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Health & Wellness

How to tell if your dog has a yeast infection

Here are the differences between skin and ear yeast infections.

Yeast infections are common infections that affect dogs’ skin and ears, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. These infections happen because of an increased buildup of a bacteria called Malassezia, which usually lives in dogs’ skin. But, certain conditions, like humidity, skin trauma, wounds, immune system dysfunction, genetics or poor sebum quality (an oily, waxy substance produced by dogs’ glands), make the bacteria overgrow, which leads to yeast infections.

And while yeast infections in dogs aren’t contagious, they can have painful and uncomfortable symptoms for our pets. Here’s how to help your best friend feel better. 

Symptoms of yeast infections in dogs

Yeast infections can spread to any part of the skin, but they usually flare up around dogs' ear canals, mouths, armpits, anuses, vulvas, their nails or between their toes, Dr. McCullough says. The symptoms of yeast infections depend on their location.

If you think your pup has a yeast infection on their skin, you should watch out for moist, greasy or itchy skin that can lead to self-trauma in the form of scratches and hair loss. Chronic yeast infection may cause your pet to experience darkening and thickening skin. 

Symptoms of yeast infections in dogs’ ears are slightly different. Look for signs your dog’s ears are causing them pain, itchiness, dark brown discharge and a musty odor (they’re similar symptoms of ear mites in dogs). Your pup’s ear flaps could have crusts, ulcerations, redness or ear hematomas, too. 

If the yeast infection spreads to your dog’s inner or middle part of their ear, pay attention to symptoms of pain and neurological signs that something is off, like incoordination or abnormal eye movements, Dr. McCullough explains. Generally, a more aggressive treatment is necessary for these types of yeast infections and neurological symptoms may continue after therapy, she adds. 

“For middle-and-inner ear infections caused by yeast, imaging is often performed, such as skull X-rays, CT scans or MRIs,” Dr. McCullough shares. 

Reach out to your veterinarian as soon as you can if you think your pup has a yeast infection. Veterinarians often diagnose these infections through a physical examination of the skin or ear cytology. 

Are certain dog breeds more likely to get yeast infections?

Dogs with floppy ears and/or a higher amount of glands that produce ear wax, like Cocker or Springer Spaniels and Retrievers, are more likely to develop ear infections from yeast, Dr. McCullough says. 

Skin infections caused by yeast are more common in dogs with underlying conditions like allergies and hypothyroidism. Genetics can cause skin-related yeast infections, too — especially amongst basset hounds, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, dachshunds, Setters, poodles, Westies and German Shepherds.

RELATED: Did a skunk spray your dog? Here’s how to help them smell better

How to treat dogs’ yeast infections

An antifungal medication, like a topical treatment, is the most common vet-recommended solution for treating dogs’ yeast infections, Dr. McCullough says. However, veterinarians could prescribe oral medications to treat the yeast infection. 

“In some cases, medications to control pain and itch are also prescribed,” she adds. 

Dog yeast infection home remedy

Unfortunately, there aren't home remedies for treating yeast infections in dogs. But, there are some ways to make your pup feel comfortable while they recover, which usually takes 3 to 4 weeks for skin infections and 2 weeks for ear infections (or longer, depending on the severity of the condition).

“Pet parents should follow their veterinarian's instructions for home care, medication administration and recheck examinations,” Dr. McCullough recommends. “They should also closely monitor their pets for improvement.”

You can ask your veterinarian about ways to prevent yeast infections in dogs — they may suggest regularly cleaning your pup's ears with an approved cleaner.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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