What are Yeast (Malassezia) Infections?
Yeast infections can affect any and all species of animals and even humans. In dogs, some breeds are more predisposed to it due to their body is. For example, Cocker Spaniels with long furry ears are one. Their ears hang long and low making it almost impossible for them to naturally air out. This makes the ear environment warm and moist: an ideal environment for yeast. Treatment is typically straightforward with oral antifungal medication and topical ointments or drops for you to apply to the infected region. If you suspect your dog may have a yeast infection, take him to a veterinarian. Once treatment is started, he should begin to recover and heal. This will increase his chances of a full, easy recovery.
Malassezia is a type of yeast normally found as part of your dog’s body flora. However, in some situations, an overgrowth occurs and symptoms of an infection appear. If you believe your dog is experiencing this, be sure to take him to see his veterinarian.
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Symptoms of Yeast (Malassezia) Infections in Dogs
Symptoms of malassezia infection in dogs can show itself in a variety of ways. Symptoms may include:
- Buildup of debris in one or both ears
- The buildup may be a combination of yellow, brown, and black material
- Excessive shaking of the head
- Excessive scratching of the ears or other places on the body
- Dry flaky skin
- Oily skin
- Crusted skin
- Red skin
- Excessive licking of the paws, legs, tail or other places
- Dull or greasy coat
- Unpleasant odor
- Raised, circular white, sometimes pustule-like masses covered with scabs
Malassezia infection, also known as a yeast infection, can show itself in a variety of forms. If the infection is localized, it is affecting small patches. If it is generalized, the infection covers the entire body. Otitis is another variety meaning it affects the ear.
Causes of Yeast (Malassezia) Infections in Dogs
Malassezia is normally found on your dog’s skin and in his ears as part of his natural makeup. However, times of stress, infection, and other factors can lead to an overgrowth. The increased yeast causes your dog to develop the symptoms listed above.
Diagnosis of Yeast (Malassezia) Infections in Dogs
When you take your dog to the veterinarian, she will begin with a clinical examination. While you may think the only problem is in his ears, she may find other clues to indicate where else it is affecting his body.
If your companion’s skin is affected, a member of the veterinary team will take a skin scraping from him and look at that under the microscope as well. With both the skin sample and ear sample, the malassezia yeast will appear as ovoid shaped budding yeast, it can also be described like a bowling pin shape. The doctor or her technician will be able to identify the yeast and therefore treatment can begin.
If your dog’s ears are full of debris, the veterinarian will collect a sample from the ear and perform what is called an ear cytology. She will take the sample, spread a small amount on a microscope slide, stain it with some specific colored staining and look at it under the microscope. She will then be able to identify what is causing your dog’s symptoms.
If the infection is very severe and the veterinarian is worried about medicinal resistance, she may take a sample of debris from an infected area and spread it on what is known as a culture plate. She can then find out what exact species of malassezia it is, what antifungal medication it is resistant to, and can then prepare a prescription for your dog.
Treatment of Yeast (Malassezia) Infections in Dogs
Depending where the yeast infection is located on your dog will determine the treatment. There are topical medications and oral medications that can treat the overgrowth. Antifungal medications will be administered in order to get the growth under control. There are ointments and drops your veterinarian may send home with you for application on the skin or in the ears. She may also send home an oral medication as well.
If the ears are affected, she may send you home with ear cleaning solution for you to use as well as medication to apply multiple times a day. If you are unable to do this, she may offer to clean the ears at the clinic and then pack his ears with a medication. The medicine is a thick solution that absorbs slowly over a 2 week period.
The veterinarian will likely want to see you back as soon as you finish the medications to ensure the infection is cleared. If it is not, then she will extend the course of the medication or change to a different one that may be more effective.
Recovery of Yeast (Malassezia) Infections in Dogs
Taking your dog back for a recheck is extremely important. If his infection is not completely gone after he finishes his prescription, it will reappear, but this time resistant to the medication he was just on. This will necessitate more diagnostic testing in order to receive more medication.
If you follow the veterinarian’s instructions and give the medications as directed, your dog should recover without a problem. If you do not seek veterinary treatment for your dog or do not follow the veterinarian’s directions appropriately, what started out as a small infection can turn into a severe problem.