Skin Yeast Infections in Dogs

Skin yeast infection is one of the most common skin conditions in dogs. A skin yeast infection is caused by the yeast cells, which normally lives in the dog's ears, intestinal tract, rectum and vagina without causing any damage. A sudden change in the dog's skin, if it becomes oily or moist, a primary bacterial infection or an allergic reaction, will cause an overgrowth of yeast cells and cause skin yeast infection. This usually is accompanied by the weakening of the immune system.

Skin yeast infection is not contagious to other animals or to humans.

Certain breeds of dogs are more predisposed to skin yeast infections:

  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Maltese
  • Basset Hound
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Lhasa Apso

Symptoms of Skin Yeast Infections in Dogs

The symptoms of skin yeast infection will most often appear when the yeast cells are overgrown; watch out for:

  • Itchy skin, the dog seems to be having a rash
  • The dog is scratching, rubbing his muzzle or licking his feet constantly, depending on where the infection is localized
  • Because of the scratching, the skin becomes more and more irritated until it is crusty and grayish (hyperpigmentation)
  • Unpleasant, greasy smell of the skin
  • Parts of the body (muzzle, year, toes, anal area) or large surfaces of the  body can be affected
  • Hair loss

Diagnosis of Skin Yeast Infection in Dogs

The yeast cells are visible under the microscope and a skin scraping sample will be enough for a diagnosis. However, there are some cases when, in spite of the presence of yeast cells in excess, the test will not be conclusive.

Treatment of Skin Yeast Infection in Dogs

Depending on how much the infection has spread, there are different treatments for skin yeast infection in dogs:

  • Topical treatment is recommended for small affected areas; miconazole cream is prescribed.
  • Cleansing the area with acetic acid wipes is an alternative, although this will replace the smell of the infection with the smell of vinegar.
  • Other sprays or spot-on solutions are also available.
  • Shampoos will help degreasing the dog's skin. The shampoo should not be in contact with the skin for more than 15 minutes. Chorhexidine shampoo (1% or stronger), shampoos based on benzoyl peroxide or sulfur will remove the skin oils that the yeast needs to feed on.
  • Oral treatments are for more severe cases, when the infection is generalized; Ketoconazole is administered for 1 week before the results appear and needs to be continued up to 5 weeks for the treatment to be completely effective.
  • When the infection is more resistant, Itraconazole, a newer alternative, may help.

The drugs should only be given under veterinarian supervision.

Treating skin yeast infection in dogs may also mean treating the underlying cause (if there is one). The overgrowing of yeast cells results from a primary problem (allergy, bacterial infection). If this is not under control, the skin infection will be recurrent.