When a dog is itchy, two possible causes typically come to mind:
Fleas are often first on our list to blame – especially around spring and summer. But when we don’t find any fleas or flea dirt, we then think … it must be allergies.
But there is a third possible culprit hiding in your dog’s gut and skin … yeast.
Yeast is a sneaky itch-inducer because it actually exists naturally in and on our pets’ bodies as part of their natural flora.
When the balance becomes disrupted from any number of factor; vaccines, antibiotics, bad diet, chemical overload, immune system dysfunction, you name it – yeast takes over and the itching begins.
Yeast can make your dog as uncomfortable as allergies. And, in fact, a dog who has yeast may also have allergies.
Consider that a dog who’s been diagnosed with allergies of some kind may have already been put on antibiotic and steroid treatments by conventional veterinary practice, and that these two medications can both lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the body.
Does My Dog Have a Yeast Infection?
Besides testing at your vet’s office for a diagnosis of yeast overgrowth, there are some signs that can help you narrow down whether your dog does indeed have a yeast infection:
- First of all, there’s the smell. It’s a salty, dirty, pungent overwhelming odor that can hit you like a ton of bricks in the face if the yeast is particularly overgrown in your dog. After a time, you may get used to it, but others who are not always around him will be sure to notice it.
- Yeast loves moisture. So areas like inside the ears, paws, armpits and folds in the skin are likely targets. Watch for head shaking and other signs of ear discomfort, incessant paw chewing and generalized scratching.
- Poor skin and coat quality can also be an indicator of a yeast problem. Darkened skin, severe flaking and dandruff, and hair loss may be signs your dog has a yeast infection.
Because some symptoms can resemble other possible causes – for instance, ear mites can also cause ear itch – have your vet perform lab testing if you’re unsure.
So, Now What?
Once you know your dog has a yeast infection somewhere on his body, there are natural options to help rebalance that natural flora and hopefully stop the itch and discomfort.
Stop Feeding the Yeast!
At the top of your list for yeast infection treatment should be your dog’s diet.
Sugar feeds yeast, and since carbohydrates and starches are essentially sugar, you need to remove them from your dog’s diet.
A very low-carb, low-starch, species-appropriate raw meat based diet can go a long way for many yeasty dogs.
For dogs already on a pretty healthy diet, this even means cutting out seemingly nutritious (but high-carb) foods like sweet potatoes, peas and carrots.
Foods To Add
- Fermented goat’s milk – or other probiotic food like kefir or fermented fish stock – for its natural probiotic properties and immune-boosting nutrition. Because of the imbalance of natural flora in your pet’s body during a yeast infection, probiotics (aka good bacteria) can help in the rebalancing effort. It’s generally a good idea to give a food form of probiotics, but if your dog is resistant, find a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Garlic can be beneficial on two counts. First, it’s a natural, food-based prebiotic, which feeds the probiotics and helps make them more effective, and it’s also a natural antifungal. Use fresh organic US-grown garlic only. Canine herbalist Rita Hogan recommends 1 tsp for a 30-pound dog. Read more on feeding garlic here.
- Coconut oil has natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, which can be beneficial for a dog with a yeast overgrowth problem. Look for organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil stored in a glass container. The dosage is about 1 tsp per day per 10 pounds, but you’ll want to work up to that slowly in order to avoid loose stool.
Oregano oil has antibiotic properties, but it’s also a pretty hefty antifungal. And it’s versatile – you can apply it topically, in food, diffused and even use it for the ears (on the ear flap portion).
Look for a high-quality oil and (this is important as it’s very strong) make sure to dilute it (one drop to one teaspoon) in coconut or olive oil (if it’s not already diluted).
Pau d’arco is a great immune boosting herb that may help for a number of illnesses – ranging from cancer to allergies.
Included in its wide list of possible benefits is its work as an antifungal, which can come in handy when it comes to yeast infections.
Battle on the Skin
Because much of the discomfort of a yeast infection for a dog will often take place on the skin level, it’s a good idea to keep some topical support as part of your artillery.
- Coconut oil can come to the rescue once again in topical application. Rita Hogan offers up a coconut oil recipe: Allow your organic virgin coconut oil to melt in an 8 oz glass bottle before adding 10 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops of lemon essential oil. Shake the mixture and massage it on your dog’s yeasty spots weekly or more often as necessary. The mixture will last several months if stored in a dark place.
- Apple cider vinegar can also help with yeast problems in your dog by promoting a healthy pH level in the skin. Make sure to buy it organic, raw and unfiltered. It can be applied through a spray bottle, squeeze bottle, with a sponge or via any other method that your dog is comfortable with. If your dog has irritated areas, make sure to dilute the vinegar so that it doesn’t sting and avoid direct application to those areas until they heal.