Yeast infections and allergies in dogs

Last Updated 2 OCT 2019

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever BVSc.

There's nothing more frustrating for the concerned pet parent than seeing their beloved dog tearing themselves apart trying to scratch itchy skin or ears.

Yeast infections occur commonly alongside skin allergies in dogs and can sometimes be an overlooked source of itchiness, so how do you know if your pooch has a yeast infection and what can you do about it?

Is a yeast infection the same as a yeast allergy?

How to treat yeast infections in dogs

What should I feed my dog with a yeast infection or yeast allergy?

Further Reading

Symptoms of yeast infections in dogs:

  • Itchiness, frequent scratching or licking
  • Musty odour
  • Frequent rubbing, scratching or flapping of ears
  • Dark brown coloured discharge from ears
  • Reddish brown staining of affected areas
  • Inflamed, red, thickened skin

Is a yeast infection the same as a yeast allergy?

In dogs (and sometimes cats), the term 'yeast infection' is frequently used to describe the presence of excessive numbers of Malassezia pachydermatis, a normal inhabitant of canine skin which can overgrow in certain conditions. Malasezzia loves warm, moist, oily conditions so therefore it comes as no surprise that the inflammation caused by allergies creates a perfect environment for it to grow. While Malassezia yeast does not invade past the superficial layes of the skin, it does release enzymes which results in itchiness and some dogs (particularly those with atopic dermatitis) can develop a hypersenstitivity to the presence of Malassezia, or a 'yeast allergy'.

Understandably some pet owners may confuse the diagnosis of a Malassezia 'yeast infection' or 'yeast allergy' with an allergy to yeast in the diet. While yeast, such as brewer's yeast, a good soure of B vitamins, minerals and amino acids, is added to some pet foods, the 'yeast' species in brewer's yeast is a completely different species and an unlikely source of food allergies. Food allergies in dogs are usually allergies to proteins in the food that the dog has eaten for some time, for instance beef or chicken.

For more on food allergies, read Could Your Dog Have a Food Allergy?

How to treat yeast infections in dogs

First off, if you suspect your dog has a yeast infection, it's best to have a chat with your vet to confirm the diagnosis. Yeast infections are easily diagnosed by your vet in clinic using a swab from the ear or sticky tape impression of the skin, stained and viewed under the microscope.

Armed with a diagnosis, the first step to adressing a yeast infection of the skin in dogs is to use topical treatments including medicated shampoo like Malaseb. Be sure to follow your vet's directions with regards to how often to use the treatment, for instance Malaseb is usually used twice weekly, leaving the foam to stand for 10 minutes before rinsing away. In some cases your vet may also prescribe an oral anti fungal medication to try and get on top of the infection.

Top products for managing yeast infections in dogs

Epi Otic

Epi Otic removes debris, cerumen and pus from the ear canal and also has a drying agent to remove excess moisture. Regular use, especially after bathing and swimming can help reduce the risk of yeast infections recurring.

Malaseb Medicated Shampoo

Malaseb Shampoo contains Miconazole, an antifungal with potent activity against fungi and yeast, making it ideal for managing yeast infections in dogs and cats.

Otoflush

Formulated by a veterinary dermatologist, Otoflush helps to remove wax and exudate build up and improves the penetration and effectiveness of prescribed ear medication. It can also be used as a regular ear cleaner to help prevent yeast infections from recurring.

PAW Blackmores Mediderm Shampoo

PAW Mediderm Gentle Medicated Shampoo is a low irritant, antibacterial and antifungal treatment that effectivly treats and controls skin infections.

Yeast can cause ear infections, too

When it comes to yeast infections of the ear, your veterinarian will usually prescribe medicated drops to instill in the ear to help reduce inflammation and treat any yeast and bacteria that are present. Ear infections frequently become resistant to antibiotics if treatment is not pursued to completion, so it is important that your vet rechecks your dog's ears during and following the course of medication to ensure the infection is cleared up.

Investigate underlying allergies to prevent recurrence

Finally, it is crucial to remember that yeast infections of the skin and ear usually occur secondary to another predisposing cause, most commonly allergic skin disease such as atopic dermatitis, food allergy, flea allergy dermatitis or contact allergies. Once the yeast infection is cleared you will need to work with your vet to diagnose and treat the underlying cause otherwise it may return.

What to feed a dog with yeast infections or allergies

Ask your vet about specialised veterinary and prescription diet options

Even though it is unlikely that your dog is allergic to yeast in their food, there can still be some benefit to making a few changes to their diet. Increasing the amount of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in the diet can help to support the natural barrier function of the skin, reducing itching, flaking and dryness. Prescription veterinary diets such as Hill's Prescription Diet Derm Defense and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Skin Support contain high levels of anti inflammatory omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as well as other ingredients to support skin barrier function. As these are specialised therapeutic diets, it's important that you check with your vet prior to use to ensure that they are suitable in your dog's individual circumstances.

Top therapeutic vet diets for supporting skin health

Choose a skin care diet or omega fatty acid supplement

Apart from therapeutic diets, some other foods such as Hill's Science Diet Canine Adult Sensitive Skin and the Royal Canin Dermacomfort range are also designed to support skin health. Alternatively you can use supplements such as Virbac Megaderm or PAW Blackmores Fish Oil 500 Veterinary Strength. When choosing a food or supplement look for a marine source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (such as fish oil) wherever possible as they contain EPA and DHA, two omega fatty acids which appear to be more effective in cats and dogs than those from other sources such as flaxseed oil.

Top skin care diets and supplements

The takeaway message

While yeast infections are a common and important cause of itchy skin and ear infections, it's important to remember that more times than not there is an underlying cause which needs to be adressed in order to achieve long term control. If you suspect your dog has a yeast infection, work with your vet to first reach a diagnosis and then explore the potential underlying causes such as atopic dermatitis, flea allergies or food allergies. The internet is full of misinformation regarding skin disease in pets, particularly when it comes to food allergies and the role certain ingredients can play, so while research can only be a good thing it pays to be critical about what you read. If in doubt, always ask your veterinarian or a Pet Circle Vet for advice.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Stop the Scratching: Cures for Skin Allergies in Dogs

Which Flea or Worming Product Do I Need?

How To Get Rid of Fleas in Dogs

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Cats

Complete Guide to Cat Parasite Products in Australia