One of the biggest challenges many pet owners face is an itchy dog. When you see your dog itch, one of two possible causes probably come to mind … allergies or fleas.
But there’s another common reason why your dog may be scratching and chewing. And that’s a yeast infection.
Yeast is a sneaky itch-inducer because it actually exists naturally in and on your dog’s body. Normally it lives in harmony with your dog. But when it gets out of control, it can become a big problem.
So let’s take a better look at yeast infections and what to do if your dog has one.
What Is A Yeast Infection?
Your dog has communities of microorganisms living all over his body that make up his microbiome. Yeast is one of these microorganisms, along with bacteria, viruses and fungus. While there are different types of yeast, one yeast is especially problematic … and that’s Candida albicans.
Yeast is usually kept in check by the good bacteria that call your dog home. And in small amounts, yeast can even be good for your dog. But when yeast grows out of control, it can cause inflammation and lead to a fungal infection.
There are many things that can encourage the growth of yeast including diet and disease. Immune suppressing medications and antibiotics can also increase the risk of yeast infections.
If your dog has a yeast infection, it will most likely show up in his ...
- Folds of skin
That’s because yeast loves moisture.
But with so many reasons for dogs to itch, how do you know whether the itch is from yeast? Let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms.
Signs Your Dog Has A Yeast Infection
If your dog has a yeast infection, there will be a smell. It’s a pungent overwhelming odor that can hit you like a ton of bricks if the yeast is really severe. After a time, you may get used to it, but others who are not always around him will be sure to notice it.
You’ll also notice some of the following signs:
- Chewing or licking the feet
- Rusty red hair between the toes
- Black skin (usually with hair loss)
- Greasy hair
- Head shaking
- Ear infections
- Speckles on his belly
- Hair loss on the tail and back
- Area around the genitals will be grey or rust colored
- Bacterial infections
It Doesn’t Just Stop At A Yeast Infection
I mentioned earlier that yeast lives all over your dog’s body and this includes his gut. When yeast in your dog’s gut overgrows, it can irritate the gut lining, which is only made up of a single wall of cells.
These cells normally stay tight together to stop bacteria, yeast and other toxins from entering the bloodstream. But when irritated, the space between the cells expands, allowing the contents of your dog’s gut leak into his bloodstream.
This is leaky gut and it not only makes yeast infections worse … it can cause chronic inflammation and other diseases.
To make matters worse, if the yeast continues to grow and feed, it will crowd out beneficial microorganisms. And with nothing to compete for resources, the yeast will get more aggressive and begin releasing toxins. In fact, super yeast can release over 60 toxins that further aggravate the gut lining and your dog’s discomfort.
So once you know your dog has a yeast infection somewhere on his body, it’s time to act. The good news is there are natural options to help rebalance that natural flora and help your dog feel better.
5 Step Home Remedy For Yeast Infections
Here are 5 steps to manage your dog’s yeast infection.
1. Don’t Feed The Yeast
Like any living thing, yeast needs food to survive. And its meal of choice is sugar!
The first thing you need to do to cut out sugar is look at the labels on your dog’s food and treats. You want to look for sugar as well as dextrose, fructose, and other added sugars.
Some fruits and vegetables also have high amounts of natural sugars. Be sure to consider the sugar content of any fresh vegetation you feed. If you feed fruit, consider switching to berries as they’re low in sugar.
NOTE: While sugar substitutes (like xylitol) may not feed yeast, they can be very dangerous for your dog.
But that isn’t all you have to watch for. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. But there are also complex carbohydrates that the body converts into sugar when your dog eats them. The biggest culprit is starch. That means you need to cut out starchy foods as well. That includes:
- Sweet potatoes
- Other legumes
These foods feed yeast and they’re also some of the top ingredients in kibble diets.
That’s why going raw is the best choice. It has fewer carbohydrates and the carbohydrates it does contain are mostly healthy fibers that are good for your dog.
But if you’re feeding raw, consider some of the fruits and vegetables you’re feeding. Even though they seem healthy … sweet potatoes, peas, carrots and bananas are high-carb foods.
If you aren’t ready for raw, consider a cooked, freeze-dried or dehydrated diet that doesn’t use grains or other starchy substitutes.
2. Detoxify Your Dog
It isn’t just sugar that gets yeast’s attention. Yeast also loves heavy metals. In fact, it’s so good at binding to metals that researchers want to use it to remove toxic metals from the environment.
There are many ways for heavy metals to get into your dog’s system. Some metals are in his food. And sometimes that’s okay. In small amounts, heavy metals like zinc and iron are important for your dog’s health. But others, like the mercury found in fish, can be toxic.
Dangerous heavy metals are also in:
- Pesticides sprayed on fruits and veggies (or your neighbor’s grass)
- Poor quality water (with fluoride)
- Pet foods
- Fish and fish oil
Worst of all, these heavy metals aren’t easy for your dog to get rid of. So instead, they build up in his system. Detoxing can help remove these heavy metals from his body, which makes him less attractive to yeast.
And eliminating yeast isn’t the only reason to consider a detox. Heavy metals also cause oxidative stress, which can damage cells and lead to chronic disease. So a detox can help improve his overall health as well.
3. Destroy The Yeast’s Defenses
Candida and other yeast have a protective coating called the biofilm. It’s made up of fiber, fat and protein and protects the yeast from immune cells. This makes the yeast harder to kill and that means it’s easier for the yeast to take over.
When fighting a yeast infection, you need to help destroy this biofilm. The best way to break down the biofilm is with digestive enzymes.
Your dog manufacturers his own digestive enzymes but when he has a yeast infection he often needs a boost. He also can’t make cellulase, which is the enzyme that helps break down the fiber in the biofilm. That means you need to add it to his diet. (Cellulose is also important if you feed kibble with fibrous ingredients like beet pulp).
Normally you would give your dog digestive enzymes with meals to help break down food. But when your dog has a yeast infection, you want to give the digestive enzymes between meals. That way they can focus on digesting the yeast’s biofilm and not your dog’s food.
4. Kill The Yeast
The first 3 steps focused on cutting the yeast off from its supplies and breaking down its protective barriers. Now it’s time to attack.
To do this, you want to add antifungal foods and supplements. Pay attention to how your dog reacts to each addition. If he starts to show signs of yeast-die off (which I’ll talk about shortly) you’ll want to slow down.
Here are some of the best antifungal foods for yeast infections.
You may have heard that coconut oil is good for yeast infections. Caprylic acid is the reason why. Studies show that this medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) can destroy the cell membrane of Candida and other yeasts.
But coconut oil isn’t the best source of caprylic acid. That’s because it also contains lauric acid, which increases inflammation in your dog’s digestive tract. Instead, look for MCT oil.
MCT oil is a better source of caprylic acid. But start slowly and work your way up because MCT oil can cause diarrhea if your dog gets too much. Medium to large dogs should start at ¼ tsp.
Olive leaf powder can also break down the cell membranes of yeast. This is thanks to oleuropein … a substance that gives olive oil its bitter taste. It’s antifungal and many studies have used it to prevent yeast.
Small dog … ¼ tsp
Medium dog … ½ tsp
Large dog … 1 tsp
You can slowly increase the amount of olive leaf powder your dog gets, but again you want to go slowly. Large dogs can have up to 500 mg twice daily.
Pau d’arco is another antifungal that can help kill yeast. It’s also effective against parasites and viruses. These properties are because of the naphthoquinones and lapachol it contains.
You can buy pau d’arco but look for a dried herb that’s standardized and high quality. Canine Herbalist Rita Hogan recommends …
Extra small dog … 100 mg twice daily
Small dog … 200 mg twice daily
Medium dog … 300 mg twice daily
Large dog … 400 mg twice daily
Extra large dog … 500 mg twice daily
Do not use pau d’arco or other herbs containing lapachol for pregnant dogs.
Studies show that the antifungal properties of goldenseal can help fight yeast. This is because it contains berberine, a protective alkaloid that protects the plant in the wild.
You can use dried goldenseal or goldenseal tincture for your dog. If using powder, give 1 tsp per 20 lbs of body weight. If using a tincture give 5 - 10 drops per 20 lbs.
You can use goldenseal 1 to 2 times daily but don’t use it long-term or for pregnant or hypoglycemic dogs.
4. Restore Your Dog’s Gut Bacteria
Once you have done everything you can to slow the yeasts growth and kill it off, you need to work on preventing future infections. And that means making your dog’s body unwelcoming to yeast. To do that you need to boost the health of your dog’s gut.
To do this, focus on these areas.
Make The Gut Welcoming To Good Bacteria
Avoid anything that will create an imbalance in your dog’s gut by hurting the good bacteria that live there. This includes antibiotics that destroy the bacteria in your dog’s gut. This leaves more room for the yeast to take over with nothing to keep it in check.
You also want to avoid toxins in your dog’s environment. This includes vaccines, medication, flea and tick preventatives and cleaning products. These all hurt the good bacteria that protect your dog. You’ll also want to go organic to avoid fruits and veggies sprayed with glyphosate.
Lastly, you want to reduce your dog’s stress. There’s a link between your dog’s gut and brain … so when your dog gets stressed, it affects his gut health.
Boost The Good Bacteria
Once you have made the gut a better place for good bacteria to flourish, you want to reintroduce the good bacteria. The best way to do this is with probiotics.
Probiotics are good bacteria that colonize in your dog’s gut and provide health benefits. And there are specific strains that have shown promise in the fight against yeast.
You also want to consider soil-based organisms. This type of probiotic is hardier, which means they aren’t easily destroyed by the acidity in your dog’s gut. Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilus are good yeast fighting species to look for.
Lastly, try to find a probiotic with Saccharomyces boulardii. This probiotic is a yeast, which may seem counterintuitive, but it has proven effective against Candida. It also reduces inflammation caused by this yeast, which can help reduce the risk of leaky gut.
Don’t Forget The Prebiotics
Probiotics only survive for a few days in your dog’s gut. Some last for less than a day. So to help boost their benefits and grow bacteria populations, you need prebiotics.
Prebiotics are soluble fibers that travel undigested to your dog’s colon. There they feed the good bacteria and help them grow in numbers.
Fermented foods are usually a good source of prebiotics but ... you’ll want to ease off while your dog has a yeast infestation. While fermented foods can benefit your dog’s gut, they can also feed yeast.
Instead, find a probiotic with prebiotics or try prebiotic foods like …
- Dandelions root
- Burdock root
- Low sugar berries
Remove Heavy Metals
You know from earlier that yeast loves heavy metals. But what wasn’t mentioned is that when yeast dies it releases these heavy metals back into the body. This is bad for your dog and the good bacteria living in his gut.
To help protect your dog and his gut, try feeding detoxifying foods. Some good choices are:
- Bentonite clay
- Humic and fulvic acid
Chlorella is also effective for heavy metals. This green algae reduces the absorption of mercury and binds to other metals to help remove them from the body. As a bonus, it also serves as a prebiotic.
Sulphur-rich foods like garlic and broccoli can also bind to heavy metals to help remove them from your dog’s body.
Yeast Die Off
When yeast die, they release acetaldehyde. This is a toxic substance that’s believed to be the cause of hangovers in humans. Yeast also releases gliotoxin which can harm your dog’s liver. So as the yeast die-off, your dog may have hangover or flu-like symptoms.
Your dog may also experience the Herxheimer Reaction during any detoxes. This happens when the dying yeast release the heavy metals they have absorbed. It can cause flu-like symptoms.
So it’s not uncommon for dogs going through this process to have ...
- Joint pain
- General sickness
- Discharge from the nose, eyes, skin or ears
These are signs that your dog’s body is healing and detoxifying. Your dog should look and feel much better in a few days to a few weeks.
Digestive enzymes, humic and fulvic acid, bentonite clay and chlorella can help with these symptoms. The enzymes will help digest and remove the dead yeast and the rest will help remove the heavy metals.
To slow down the effects, you can also decrease the amount of anti-fungal foods if your dog is too uncomfortable.
Yeast infections can be frustrating for both you and your dog.