Yeast Infection in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

There are many types of dermatological problems in the canine world. Yeast infection is one of the most obvious and requires immediate clinical management.
Yeast Infection in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Samuel Sanchez

Written and verified by the biologist Samuel Sanchez.

Last update: 18 November, 2023

The skin is one of the most important organs as far as protection is concerned. This tissue conglomerate defends against infection, but also maintains internal homeostasis and fluid exchange with the outside world. Unfortunately, there are some dermatological conditions that affect both dogs and humans. Yeast infections in dogs are one of them.

If your dog’s skin is reddened, crusty, and smells strange, you should take them to the vet as a matter of urgency. Here’s what a yeast infection in dogs is and how to get rid of it. Don’t miss it!

What’s a yeast infection in dogs?

A yeast infection in dogs is a type of dermatitis caused by the microorganism Malassezia pachydermatis. This is a zoophilic yeast, which means that it grows well on the surface of certain living things. It’s part of the epidermal microbiome of humans, cats, dogs, and other mammals, although it can act as an opportunistic pathogen under certain circumstances.

Malassezia pachydermatis is a pathogen of great importance in veterinary medicine. When the microorganism becomes pathogenic, it can cause conditions such as otitis externa and seborrhoeic dermatitis in dogs. A low pH has some bactericidal activity, but dogs have a higher skin pH than all domestic animal species, especially in these areas.

The chemical skin conditions of dogs make them particularly prone to yeast infections. In addition, they often occur simultaneously with atopy and other allergic processes of an epidermal nature.

This type of infection can also occur in humans, but it’s very rare. It’s estimated to be prevalent in 2% of dogs with dermatitis.

A dog scratching.

Causes of infection

As we’ve already said, yeast infection in dogs occurs when these microorganisms grow more than they should on the skin. They’re opportunistic and take advantage of a vulnerable situation to proliferate.

Under normal circumstances, fungi and bacteria on the surface of the skin aren’t a problem because the immune system keeps them in check. Unfortunately, changes in the skin, immunosuppression, the administration of certain medications and certain hereditary predisposing factors make this balance more prone to break down.

In addition to the above, it should be noted that some breeds are much more susceptible to this infection than others. The Shih Tzu , Cocker Spaniel, Schnauzer, Poodle and Boxer are some of the clearest examples. The yeasts grow much better in dark, moist places, such as the folds of the skin and the inner cavity of some very droopy ears.

Symptoms of yeast infection in dogs

As we’ve said, this condition can extend to the otic and epidermal level. Some of the more obvious clinical signs are as follows:

  • Changes in skin color and texture: In the early stages of the infection, the skin appears reddened. However, during the chronic phases it may become blackish.
  • Oily and crusted skin.
  • Tilting of the head: This is a sign of an infectious otitis, that is to say, that the yeast has proliferated in your dog’s inner ear.
  • Scratching: These infections cause a very obvious itching. The dog may scratch with its paws or against surfaces constantly.
  • Licking: The dog may try to lick itself to soothe the inflammation and pain.
  • Strange skin odor: Similar to the smell of a strong cheese.
  • Loss of hair: This commonly occurs around the ears.

Yeast infections in dogs often occur simultaneously with ear problems and certain allergic disorders. Therefore, much of the presenting symptomatology of the typical patient is shared with other disorders.

It should be noted that this disease isn’t contagious.

Diagnosis of yeast infection in dogs

As indicated by professional media, there are many techniques that can detect this infection. Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Scraping: It’s enough to obtain a sample of the affected area of the animal’s skin with a simple scraping. When observed under a microscope, pathogenic microorganisms can be noted.
  • Impression sampling: A slide can be pressed onto the dog’s skin. Again, the sample should be observed under the microscope.
  • Acetate strip: Again, a strip is used to stick onto the dog’s skin. The detached epidermal cells are then removed and analysed.
  • Biopsy: In this case, an entire sample of the dog’s skin must be obtained. It’s the most invasive technique, but provides the most information.

If the infection is in the ears, the use of an otoscope will be necessary. In addition to the observation of the pinna, tests may be required – as mentioned above – if the condition is otic.


Treatment of yeast infection in dogs will vary depending on the body area affected. For example, if the infection is in the ear, antifungal creams or drops and a special cleaning routine are usually prescribed. In severe cases, a systemic oral medication is chosen.

The treatment of generalized skin infection requires the application of specific topical antifungal creams, sprays, and shampoos. In order for the shampoo format to work, it should be applied during bathing for about 10 minutes, every 3-5 days, and for a period of 2 to 12 weeks. However, if all this doesn’t work, a systemic approach with oral medication is also needed.

Ketonoconazole, itraconazole, and fluconazole are the most commonly used drugs.

Is it possible to apply measures at home?

Although this infection requires veterinary treatment in all cases, it’s possible to help the dog recover sooner with a series of tips and measures at home:

  1. Clean your dog’s ears regularly: Ear infections can be treated with specific creams, but you should also clean your dog’s ears with saline solutions prescribed by your vet.
  2. Keep their paws and skin dry: Humidity favours the proliferation of yeasts on your dog’s skin.
  3. Consider your dog’s diet: A dog with this type of infection may have a vitamin deficiency that needs to be treated.
A dog with skin problems.

Prevention is the key to success

As we have said in previous lines, yeast infection in dogs occurs when the canine doesn’t have proper health or hygiene. Therefore, the best method to prevent its occurrence is to take care of the pet on all possible fronts. Some owners of dogs that are predisposed to this condition (such as the shih tzu) choose to give their dogs regular baths with antifungal shampoos, for example.

The prognosis for this condition is positive in almost all cases. Although treatment is usually prolonged, most dogs respond well to the above drugs and the itching stops within a week of starting treatment. If you follow your vet’s advice on all of the above, your dog will improve dramatically in a matter of days.

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