What Causes a Yeast Infection
A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in a certain region of the body. The most commonly affected areas include the ears, feet, armpits, and skin folds, but they can crop up anywhere on the body. They are especially partial to moist environments.
Yeasts are microscopic organisms and are actually a type of fungus, not a bacteria as many people believe. Yeast is a natural part of a healthy microbiome, only when that yeast starts to grow out of balance with the rest of the naturally occurring microorganisms does it become a problem (1). Yeast infections can be triggered by many different things including antibiotic use, stress, over vaccination, environmental toxins, and poor quality (species inappropriate) food.
Signs of a Yeast Infection:
- Mild to extreme itchiness at the site of infection
- Dogs may scratch, chew, or rub the affected area on carpets or furniture continuously to relive their discomfort
- Often dogs with an overgrowth of yeast will be described as smelling “musty” or like moldy bread or corn chips.
- According to Dr. Karen Becker (who btw has written several awesome articles about yeast infections on the Mercola Healthy Pets website) “Other signs of a yeast infection include areas of skin irritation, redness, and inflammation, especially in and around the ears, around the toes and pads of the feet, in nasal, facial or other skin folds, around the anus, under the armpits, on the neck, and sometimes around the tail base. There might also be hair loss, scaly or oily skin, or a greasy hair coat”(8).
While these signs are a very good indication that your pet may be suffering from a yeast infection, there are two definitive ways to find out for sure
- By culturing a sample swab of the cells in a lab OR
- By looking at a swab of the skin under a microscope
Both of which would be done either at your vet’s office or under their directive.
Personally, if I ever have an animal I feel is dealing with a mild yeast infection I will start the process of handling it on my own. If the infection seems to be more advanced or doesn’t start improving, I will, of course, consult with my local holistic veterinarian and advise you do the same.
How to “Treat” Yeast Infections
*Note- I am putting quotes around the word “treat” because I’m not a vet and cannot offer veterinary medical advice. This is just going to be my advice based on experience and lots of research.
Address the Diet
This is always one of my first steps when dealing with almost any health concern…
The reason we need to address the diet in this case is because yeast feeds on sugar (2). Feeding a balanced raw food is your best bet for boosting your dog or cat’s immune system and not contributing to the yeast overgrowth.
Kibble is just too high in starchy carbohydrates (which break down to sugar) to be helpful with yeast infections.
- For anyone who doesn’t know, you can figure out what the approximate carbohydrate content of your kibble is by adding the protein, fat, moisture & ash content (if not listed assume 8%) together and then subtracting that total from 100.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because your food is “grain-free” that it is lower in sugar… often the exact opposite is true.
In my experience, it is very difficult to get chronic yeast infections under control without addressing the food you are feeding. Aim to feed a diet consisting of meat, bone and organ with some green leafy vegetables (ideally fermented). To get started & learn more about raw feeding I suggest checking out some of my other episodes.
- Note: As always if going 100% raw is not possible for you right this second, do the best you can! Switch to a low carbohydrate kibble (this will take some research) and add in as much whole fresh food as you can.
Avoid feeding starchy carbs, fruits, or anything else high in sugar.
Rebalance the Gut:
- To help stop the overgrowth of yeast it is useful to add a quality probiotic into your pet’s diet. Adding good bacteria back into the gut can help to “crowd out” the yeast.
- Probiotics are also important because yeast overgrowth is often a result of antibiotic use (antibiotics will kill off both good and bad bacteria, leaving room for the yeast to flourish unchecked).
- Look for a probiotic that has a CFU in the billions, has no fillers, and also contains a prebiotic.
Clean Your Pet:
The next thing you’ll need to do consistently is to clean & disinfect the infected area. Some good options for killing yeast gently include:
- Witch Hazel is naturally astringent and works great for yeasty ears
- For animals that have scratched themselves raw, using a calendula or chamomile based rinse is a nice gentle solution.
- For animals with no broken skin, a 50/50 Water & Vinegar solution works well
- You can also try using naturally antifungal herbs (in the diet but also topically in a rinse to kill the yeast)
- Some options include:
- Olive Leaf Powder
- Studies have shown that this extract not only helps to fight fungal overgrowth but also helps to lower blood sugar levels thus helping to avoid yeast infections in the first place (3)
- Pau D’Arco
- Has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, it is antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-parasitic. It has been shown to be extremely effective at inhibiting the intracellular mechanisms of various fungi including yeast (4 & 5)
- However, this is not a good option for cats as their livers may have a harder time breaking down the hydroquinone found in this tree bark (6).
- Olive Leaf Powder
- Some options include:
Detox Your Pet!
- When a large amount of yeast dies off quickly it will release endotoxins into the body (some studies suggest it can be upwards of 79 different toxins, some of which are known neurotoxins). (7)
- This is why it is important to introduce changes (even positive ones) slowly and to support your dog’s body as you go.
- Doing a liver cleanse is a very good idea as the liver will be responsible for flushing all of these toxins out of the body.
- I recommend looking for a milk thistle based product and giving it in conjunction with the rest of suggestions.
- During a mass yeast die off your pet may get a little worse before they get better but it is important to monitor your pet closely and always trust your intuition if in doubt consult an integrative or holistic veterinarian 🙂
I sincerely hope that was helpful to you!
- Cohen R., Roth F.J., Delgado E., Ahearn D.G., Kalser M.H. Fungal flora of the normal human small and large intestine. N. Engl. J. Med. 1969;280:638–641. doi: 10.1056/NEJM196903202801204.