Malassezia in Cats

Malassezia can refer to both a type of yeast that naturally lives on your pet's skin and his body, as well as an infection due to an overgrowth of that yeast in certain situations. Malassezia is typically found on healthy cat's bodies throughout North America and other parts of the world as well. It tends to normally live in skin folds and warm, moist areas of your cat's body. In certain situations, this yeast may begin to spread and grow beyond a healthy point. In these situations, it causes a type of yeast infection that can be uncomfortable and painful for your pet and which requires treatment.

Malassezia Cat Symptoms

Malassezia typically strikes in your pet's ear canals, anal sacs, rectum or vagina. In any case, the infection will typically present some of the same symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with a Malassezia yeast infection include the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Flaky skin
  • Redness
  • Acne or small lesions

If you notice these or any other potentially suspicious symptoms that you think may be associated with a yeast infection, take your pet in to the vet for immediate treatment. The symptoms of a Malassezia infection are similar to many other infections that are caused by other types of yeast. In order to properly diagnose and treat the condition, your vet will need to run a series of exams and tests, and the symptoms that you provide to him will be helpful in determining how to go about making those tests and confirming the diagnosis.

Diagnosing a Malassezia Infection

Your vet will need to take a small swab or scraping in order to be able to diagnose the infection. When this is done, the lab technicians can analyze the yeast cells under a microscope to determine that the infection is caused by Malassezia. However, because this type of yeast is oftentimes present on the skin of a healthy cat and without the presence of an infection as well, it can be difficult to determine whether this type of yeast is the sole cause of the infection.

Treating a Malassezia Infection in Cats

There are two types of treatment for a Malassezia yeast infection. The first is a set of medicated shampoo treatments which are designed to remove the yeast and the food sources for the yeast from your pet's skin. These are typically based on chlorhexidine and are used for more mild cases.

If your pet's case is more severe, or if he does not respond well to a topical treatment, there are also a variety of antibiotics and other oral medicines that can be given. Because these medicines tend to have a longer list of potential side effects, they are usually reserved for cases that are more severe. They are also effective if your pet is suffering from an infection that has spread to multiple parts of his body.

For more information on treating your pet's Malassezia infection, consult with your vet.