Dog yeast infection, medically known as “canine candidiasis”, is a chronic disease caused by Candida Albicans. It is a single-celled organism that is found in the GI tracts of dogs (also cats and people).
Like all yeasts, Candida albicans strives on sugars, including those from grains, starches, and other carbohydrates. Fortunately, the digestive tracts of healthy dogs also have “good friendly” bacteria (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus) that metabolize sugars. These good bacteria help keep candida in check by disrupting its food supply.
Like all parasites, the candida yeast is opportunistic and, with the right environment, will overgrow and strive.
If, for some reason, there is a shortage of friendly bacteria in the dog’s body, it will provide a sugar-rich environment for candida to get a strong foothold.
If left unchecked, candida morphs from a single cell organism into a multi-celled fungus (called rhizoid) that literally grows roots and penetrates the intestinal wall.
This leads to a condition called “leaky gut syndrome”.
“Leaky gut syndrome” is a gastrointestinal problem. It happens when some undigested food, toxins and bacteria “leak” through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. This causes chronic low-grade inflammation and infections.
These substances in the bloodstream also trigger autoimmune responses, usually in the form of allergies, such as food, environmental, or seasonal allergies.
The dog will also have diminished nutrition as the intestine can no longer properly absorb critical nutrients such as minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and fatty acids.
Causes of Canine Yeast Infections
Basically, anything that tips the balance of healthy intestinal flora (bacteria and yeasts) in the GI tract can lead to the development of canine yeast infections.
Common causes of yeast infections in dogs include:
Overuse of Certain Medications
Strong medications, such as antibiotics, steroids, and chemotherapy drugs, are essential poisons that kill indiscriminately. They kill both the “good guys” (the “friendly” bacteria in the dog’s body) and the “bad guys” (harmful bacteria).
In addition, medications alter the pH level of the dog’s system, which further upsets the balance of healthy organisms throughout the digestive tract.
It is therefore extremely important to give supplements of probiotics (the “friendly” bacteria) to a dog who is on antibiotics and other strong medications. The probiotic supplement can help replenish the good bacteria in the gut and prevent the “bad guys” from over-growing and taking over.
Problems with a dog’s diet can also lead to canine yeast infections. For example, a diet rich in sugar (such as a grain-based diet or excessive sugary treats) will increase sugar levels in the digestive tract. The sugars provide food for candida to grow and multiply. Insufficient probiotics and digestive enzymes in the diet can also lead to yeast infections in dogs.
A dog with a compromised immune system is more prone to develop yeast infections. Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism can also lead to yeast infections in dogs.
Symptoms of Canine Yeast Infections
Dogs with yeast infections show a lot of different symptoms, such as:
- Itchy, inflamed skin
- Skin irritations such as hives, eczema, hot spots, etc.
- Dull or greasy coat and excessive shedding
- Bad odor, including bad breath, smelly skin, and stinky ears
- Hair loss
- Itchy ears
- Recurring ear infections
- Watery eyes
- Frequent eye infections
- Chronic bladder or urinary tract infections
- Persistent respiratory problems (wheezing, coughing, nasal discharge)
- Joint pain
- Food or environmental allergies and sensitivities
- Chronic gastrointestinal problems (loose stools, gas, IBD)
As you can see, a lot of the above symptoms are similar to those of canine allergies, and other symptoms also mimic many different dog diseases.
As a result, very often, a case of dog yeast infection is misdiagnosed as something else. Sometimes, this can exacerbate the yeast problem.
For example, thinking that the dog has allergies, a vet may prescribe steroids to alleviate the allergy-like symptoms. But as mentioned above, strong medications such as steroids can cause an imbalanced pH and will upset the balance of bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract.
This further worsens the yeast overgrowth problem. Once the yeast overgrowth is out of control, it begins to produce toxins that further degrade the dog’s health.
Treatment of Canine Yeast Infections
Conventional treatment of yeast infections in dogs involves the use of anti-fungal medications to clear up the infections and related symptoms. Very often, such kind of treatment is not too effective and in the long run may even worsen the conditions.
Dog yeast infections are best treated holistically and the treatment program should be comprehensive. A good yeast control program should include the following steps:
- Dietary changes with supplements of probiotics and digestive enzymes
- Remedies for yeast control
- Treatment for the GI tract