What are canine yeast infections?
Yeast infections occur due to an overgrowth on the candida (sugar digesting) bacteria, most commonly affecting the ears, but can also manifest on the skin, paws, mouth, nose and gastrointeninal and genital tracts.
The symptoms will depend on what kind of infection is taking place. In ear infections, a common symptom is constant shaking and scratching. A brown, sticky substance with a distinctive musty smell may also occur in the ear canal. Other symptoms include intense itchiness, skin irritation, and inflammation, especially around the ears, between the paw pads, and on the nasal folds, anal area, armpits, and neck. Some breeds are particularly predisposed to yeast infections including West Highland White Terriers, Poodles, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, and German Shepherds. If the Candida bacteria settles in the oral cavity, there will be an abnormal amount of drooling occur. Cystitis may occur if the infection has spread to the urinary bladder, and fever, skin irritation including the paws and open sores on the skin are also signs.
The exact causes are unknown and will depend on each individual although factors that suppress or imbalance the immune system are usually involved. Some factors that may contribute to yeast infections include allergies to fleas, contact allergies, food allergies, prolonged use of steroids or antibiotics, hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s Disease, cancer, chemotherapeutic drugs, and external skin parasites. Pets with excessive skin folds like pugs and bulldogs are also at increased risk. Dogs that have experience burn trauma, or dermatitis have an increased risk of developing the condition. Diseases like diabetes can also encourage the bacteria to grow, causing intentional yeast to materialise in the stomach.
The role of diet
There has been increasing evidence of food allergies causing yeast infections and other allergies which has seen a rise in organic, grain free food brands. Simple diet changes, such as switching to a raw diet or feeding a grain free dog food and grain free treats, will eliminate the cause of the infection and allow recovery to begin. Remaining on a grain based dog food or feeding grain based treats will allow bad yeast to continue to thrive and can hinder or halt recovery. Yeast thrives on carbohydrates and sugars so continuing to feed your dog grain based food will counteract all the hard work you are doing treating the problem, be it with medicated baths or medication. Dogs do not use carbohydrates for energy like we do, and instead rely on meat as their energy source.
In order to see results, you must be consistent with the carbohydrate/sugar free Removing carbohydrates and sugars from your dog’s diet will help to discourage new forming bacteria and weaken existing ones so they can be eradicated easier. Unfortunately, very few dog food brands meet these requirements, containing not only vast amount of carbohydrates and sugar but also meat dereretives and often, e numbers. Feeding your dog a homemade diet is the best way to know exactly what your feeding them and will give you peace of mind of knowing that your dog’s food meets human quality standards.
In addition to providing an anti-yeast diet as discussed above, the other thing you must do to help your dog overcome a yeast infection is to disinfect yeasty body parts.
Typically, a vet will prescribe an ointment, with instructions to keep applying it to the infected area. The problem with this approach is that as yeast dies off, it forms layer of dead yeast on top of layer of dead yeast. In order to eradicate the infection altogether the dead layers of yeast must be removed and the skin must be disinfected.
Whichever area of your dog’s body is yeasty; you will need to disinfect it regularly, depending on the extent of the issue. Some may rarely need cleaning, others may need daily attention. If you check your dog’s ears and they’re clean, dry and have no odor, you can skip a day of cleaning. Again, the amount of cleaning should correlate with the amount of debris built up in the ear. If you don’t clean out that debris, it won’t magically disappear on its own. It will grow from wax, to yeast, to a fulminating bacterial infection unless you deal with it.
Disinfecting your dog’s ears can be done with a vet recommended either a store solution or a more natural one, such as witch hazel. Use cotton pads to clean out the debris for as long as it takes to remove it all.