If your dog has itchy skin, or seems to be constantly chewing and licking at his paws, your first assumption may be that he has an allergy. And of course this is possible, because dogs can be every bit as vulnerable to allergies as people.
Another possibility, however, is a yeast infection.
What Causes a Yeast Infection in Dogs?
Yeast is actually a form of fungus, and it is an important part of the healthy immune system. People and dogs alike have this healthy type of plant life growing in the gut and also on the skin. When the immune system is in balance, all is well. However, if the immune system becomes stressed, yeast can begin to grow unchecked in the gut. Then, your dog’s body reacts by trying to dissipate the yeast through the skin, and an infection can result.
Diagnosing a Dog Yeast Infection
The symptoms of yeast infections and allergies can be very similar, and of course your dog cannot tell you what is causing the discomfort. However, there are ways that you can determine whether your dog’s scratching and chewing is due to a yeast infection. They include:
- Rusty, reddish hair between the toes – If your dog is licking or chewing his feet, look for this tell-tale sign. The color is not due to chewing or licking; it is the color of the yeast.
- Reddish, black or gray speckles around the genitals.
- Heavy dandruff, accompanied by greasy hair and a foul smell.
- Loss of hair on the upper back and tail.
- Black skin accompanied by hair loss.
- Symptoms seem to appear in the spring and then go away in the fall – Often, people confuse this with what they call “grass allergy.” Actually, it is due to the life cycle of the yeast.
Treating a Dog Yeast Infection
It is important to act on the symptoms described above, because if you ignore your dog’s yeast infection, it will become harder to treat.
Given that yeast infections begin in the gut, the first thing you should do if you are wondering if your dog’s discomfort is due to a yeast infection or to some other cause, is consider your dog’s diet. Now, you know that yeast requires food. You also know that in recipes that use yeast, whether you are making bread or raised pastries, or perhaps making your own beer or wine, the food that yeast needs is sugar.
Of course your dog is not likely chowing down on sugary foods (at least we hope not!) or drinking anything other than fresh water. However, if his food is heavy on carbohydrates or other types of starch, then the yeast in his gut is still being fed, because in the digestive system, carbohydrates quickly convert to sugar.
Carbohydrates are found in potatoes, corn, oats, peas, rice, sweet potatoes and many other foods, and you might be surprised at how many commercially available dog foods contain many of those substances. Even if you are spending a great deal of money ensuring that your pet gets grain-free dog food, you can probably count on a lot of potato and sweet potato being present. Beet pulp is another ingredient that is very common in dog food, although usually of the less expensive variety.
You and your dog probably both consume more starch than you were ever meant to. The diet of our ancestors, and that of their dogs, contained approximately 4% starch. Most of today’s pet foods actually contain about 40%.
So, in order to treat your dog’s yeast infection, obviously, you want to keep the yeast under control. Most of us are not going to stop feeding commercial dog food, but there are ways of supporting you dog’s digestive system in order to lessen the likelihood of your dog developing a yeast infection. There are also topical remedies that can guard against yeast infections, and also ease the discomfort of a yeast infection if it has already taken hold.
Astragalus and Milk Thistle Seed
Astragalus is a plant root that has many health benefits, including supporting the liver and helping the body rid itself of toxins. It is safe for both humans and dogs. You can add one drop of astragalus extract for each pound of your dog’s body weight to his food twice a day.
Milk thistle seed is a natural detoxifier that repairs kidney and liver damage as well as helping to balance the immune system. This is not a daily supplement, but it can work to reduce the risk of developing immune problems or yeast infections under circumstances where the liver can be stressed, for instance if your dog has had surgery, or has been in a boarding kennel. Use ¼ teaspoon of milk thistle seed for each 20 pounds of body weight. This is a one-time treatment.
Of course it is true that prevention is always better than a cure, and one of the best ways to prevent skin yeast infections in your dog is by using a quality healing balm. Skin Soother from Natural Dog Company contains healing herbs that guard against bacteria, fungus and inflammation, and also provide a barrier to keep contaminants away from the delicate skin of your dog’s paws and other problematic areas. Organic Wrinkle Balm is specially formulated to prevent skin fold dermatitis as well as bacterial and yeast infections. Though Wrinkle Balm has similar properties, it is specially formulated to be gentle enough to use around the face and other sensitive areas. If Wrinkle Balm does not do the trick, Skin Soother will be the next step. Both products contain natural ingredients that prevent yeast infections as well as itching and flaking skin, and are also highly effective on the usual scratches and abrasions that active dogs will inevitably incur.
Your dog, obviously, cannot tell you when he or she has developed, or is at risk of developing, a yeast infection, so it is up to you to be alert to the signs. You love your dog, and you do not want him or her to be in discomfort. Natural Dog Company has the solutions you need to prevent and correct yeast infections in your dog.