Treat Your Dog's Yeast Infection at Home Without Going to the Vet
Is Your Dog Emitting an Unpleasant Odor?
If your dog is licking his paws, scratching his ears, and smells like a bag of corn chips, a loaf of old sourdough bread from San Francisco, a musty, old attic, or something you recognize as budding yeast, he needs your help. Those smells are caused by a type of yeast on your dog's skin called Malassezia pachydermatis. When your dog has a mild case of yeast overgrowth, he will just scratch his ears, smell his feet, and then go back to his nap.
Once a mild infection starts, the yeast release proteases (enzymes that break down protein) and damage the skin so that even more yeast can thrive. Your dog will be miserable, and he will start chewing on his feet, rubbing on the carpet, and scratching until he is raw and his skin is bleeding.
Dogs that have allergies and have been put on antibiotics and immunosuppressants (steroids, cyclosporine, and apoquel) are common victims of yeast infections. Yeast are normal organisms that live on the skin and can overproliferate if conditions allow, especially in those moist areas like the underarms, between the toes, and in the ear canals of the floppy-eared breeds.
Here is the best thing you can do to get them back under control while your dog is still at home:
Best At-Home Yeast Infection Treatments for Dogs
- Give your dog a good bath. Do not pay attention to those instructions about removing the shampoo quickly so that the healthy oils are not stripped from your dog's skin. You need to remove the waxy buildup and the thick crust of yeast that are bothering your dog. After wetting your dog down, put a good quantity of shampoo on him, massage it in, and then leave it for about 10 minutes. This is a long time, so you really need to check your clock to make sure it is on there long enough. Benzoyl peroxide shampoo is the best choice to remove all of the waxy material built up on the skin and deep down into the pores. Since some people get rashes and itchy skin from bathing dogs with this problem I think it is important that you use rubber gloves.
- Apply apple cider vinegar to his skin. After removing most of the wax and yeast with the benzoyl peroxide shampoo, use vinegar to kill most of what is left. White vinegar will work okay, but I use apple cider vinegar since it is acidic and also has some healing properties not found in regular vinegar. Mix it with an equal amount of water, spray it on to his whole body, and then just let it dry without rinsing it off. (If your dog already has scratches on his body you will have to avoid those areas since this does sting, even diluted.)
Treat all affected areas with coconut oil. At this point, roll your dog over and apply coconut oil to all of the areas that have been affected by the yeast. Use enough of it to rub between the toes, in the underarms, and even on the inside of the ear flaps.
This is the shampoo I use when treating yeast infections on the skin of dogs. It will remove the waxy buildup on the skin and allow your natural therapy (vinegar and coconut oil) to destroy the yeast.
Do I Have to Treat the Whole Body?
Some dogs will start out with a mild yeast infection on their feet. The dog may be allergic, lick between his toes, and in the moist environment, the yeast proliferate. Many holistic vets will recommend a foot bath to treat this problem. I do not. Bathe your dog's whole body in the shampoo and use the vinegar and coconut oil as described. You cannot just worry about one part of his body since the yeast infection may have already spread.
Vinegar and Yeast
Since all vinegar is acidic and will kill yeast, you can treat your dog's yeast infection with regular white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (ACV). I have used both, but as a control method, I think that the ACV is the best.
- Both ACV and white vinegar are acidic and kill yeast.
- Yeast infections are a sign of an immune problem and ACV may help make the immune system stronger.
- Organic ACV contains the “mother," which is a type of probiotic containing lactobacillus and other bacteria that might return the skin's normal flora after a yeast infection.
Coconut Oil and Yeast
Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides and several antioxidants.
- Antioxidants like vitamin E, K, and the fatty acids myristic and caproic acid are present in high levels in coconut oil.
- Antioxidants protect the skin from damage by free radicals.
- Free radicals cause wrinkling and other aging effects similar to that seen with damage from Malassezia infections.
- The fatty acids present in coconut oil also help the skin heal from scratches secondary to the yeast infection.
When you apply coconut oil between your dog's toes or under his arms, he might lick some of it off. Do not worry about it. Coconut oil is great for his skin, and he will look better even sooner.
Other Natural Cures for a Yeast Infection
Do you know why there are so many treatments for yeast infections? None of them work all of the time. If your dog has a yeast infection on his paws, especially if he is already limping, you might need to try several things until you find something that works.
Some holistic practicioners will recommend an immunostimulant. We have several good products here in South America. One of them, pau dárco, is great but the herb available in some pharmacies may not be pure. The same problem exists with a lot of supplies of Cats Claw, another herb from Peru.
Other veterinarians recommend yogurt, kefir, tea tree oil, colloidal silver, and oregano oil. Many of these treatments will work the first time. It comes back pretty often.
Preventing the Yeast From Coming Back
Some conventional vets will tell you that a yeast infection is a lifelong problem and will require medicated baths and other treatment for the rest of the dog's life. That is correct if the affected areas are not taken care of properly and the dog continues to receive the same food and medical care that led to the Malassezia flare up.
To prevent this problem from coming back as soon as it is cleared up, you need to change your dog's diet so that he no longer is eating foods that make yeast proliferate. Any dog food with grains, a carbohydrate filler, or high fructose corn syrup should be avoided.
Your dog will not need medicated baths once his infection is eliminated but you can use coconut oil from time to time to control the yeast. If your dog has inhalant allergies and this problem only shows up in the summer, apply coconut oil between the toes and on the inner ear flaps twice a week.
The Best Food for a Dog With Yeast Overgrowth
In order to keep your dogs yeast infection from coming back you need to switch from a commercial diet that has grains, sugars, cheap fillers, and ”moist and meaty” products with high fructose corn syrup. I recommend a paleo-type natural raw diet based on whatever natural meat sources you can obtain in your area.
- Most of your dogs diet should be meat and bones. You can give him chicken necks and feet, chicken wings, ox tails, trachea and lungs from cows, raw tripe, whole rabbits or Egyptian quail, and if you live in a rural area you can buy old laying hens for just a few dollars each. If you live in the city you can usually buy large bags of chicken wings for a low price.
- Meat from organs (liver and kidneys) should be given occasionally. If you do buy whole chickens or feed rabbits, your dog will consume enough organ meat without buying extra organ meat from the butcher.
- Vegetables mixed in with his diet will provide all of the fiber that your dog needs. Add a tablespoon of fresh yogurt every time you serve him a plate of veggies.
- Your dog will get a little coconut oil from licking his skin but fish oil is also a great source of fatty acids.
Feeding raw does not need to be expensive! It is easier to put down a bowl of processed dog food but it is not much harder to feed your dog correctly. I have talked to several people that are unwilling to feed their dog a healthy raw diet. They are usually unwilling to change because of the lecture they received from a previous vet.
If you still want to feed your dog a diet to control his yeast but must cook your dogs diet, you can use most of the same ingredients but will have to add another calcium source since you cannot add cooked bones. When bones are cooked they will become brittle and may hurt your dog when swallowed.
What Kind of Treatment Will My Dog Get at the Vet?
If you do take your dog to the vet for treatment, he is probably going to recognize the Malassezia infestation right away because of the smell. If the vet tells you he should swab the skin you need to decline. Why? Yeast are a normal part of the skin and a test might show how many of the Malasezzia bodies are on the slide but it will always come up positive.
If the vet thinks that the skin also looks like a mange infection, he may recommend that he scrape the skin in several spots and examine it under a microscope. He may also notice that your dog has a secondary staph infection of the skin and may put him on more antibiotics.
This disease is usually diagnosed based on response to therapy. Your vet will probably start out with the same shampoo mentioned above. If the yeast do not respond to shampoo therapy, he may then prescribe an antifungal drug that is meant to kill all of the yeast of the skin. Some of the commonly prescribed drugs are ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole; they are given a few weeks after the dog is no longer showing any symptoms. Dogs usually have to take the medication at least a month.
All drugs have side effects and these antifungal drugs might clear up the yeast, but they can cause a lot more problems too. They might cause vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, and even skin problems. Isn't that what you are trying to get rid of?
Are Some Breeds More Likely to Develop Yeast Infections?
If your dog has a lot of folds in his skin and also has allergies, he is a prime candidate for a yeast infection. This is why the Shar-Pei has yeast infections so often. French Bulldogs have a lot of folds and are also subject to problems so those areas prone to yeast need to be kept clean.
Yeast is also seen often in German Shepherd Dogs, Shih Tzus, Dachshunds, and some terriers. I have seen many cases in West Highland White Terriers, especially dogs suffering from allergies and chronic ear infections.
Symptoms That Indicate a Yeast Overgrowth
- Stinky skin
- Itching and scratching. This is mild at first, and as the infection gets worse so does the scratching.
- A brown discoloration around the base of the toenails
- Hair loss and thick, darkened skin in the underarms, around his back legs, and anywhere else the skin meets in a fold.
- Scaly dandruff
- Oily skin
A dog’s behavior may change with the onset of chronic health issues because they feel so lousy.
Will I Get Yeast From My Dog?
You are not going to catch a yeast infection from your dog. There has been a reported case of a person working in a nursery and carrying the yeast from her sick dog to the newborns in intensive care. If you have any health problems (AIDs or a disease that has left you immunocompromised), or you are on any medications that have damaged your immune system, you need to consider safety precautions.
Can I Really Treat This at Home?
At times, like when your dog is vomiting blood, has a bad cut, or needs to be spayed, it is a great thing to have a vet that can help. When your dog has a yeast infection, however, it is not an emergency and can be treated at home without going to the vet.
Why did your dog develop a yeast infection?
Conventional treatment: Etienne Côté DVM, Clinical Veterinary Advisor, Dogs and Cats, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, 2011
Toxicity of fungal medications: Stephen Ettinger DVM, Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 6th Edition, Saunders, 2005
Allergies: Chiari Noli DVM, Veterinary Allergy, Wiley Blackwell, 2014
Secondary Infections: Stephen Barr DVM, Clinical Companion Canine and Feline Infectious Diseases, Blackwell, 2006
Holistic Therapies: Richard Pitcairn DVM, Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, 3rd Edition, Rodale, 2005