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Yeast Infections in Dogs

How to Help Yeast Imbalance

Compulsive licking, scratching, or chewing may be a sign of yeast infection in dogs. 



How to Help Yeast Imbalance

If your dog is itchy, hot and bothered, and you can’t figure out why, it may be due to  yeast dermatitis. Yeast infections in dogs are actually quite common, and can be caused by a number of seemingly insignificant factors. The overgrowth of yeast is a very uncomfortable condition, however, and can lead to further complications down the road if not treated.

Thankfully, there are several ways to identify yeast infections in dogs, as well as helpful ways to treat it. This article explains what yeast imbalances look like, how they might be caused, and how you can help your dog heal naturally. 

What is yeast infection in dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs are a result of yeast overgrowth. This happens when the yeast that occurs naturally in your dog’s body multiplies and becomes imbalanced, causing an uncomfortable condition with various nasty symptoms.

Yeast infections in dogs can occur seasonally or year round, depending on the type of yeast that’s causing the imbalance and the dog’s individual immunity. The two main species of yeast that can be a problem, are malassezia and candida albicans.

Yeast is usually kept in check by the good bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract, but if he or she has too many bad bacteria or a sterile gut, yeast can grow out of control and irritate the lining of their gut.

Yeast also releases multiple toxins into the body, which makes it a formidable fungus that’s capable of encouraging secondary bacterial infections. It also ensures its own survival by producing biofilm, or a protective coating that makes it more difficult to eliminate.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to aid your dog in returning to their balanced, itch-free selves, and eradicate the yeast overgrowth from their bodies.

What causes yeast infection in dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs have a number of causes, with one of the most influential being your dog’s diet. Yeast thrives on sugar, which can come from a variety of sources. Grains, starchy vegetables, and high-glycemic fruits can overwhelm dogs’ digestion with sugars, creating the perfect environment for yeast to multiply and thrive. This is why a species appropriate raw diet is beneficial for dogs battling with yeast. 

Frequent or long-term antibiotics also play a part in yeast imbalance [1], as they essentially wipe out all bacteria (including the beneficial strains) which leaves room for yeast to take over.

Certain fermented foods, though beneficial for gut health, can sometimes exacerbate yeast issues, due to histamine content and prebiotic fuel which feeds the yeast, as opposed to destroying it. Some examples of these are sauerkraut, kefir, apple cider vinegar, tripe, and probiotic yoghurts. They’re best given with caution if yeast imbalance is suspected, and potentially avoided altogether until balance is restored.  

Other causes of yeast overgrowth include hot and humid environments, infrequent bathing, environmental allergens such as dust, pollen, etc., and compromised immune systems [2].

Dogs with natural skin folds, such as Shar Peis and British Bulldogs, are also at risk for frequent yeast infections, due to the moisture that becomes trapped within their wrinkles.

Breeds with natural skin folds can be more vulnerable to skin yeast infections.

Signs of yeast imbalance

It’s hard to ignore constant itching and symptoms of yeast infections in dogs; your dog will be undeniably uncomfortable, which you’ll likely notice quite quickly. Aside from the obvious itchiness and compulsive scratching that’s sure to occur, yeast infections in dogs can also cause the following:

  • Chewing/licking paws
  • Dark or rust-coloured fur between toes
  • Frequent ear infections or gunky,funky smelling ears 
  • Persistent or heavy tear stains
  • Smelly or greasy coat 
  • Blackened elephant type skin 
  • Hair loss, especially on tail and upper back
  • Diarrhoea and other digestive issues
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Secondary bacterial infections

The symptoms of yeast infections in dogs can be similar to allergies, which means they are often misdiagnosed. It’s often not until the dog’s skin turns black, or the notorious yeasty smell develops, that yeast is diagnosed.

To ensure you are dealing with the right condition, we advise you ask your veterinarian to test for yeast, or you can test at home with one of these convenient kits.

Be mindful that allergies may be prevalent in tandem with yeast imbalance. To understand the many causes of excessive scratching in dogs, read our article why dogs itch.

Where to find signs of yeast imbalance in your dog

There are parts of your dog’s body that are the preferred hiding places for yeast. If you’re concerned about a yeast infection and would like to do your own investigating, the best places to look are those that are generally out of sight, warm, and dark; all of which allow for the presence of moisture, which yeast thrives in. These places include:

  • Between toes
  • Under arms/legs
  • In the ears
  • Between skin folds
  • Around the genitals

If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs around these areas of your dog’s body, it’s quite possible your dog has a yeast infection/imbalance.  



Best way to treat yeast infections in dogs

Yeast imbalance/infection isn’t something that goes away overnight, though with time and patience you can help your dog start feeling better. Here are the steps we recommend for relieving yeast infections in dogs:

Diet

As mentioned earlier, yeast thrives on sugar. Therefore, eliminating any foods that increase your dog’s sugar intake is a crucial first step. Grains, cereals, starchy vegetables, and fruits with high glycaemic indexes are the main culprits, as are highly processed foods that contain preservatives.

Transitioning your dog onto a raw, meat-based diet is the best way to ensure all their nutritional needs are met, and it also eliminates all the sugary, starchy foods that yeast loves. Easily digested raw meat proteins, high-quality fats, bone and offal are all key elements of a healthy diet for dogs. This both eliminates any foods that yeast thrives on and supports your dog’s immunity and overall health, allowing them to fight the yeast overgrowth from the inside.

We recommend our Novel Proteins and our 80:10:10 raw food ranges as a starting point when beginning the yeast imbalance protocol. These are our purest raw dog food ranges and will help to starve the yeast of the sugar it craves. If your dog feels hot, we suggest feeding duck or rabbit, as these are cooling proteins and will help to reduce the heat. 

Natural remedies

There are a few natural remedies which are effective in dealing with yeast infections in dogs: Caprylic acid and Pau d’ arco. According to holistic vet Dr. Julie Ann Lee (a yeast specialist), these can be given as follows:

Caprylic acid

This medium-chain fatty acid can be found in coconut oil and palm fruit oil, and is a powerful anti-fungal in the destruction of yeast [3]. 

Given once per day, dosage is by dogs’ size as follows:

Toy: 25mg

Small: 50mg

Medium: 100mg

Large: 150 mg 

Pau d’arco

This herb hails from South America and has been used for centuries to cure a host of ailments. The naturally occurring chemicals in Pau d’arco, called naphthoquinones, have been shown to be very effective at eliminating fungi, including yeast [4].

Given in dry herb form, dosage is 12 mg per pound of your dog’s body weight, three times daily. Give breaks if symptoms flare and allow the body to detox before resuming.

Dr. Julie Ann Lee also has her own gentle, effective product for resolving yeast imbalances called the Yeasty Beast Protocol, which contains staged natural remedies to be given to support the detox process. 

Detox

When yeast (candida) dies, it releases a high amount of toxins into the bloodstream, which invariably causes a temporary, uncomfortable, flare-up response. Concerned pet owners should prepare for this so as not to become reactive to temporary worsening of the issue. Often when this happens many dog owners, understandably, head to the vets thinking the condition is getting worse and make radical changes to the dog’s diet and supplement regime.  

Dogs will undoubtedly go through this detox as the yeast overgrowth subsides, which is why we recommend taking it slowly. This helps your canine friend to experience the potentially uncomfortable detox symptoms more gradually, and reduces the chances of everything flaring up at once. It’s important to know that this will likely happen at some point, and it doesn’t mean that your diet changes or natural remedies aren’t working; it just takes time.

Rushing to the vet for immuno-suppressive medications may unfortunately do more harm than good, as your dog’s immune system needs to be as strong as possible during their healing process. Also, these medications may act to further upset the delicate balance of your dog’s microbiome, leading to further inflammation, irritation, and slowed healing progress. 

If your dog experiences an intensening of symptoms, and you are giving yeast killing supplements, then hold off these for a few days. At this stage the best approach is to focus on supporting the liver by providing plenty of hydration and natural cleansing agents (as mentioned below in the supplement section) to help flush the toxins through the body. If your dog doesn’t like drinking water then bone broth is a tasty way to hydrate and support the detox process, particularly those infused with herbs to support the liver, such as ProDog’s Beef with Dandelion and Nettle Bone Broth.

A great idea during this time is to take photos periodically, to remind yourself how far along they’ve come. ProDog’s expert feeding advisors are here to help guide you through if you’re feeling stuck.

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Supplements

There are many supplements available to help with yeast issues, but always check with your veterinarian before starting any new herb or supplement.


Milk thistle, dandelion leaf, and nettle 

These natural cleansing agents help to detox the liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system, providing your dog with relief from their detox symptoms.

Chlorella

This nutrient sourced from plants can be bought as a supplement and is helpful in removing the heavy metals yeast loves to accumulate in their biofilms. Our Digest supplement includes Chlorella, and the master antioxidant, Astaxanthin along with other anti-inflammatory, gut-friendly, whole food ingredients.

Digestive enzymes 

Digestive enzymes will work to consume dead yeast cells, as well as helping to breakdown yeast biofilms and importantly help to minimise detox symptoms. These should be given between meals for best results, so mixed with a little water/ or goat’s milk.  

Colostrum

Once your dog is showing signs of improvement and is having fewer flare ups, we highly recommend supplementing their diet with ProDog’s Colostrum. The natural properties in colostrum are anti-fungal, immune-boosting, and work to restore the lining of the gut, which helps to limit toxins in the bloodstream. 

Probiotics

Adding probiotics is a crucial step for the recovery of your dog’s microbiome, though it must not be done too soon. This is because probiotics cause yeast cells to die rather quickly, which can cause extreme discomfort when your dog is in the early stages of their yeast protocol. 

Once they’re through the worst of it and have been tolerating colostrum for a few weeks, probiotics can then help to restore their beneficial gut bacteria. 

ProDog Protect

Once you’re seeing major improvement in your dog’s yeast imbalance, and you have stopped feeding antifungal herbs, we recommend adding our Protect supplement to their daily regimen. This will offer nutritional support in the form of pre and probiotics, antioxidants, and other helpful anti-inflammatory ingredients.  

Important to note:

If at any point your dog’s symptoms worsen significantly, or they experience a flare up such as hotspots or increased itching while taking supplements, STOP for a few days. Give them a break from their supplement regimen and commence with the detox remedies for liver/kidneys as mentioned earlier. You may also choose to help them find some relief through topical means also, during this time:

Topical relief

Colostrum paste

For extra relief on the outside, colostrum can also be mixed with filtered water to form a soothing paste for hot and/or irritated areas of the skin. Simply mix until thick enough to adhere to skin without dripping, and apply.

Apple cider vinegar rinse

Apple cider vinegar can help to provide relief to skin, but only if it has not cracked or broken. Raw apple cider vinegar containing the mother can be mixed with equal amounts of water to rinse irritated areas, or combined with witch hazel as a topical remedy.

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What not to do for yeast infections in dogs

As mentioned, it’s important not to treat a yeast imbalance/infection too aggressively, especially in the beginning. The reason for this being when yeast cells die off too quickly, they can cause extreme irritation and make things much worse for your dog. 

The best way to go about treating a yeast infection is gradually, step by step, as outlined in the section above. This will ensure your dog experiences less distress and discomfort as they heal.

Another important thing to consider is that flare-ups will happen during your dog’s recovery, especially if the yeast is well advanced.  You can minimise the frequency and severity of these by taking the gradual steps we recommend. 

Whilst it’s understandable that you’ll want to provide your dog with immediate relief, it’s not the best idea to have them put on medications that suppress their immune systems. Though these work to mask symptoms in the short term, the best way to approach a yeast infection is the gradual, natural way; through diet, natural remedies, and supplemental/topical support.

How to treat yeast infections in dogs' ears

Dogs’ ears are susceptible to yeast overgrowth due to them being warm, dark and moist; the very environment that yeast loves to hide in. However, yeast infections in dogs’ ears  can be eliminated in the same way as more widely-spread yeast imbalances, and may even resolve faster in some cases. 

At home ear remedies can be used to clean the ears and help to kill the yeast. 50-50 mix of water and raw apple cider vinegar on a cotton bud to remove the gunk and clean the ears can be effective. NB: do not pour down the ear canal.


The enzymatic products from Zymox (OTIC), can be especially helpful for yeast infections in dogs’ ears as the powerful enzymatic action of patented LP3 enzyme system naturally cleans and disinfects while destroying even the most resistant microbes. Safe for use on dogs of any age.

However, if your dog is struggling with ear infections, issues, please do consult your vet. 



Best food for dogs with yeast infections

The best way to feed a dog with a yeast infection/imbalance is to ensure their diet includes absolutely no sugar. Cereals, grains, starchy vegetables and high-sugar fruits should all be avoided, as well as some fermented foods (discussed earlier). 

A raw, meat-based diet with as few additional ingredients as possible will help to starve the yeast of the sugar they need to survive, whilst simultaneously helping to restore gut balance and boosting immunity. Our Novel Proteins and 80:10:10 raw food ranges are perfect examples of the diet that will help your dog the most as they heal from their yeast imbalance. 

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Dog yeast infection FAQs

What causes yeast infections in dogs?

Yeast infections in dogs can be caused by too much starch/sugar in the diet, compromised immune systems, and hot/humid environments. Poor hygiene, antibiotic treatments, natural skin folds, and allergies can contribute to yeast overgrowth as well.  

What are common places for dogs to get yeast infections?

The most common places for yeast infections on dogs are their armpits, between their toes, in their ears, and around their genitals; though yeast can hide out in their digestive system and other areas of the body, too. 

How to prevent yeast infections in dogs?

The best way to prevent yeast infections in dogs is by feeding them a raw, species-appropriate diet. This limits their exposure to sugary/starchy foods and creates an environment that is inhospitable to yeast. 

Also, proper hygiene measures, ensuring dogs don’t get too much exposure to heat/humidity, and resolving allergy issues through natural means such as diet and supplements are all helpful for preventing yeast imbalances. 

Which dogs are prone to yeast infections?

Dogs that have natural skin folds can be especially prone to yeast infections, as can those with compromised immune systems and allergies. However, the steps outlined above (diet, hygiene, supplements, etc.) can all help to prevent these from being as frequent, or at least less severe when they do occur.

What does a yeast infection look like in dogs?

The most noticeable sign will be itchiness and obsessive scratching, chewing, licking, and a cheerio corn chip smell, etc. A complete list of symptoms of yeast infections in dogs is listed in the “signs of yeast imbalance” section.

Helping your dog heal from yeast imbalance

It’s heartbreaking to see your beloved dog feel so uncomfortable, but knowing what ails them is an important first step in their recovery. Now that you know what to look for and how to help, your dog can start the journey to feeling like themselves again.

Diet, natural remedies, nutritional supplements, and topical relief combined are the most effective, natural way to treat yeast infections in dogs. Try to remember that this process takes time, and that your dog will start to feel better soon enough.

Also, documenting their progress is helpful for times of doubt. ProDog’s expert nutritional advisors are always here to help guide you through your dog’s recovery, so contact us anytime!

References

  1. Berlanda, M., Valente, C., Guglielmini, C., Danesi, P., Contiero, B., Poser, H. Nov 2022. Malassezia overgrowth in dogs in northern Italy: frequency, body distribution, clinical signs and effects of pharmacologic treatments. Veterinaria Italiana;, 58(1):103-109. Doi: 10.12834/VetIt.2124.12936.1
  2. Bajwa, J. Oct 2017. Canine Malassezia dermatitis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal;, 58(10):1119-1121. PMID: 28966366
  3. Bae, Y., Rhee, M. 2019. Short-Term Antifungal Treatment Caprylic Acid with Carvacrol or Thymol Induce Synergistic 6-Log Reduction of Pathogenic Candida albicans by Cell Membrane Disruption and Efflux Pump Inhibition. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry. Doi: 10.33594/000000139
  4. Julia Henriques, Dogs Naturally Magazine. 4 Healing Benefits of Pau D’arco For Dogs. Accessed June 2023. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/pau-d-arco-dogs/Image credit: F. Muhammad from PixabayImage credit: Rebecca Campbell from UnsplashImage credit: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

     



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