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Yeast Infections in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatments

Dog scratching back on ground

Is your dog suddenly scratching and biting desperately at their skin? If your pup’s skin is itchy, and you notice flaking or redness, your dog could have a yeast infection. But what exactly is a yeast infection, what causes it, and how do you know if your dog has one?

What is a Yeast Infection?

The first thing you need to know is it’s natural for dogs to have small amounts of yeast on their bodies. Yeast is a living, single-celled fungus that dogs (and humans) always have on their skin. It’s when your dog has too much yeast that it leads to problems like Malassezia Dermatitis, or more commonly, a yeast infection.

The most common spots for a yeast infection are between paw pads, inside ears, or between skin folds. However, it’s possible for issues to pop up anywhere on your dog’s skin, wherever there’s an excessive amount of yeast.

What Causes a Yeast Infection?

The simple cause of a yeast infection is excessive yeast in a particular area. But what causes the overproduction of yeast in the first place?

Several things can lead to a yeast infection, including underlying medical problems, allergies, food sensitivities, and parasites. Seborrhea is another potential cause, as are hormonal imbalances, various skin infections, or excess moisture. 

Excess moisture tends to be a leading cause of yeast infections in areas like skin folds or between paw pads. These areas tend to trap moisture, making them a prime spot for yeast to grow and thrive. Extra moisture can also lead to yeast infections in your dog’s ear, as can a polyp, tumor, ear wax buildup, or a damaged eardrum.

Environmental factors including heat, humidity, and various allergens like smoke, mold, dander, and dust are other potential causes of yeast dermatitis. Your dog’s diet (primarily, eating foods high in carbohydrates and sugar) and grooming habits, including too much bathing, can play a part in the overproduction of yeast.

Does My Dog Have a Yeast Infection?

The only way to know for certain if your dog has a yeast infection is to bring them to the vet for an exam and proper testing. Several things can mimic a yeast infection, including other skin infections or ear mites.

Your veterinarian can pinpoint the cause of the infection to determine the proper treatment. You’ll likely notice several symptoms that will make you suspect your dog has Yeast Dermatitis.

If your dog has a yeast infection in their ear, you may notice the following signs:

  • Scratching their ear
  • Shaking their head frequently
  • Crusty ear flap
  • Swelling or redness in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear
  • A musty odor
  • Rubbing their head against things
  • Missing hair around the ear’s base

Signs of a yeast infection on your dog’s paws or skin include:

  • Intense scratching, licking or biting of the infected area
  • Red, irritated skin
  • A brownish discharge around their nails
  • Hair loss
  • Crusty patches on the skin
  • Flaking skin, or you may notice dandruff
  • Infected skin areas appear thicker or darker
  • A musty smell

No matter where a yeast infection starts, it can spread if left untreated. Untreated infections in the ear can end up causing significant problems, including hearing loss.

A dog at the vet

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog’s Yeast Infection?

Once your vet diagnoses your dog’s yeast infection, the treatment depends on the severity and location of the infection. If it’s inside the ear, your vet will likely prescribe antifungal drops, or you’ll need to give your dog medication orally. 

For infections on the outer ear, you may need to apply an antifungal cream. Ongoing treatment may or may not be necessary depending on the extent of the infection. A thorough cleaning is also wise.

Skin or paw infections also require a disinfectant and antifungal cream or spray. Medicated shampoos to help clean the skin are another option. Typically, you bathe your pup with the shampoo and leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing. 

Your vet will tell you how often you should bathe your pup and for how long. Your vet will also prescribe an oral antifungal and possibly an antibiotic in case of any secondary bacterial infections.

How Can I Prevent Yeast Infections in My Dog?

You might not be able to prevent your dog from getting a yeast infection 100% of the time. However, several habits can greatly reduce your dog’s odds of getting one. Primarily, the best thing you can do is to take care of your dog’s skin, and keep it dry and clean.

  • Whenever your dog gets wet, whether from a bath, swimming, or the rain, make sure to dry them completely. 
  • Regularly clean your dog’s ears.
  • Consider a raised feeder or one that tapers at the top if your dog has long ears to help keep them clean and dry.
  • Clean between your pup’s paw pads.
  • Feed your dog nutritious foods.
  • Brush your dog's hair regularly to keep their skin and coat free of dirt, dead skin, and other debris.
  • If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, bring your dog to the vet to get a thorough exam and diagnosis.

Bringing your dog to the vet as soon as you suspect a yeast infection is vital. If addressed quickly, it’s relatively a cut-and-dry treatment and a positive prognosis. 

However, left untreated, a yeast infection can lead to much more serious conditions, and it’s also likely to reoccur. Also, if a yeast infection is a sign of underlying issues, including hyperthyroidism and allergies, you want a vet to pinpoint them as soon as possible.

Can My Dog Get a Yeast Infection from Another Dog?

Luckily, a yeast infection is not contagious. Therefore, your dog can’t get one from contact with another dog. Yeast infections also can’t be passed between dogs and humans.

Dog Breeds Susceptible to Yeast Infections

Although any dog could end up with a yeast infection, some breeds are more susceptible to them.  A few examples are West Highland White Terriers (Westies), Maltese, Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels, English Setters, Boxers, and Basset Hounds. These breeds appear to be genetically prone to developing yeast infections. 

Other dog breeds that seem more susceptible to yeast dermatitis are Australian Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas. Dogs with floppy ears are other likely suspects, especially if they love to swim, like Labs and Golden Retrievers

Breeds that tend to get thick hair in their ears also are at higher risk of yeast infections since the hair makes it difficult to keep the ears dry. Examples of these breeds are Shih Tzu and Bichon Frise.

Don’t Ignore Your Dog’s Possible Yeast Infection

If your dog has red, irritated, flaking, or swollen skin or scratches at spots excessively, they could have a yeast infection. You may also notice a musty odor or hair loss near the suspicious area. If the infection is in the ears, your pup might shake their head frequently or rub it against the floor, wall, or other items.

When you spot any of these signs, take your dog to the vet. If it is a yeast infection, your vet will provide you with the proper treatment. To prevent future infections, keep your dog’s skin clean and dry, brush them regularly, and make sure they eat a healthy diet.

For more tips on how to spot potential problems and take care of your pup, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. You’ll find plenty of helpful resources and information regarding keeping your dog happy, healthy, safe, and loving life.


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