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Does my dog have a yeast infection?

Written by FOTP Team


scratching dog

Is your dog shaking its head or scratching its ears?  Yeast infections can occur all over the skin, but inside the ears can become painful.  If your dog has a yeast infection, it’s vital to get it checked out by a vet because it can indicate something more serious.  But in many cases, it can be caught early and managed with care.  How do you know if your dog has a yeast infection, and how to treat them?  We’ve answered all your yeasty questions below!

Does your dog have an ear yeast infection?

Yeast infections in dogs are very common.  Affecting their skin, a yeast infection causes dryness and itching – although you might notice the smell first.  

Signs that your dog has a yeast infection include:

  • Itchy skin, especially beneath their ears
  • A yeasty smell
  • Flaky skin which sometimes becomes thicker
  • Blotchy skin (hyper-pigmentation)
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Brown discharge inside the ear
  • Loss of balance (this can indicate a middle ear infection – go straight to the vet).

But don’t rely on self-diagnosis.  It’s important to take your dog to the vet.  Similar symptoms can also be caused by genetic conditions such as seborrhoea, parasitic mites or lice, and autoimmune disease.  Some can be serious.  There may be an underlying condition that will have to be treated by the vet.  

What causes dog ear yeast infection?

In dogs, ear yeast infections – or yeast dermatitis – can be recurrent and uncomfortable.  

A yeast infection can be caused by a number of reasons.  The biological balance on your dog’s skin can be disturbed by factors including allergies, swimming, humidity, and immunodeficiency.  For this reason, it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis.  Your vet will carry out checks, such as a skin scrape, swab or biopsy, to determine whether there is an underlying condition.   (Don’t try looking inside your dog’s ears with a cotton swab: your vet has an otoscope for these examinations.)

Did your dog catch a yeast infection from another dog? 

No.  Yeast infections can’t be passed from one dog to another. So there’s no need to quarantine your dog, or stop him from seeing his favorite canine buddies!

Did your dog get a yeast infection because of external yeast? 

Don’t worry – there’s no need to stop baking.  Like humans, dogs have loads of bacteria and fungi living on their skin.  The levels are normally kept in check, but sometimes it’s hot, or new bacteria are introduced – and imbalance happens. 

Is your dog’s yeast infection caused by an allergy? 

It can be.  If your dog has experienced an allergic reaction which increased the amount of oil produced by their skin, then a yeast infection can develop as a result.   Allergy tests can help your vet to see if this was the cause.  Dogs can be allergic to pollen and mold, just like people.  

Is your dog’s ear yeast infection caused by humidity? 

Hot, humid conditions help yeast to thrive.  Some dogs will get an ear yeast infection in the summer, especially if their long ears prevent air circulation.   Dogs with hair growing in the ear canal can get moisture trapped there, which results in overgrowth of yeast.

Has your dog developed a yeast infection because of prescribed drugs? 

Some immunosuppressant drugs can indirectly cause yeast infection in dogs.  That’s because they become less able to fight the infection.   If your dog has immunodeficiency (a condition which impairs their immunity), that could cause yeast infections too.  

Is your dog likely to suffer from an ear yeast infection? 

Some breeds are more susceptible to these infections.  Those big, flappy ears are totally irresistible – to us and to the yeast organisms which multiply underneath!  Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Springer Spaniels, Poodles, Labradors and Dachshunds are more likely to suffer from ear yeast infections.  Those with ear hair are also at increased risk – but you can help them by cleaning their ears and trimming ear hair.   

Will your dog’s ear yeast infection get better without intervention? 

No, it won’t.  It’s really super important to go to the vet, even if your dog doesn’t appear to be in a lot of pain.   As you’ve read, yeast infections can be a sign of something more sinister which should be addressed – and even if they’re just skin infections, if not treated, they can lead to deafness in dogs.  

How to treat yeast infection in your dog

This has all been a bit doom-and-gloom... but don’t panic!  Your dog doesn’t have to suffer.  Yeast infections are totally treatable – and manageable, in the long term.

First, your vet will recommend medicine to treat the fungus causing a yeast infection.  You can use oral or topical treatments to clear up the infection.  Secondly, if it’s suspected to be a recurrent problem for your dog, you can take preventative action to keep your dog itch-free.

Cleaning your dog’s ears

For those with long, flappy ears who are prone to ear yeast infections, regular cleaning can help.  You can buy everyday ear-cleansers which are medicated or naturally-derived.  

Your dog may be resistant to having his ears cleaned.  So start by stroking and massaging his ears.  He will become used to your attention and, eventually, won’t mind when you lift the ears to have a look inside.  Progress to gentle smoothing beneath the ears, and your dog will soon allow you to examine his ears on a regular basis.

Wondering how to clean your dog’s ears?  Use a gentle veterinary cleanser, squeezing a little into the ear canal and massaging the skin around the ear to help disperse the cleanser.  Then wipe the opening of the ear canal with cotton wool to clear up ear wax.   If you do it very gently, your dog will permit you to do this frequently, which can be a big help when it comes to ear infections. Never push anything into the ear canal – if you think there’s something stuck, go straight to the vet.  

If your dog loves a swim, it’s a really good idea to gently dry inside their ears afterwards.  

Cleaning your dog’s skin to soothe or prevent a yeast infection

Some dogs overproduce the oils which make their coats glossy, and this can cause recurrent yeast infections.  If your dog’s skin is itchy and greasy, they could benefit from using a shampoo designed to combat oil (which might be labelled as a de-greaser).  You can use this whenever you bathe your dog, and you might want to try an oil-free conditioner too. 

To treat a yeast infection, you can get medicated anti-fungal shampoo, which usually needs to be left on your dog’s coat for a few minutes before being rinsed off.  Some people use diluted vinegar for rinsing, as the acids will kill yeast organisms.

Keen to find a natural and everyday product?  There are herbal options available.  Look for rosemary oil – an antibacterial ingredient – to help you keep your dog’s skin comfortable.  Ingredients like shea butter, oatmeal, and aloe can help too.   Like eczema in humans, skin infections can be avoided if you keep the skin dry and healthy.  

Antifungal ear drops for dogs

Treating a yeast infection in your dog is nothing to be worried about.  Depending on the severity, treatment might include topical medications such as antifungal ear drops for dogs – which kill yeast to restore balance to itchy skin.  Antifungal cream for dogs’ ears will have an active ingredient such as Miconazole or ketoconazole.  (If you’ve had athlete’s foot, you might have used these medications too!)

Antibiotics for dogs’ yeast infections

If your dog has a bacterial skin infection then your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, and these usually have good results.  It’s not an ideal solution for long-term so if using this, ask your vet what preventative measures you can try afterwards.    

The right diet for dogs with yeast infections

Some claim that diet can affect the balance of yeast organisms on your dog’s skin, promoting leafy greens and probiotic yoghurt.  It’s true that yeast thrives on sugar, which is found in carbohydrates (and they’re generally poor for dog nutrition anyway).  It’s also true that your dog’s immune system is the first line of defence against skin imbalances.  A thoughtful diet can undoubtedly help dogs to maintain healthy balance, which will help them to have healthy skin.  But it won’t resolve skin problems overnight.  At present, bathing and medication are considered to be more successful at treating yeast infection.  

Can yeast infection in your dog’s ears cause deafness?

On its own, a yeast infection typically affects the skin.  It’s an external condition and can be treated, as we’ve discussed.  

If left untreated, an outer ear yeast infection can cause a middle or inner ear infection.  

You’ll know if your dog has an inner ear infection because their balance will be unsteady and their hearing might not be accurate.  This type of infection needs diagnosis by a vet.  They can treat it using antibiotics, which can take around 6 weeks to stop infection.  In some cases, surgery may be required. 

If it’s not treated, an inner ear infection can cause deafness in dogs.