for yeast and harmful bacteria to grow by lowering the pH (raw food also creates a more acidic environment) of the digestive tract.
Probiotics for Yeast Infections
Probiotics are live organisms that can be taken as a supplement or applied topically. They help restore the balance of microorganisms in the body and prevent or manage infections.
The most common types of probiotics include bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, but yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii can also be beneficial.
It is important to note that S. boulardii is a beneficial type of yeast, much different from the type of yeast that causes infection.
Probiotics are thought to work by competing with other microbes for nutrients and space in the gut, which prevents them from taking over and causing an infection. They also produce antimicrobial compounds that kill harmful bacteria or fungi and enhance immune function so the body can better fight infections on its own.
Saccharomyces boulardii, the yeast-based strain found in Daily Dog, has also been shown to help treat chronic diarrhea caused by antibiotics, which can kill normal, beneficial bacteria in the intestines and allow Candida albicans to grow out of control.
Make a Plan
To prevent yeast infections in your dog, there are multiple steps you can take. Once your dog is diagnosed, follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding how to get rid of the current infection. To prevent recurring infections, change your dog’s diet to reduce carbohydrates, feed digestive enzymes, and add probiotics to your dog’s daily regimen. These small steps can make a huge difference resulting in a happier, healthier dog.