What are fungal and yeast infections in dogs?
Fungal infections come in a variety of forms, however they share many characteristics. Fungal infections such as Ringworm can appear as a hairless, scabbed over area that is red or raised. Ringworm has an additional characteristic of growing in size as it advances in a target or “ring” shape. Fungal infections may also be red or bothersome, leading to itching and chewing of the affected area.
Yeast infections are similar to fungal infections, however they tend to prefer even more moist or hidden places such as between the toes, in the ears or on the folds of the skin such as the face of flat-nosed breeds like the English Bulldog. The same redness, scabbing and hair loss may appear, as well as a “corn chip” or foul smelling odor. Severe infections may also ooze debris or be particularly bothersome to pets.
How can I prevent fungal and yeast infections in my dog?
Some fungal infections, such as Ring worm, are very contagious to other animals and people, so the best way to prevent it is by always washing hands, clothing and separating pets that appear to have an infection. Keeping the skin clean, clear and free of debris can also help prevent infection. For areas where yeast growth is more common, gently wiping the area with a warm washcloth or pet wipe after activity can reduce the amount of yeast and debris present. Regularly grooming your dog can also alert you to any changes in the skin or coat that may indicate the beginning of a fungal or yeast infection.
What should I do if I suspect fungal infection in my dog?
If a fungal infection such as Ringworm is suspected, it is best to separate your dog from others and take care when handling them. The next step is to make an appointment with your vet to examine the affected area. Ring worm is usually diagnosed via the use of a Woods lamp, which causes the fungi to glow under the light. Other infections are usually determined via trial and error of treatment for other more common skin conditions, or via a skin scraping. A skin scraping takes a small portion of the affected area and incubates it on a medium for 7-14 days. If the medium grows or changes color, it indicates an infection. Samples can also be sent out to determine the exact infection present.
Once the type of infection has been determined, treatment can begin. Your pet will most likely receive both an oral medication as well as a medicated shampoo. Oral medications help remove any underlying infection such as secondary bacterial infection, or yeast and fungus that may have breached the skin barrier. Medicated shampoos help soothe the skin and kill the infection directly. Medicated shampoos, unlike regular bathing, are usually done once or twice daily over a period of a week to several weeks. Regular shampooing is done less often to reduce irritation to the skin.
Your vet may also recommend the use of medicated pet wipes or an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and chewing. Licking and chewing affected areas can allow fungus and yeast to spread, or may allow a secondary bacterial infection to infiltrate any breaks in the skin. Elizabethan collars can also help keep your dog from licking any medicated shampoos or ointments off the body. Once the underlying infection is cured, the skin can then heal and hair will regrow.
Natural remedies for treating fungal infections in dogs
In addition to traditional medications, there are several herbal remedies that can help protect and reduce fungal and yeast infections. Several herbs including Marigold, Cats Claw, Myrrh and Sweet Violet have anti-fungal properties and can be applied as a tincture to the skin. Bergamot may also help reduce inflammation associated with infection, and can be applied to yeast as well as fungal infections for relief.
As always, several immune boosting herbs taken internally are good for prevention of several infections. Garlic and Echinacea are the herbal supplements of choice due to their myriad of anti-fungal, anti-yeast, anti-bacterial and immunity boosting traits. Boosting the immune system can help the body fight off any infection before it takes hold.