Not many people know that dogs can get yeast infections – unless they have a dog that comes down with one. This was the case for me, an avid dog lover, who rescued a senior dog from a shelter’s euthanasia list. She was on this list at a high-kill shelter because of her skin condition, but I knew that I would be able to help resolve it once I got her out of the shelter. Well, I was right, and it didn’t take long for me to find out that she had yeasty skin; something I had never heard about or experienced before! So, if your lovely fur child has a skin issue that you are not quite sure about, it could be a yeast infection. The number one indicator of a dog having a yeasty skin infection is the smell, which can range from “kinda funky” to “absolutely horrid”, depending on the severity of the infection and how long it has been brewing. It is a similar smell to smelly feet, or something that has moldy or mildew – because the yeast being produced is in fact part of the fungus family. Before you get too grossed out, humans, dogs, (and other animals) have healthy levels of yeast in their body at all times. In fact, it helps balance your immune system and aids in fighting bacteria and infection. So if it helps fight infection, then how does a yeast infection happen?
An overabundance of yeast is caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods that cannot be digested properly by the body. Just like any allergic reaction, the body reacts in order to cope with the offending substance. The balance of health yeast levels is thrown off kilter, and yeast spores bud all over the skin in an effort to release the allergen. In addition to a very strange and musty smell, the skin will also be extremely oily and greasy to the touch, as well as the surrounding fur/hair. When my dog’s skin was at her yeastiest, she left a very pungent scent wherever she laid; and you could easily smell her approaching as well. Petting her had to be followedby a hand-washing due to the odor and greasiness left on my hands afterward.
Another reason why your dog may have a yeast infection is due to poor immune system function, which can result in an overgrowth of yeast. Since the dog’s immune system is not regulating itself well, the balance of healthy yeast can be thrown off and produce way too much of it as a result. Even if your dog doesn’t smell bad or feel greasy yet, constant scratching and irritated red skin is usually an early sign of a yeast infection. At first, if they are scratching a lot and you don’t see any visible signs of irritation, you will probably just shrug it off and give them a bath. But when the scratching continues, becoming more frequent – and is then combined with an awful smell and oily skin – you most likely have a yeast infection on your hands (literally).
You can try to figure out the reason why your dog is producing too much yeast, by first deconstructing their daily diet. Usually anything that has sugar is fueling the yeast outbreak, but not necessarily causing it. In my dog’s case, her yeasty skin cleared up very quickly after I was advised to cut all types of wheat from her diet. Wheat is a carbohydrate, which the body processes as sugar, so the yeast’s food source and power supply was basically cut off. However, after cutting out chicken and turkey, her skin cleared up even more! You may have to do some experimenting with taking things out of your dog’s diet, but at the very least cut out all types of sugar, such as rice, corn, honey, wheat, potatoes, and even vegetables and fruits that have high sugar content.
While many yeast infections are seasonal and caused by allergens or moisture in the air, persisting symptoms can be a sign of weak immune system (as mentioned), or that your dog is still eating something that is causing an allergic reaction. You could also not have done a thorough enough job cleaning them, perhaps missing yeast that is hiding in their ears or paws. To disinfect ears, you can use a store-bought ear cleaning solution, or some cotton balls drenched in witch hazel. A solution of water, hydrogen peroxide, and white vinegar makes a great dip to put your dog into in order to properly scrub their paws, nails, and other areas that hold moisture. You can also choose from a variety of different dips and rinses already made for this purpose. As for their whole body, any anti-fungal shampoo that contains tea tree oil and/or other herbal oils such as peppermint oil is great. You can even drop these essential oils into water and make a solution of it that you use as often as you’d like. Stay away from anything containing oatmeal, because it will just fuel the yeast!
This is a pretty good introduction to dealing with a pesky yeast infection, but you should really consult your vet at some point to address a possible larger issue that may be at fault for this skin reaction. There is plenty of helpful information (many of which has been included in this post) on Dr. Karen Becker’s article on Mercola.com! Hopefully you can clear up the yeast and get to the bottom of the issue, so everyone involved can be free of this extremely smelly problem. If you have any of your own tips, product success stories, or experiences, please share!