No matter how clean you keep your dog, he'll have colonies of yeast living in his body. While these single-cell organisms are normally found in healthy levels in dogs and other living beings, problems start when the immune system weakens and the yeast starts causing yeast overgrowth. In dogs, yeast infections most commonly affect the ears and skin, often causing itchiness, unpleasant odors and annoying infections.
The Role of Diet
Your dog's diet plays an important role in helping his immune system stay strong and keeping yeast at bay. Limiting a dog's intake of sugar, starchy vegetables and carbohydrates helps starve yeast from its main sources of energy. Ingredients found in dog foods and treats, and known for contributing to yeast overgrowth, include rice, wheat, corn, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Try feeding an entirely grain-free and sugar-free diet with healthy additions such as low-glycemic veggies, suggests veterinarian Karen Becker.
Yeast thrives in alkaline, low-acidity environments. Because apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, it creates an environment that's inhospitable to yeast; since the majority of dogs are overalkaline, apple cider vinegar added to the water bowl can help. However, if a dog happens to be overly acidic, it can cause clinical signs, cautions veterinarian Sue Ann Lesser. Another helpful remedy is plain yogurt, especially for dogs on antibiotics and being stripped from good bacteria. Yogurt contains probiotics that help recolonize the good bacteria and help keep yeast infections at bay.
Topical applications of equal parts of water and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar are helpful in healing the skin; however, avoid this rinse if there are open wounds, suggests Jeanette Thomason, a certified animal naturopathic practitioner. For the ears, a small amount of the mixture can be applied into the ear and gently massaged. Tea tree oil, known for its effectiveness in fighting, malassezia, a strain of yeast that triggers ear and skin infections in dogs, can be used topically for mild topical infections; however, to be safe the oil must be diluted and should never be used in cats.
Working in Synergy
Fighting yeast infections naturally requires a synergistic approach by curing the dog from the inside out and preventing future relapses. Feeding a raw meat-and-bone diet or a homemade diet with natural supplements can help when fed under the guidance of a holistic vet. Boosting the immune system and providing an environment that's inhospitable to yeast is equally important. Yeast thrives in warm, moist places with poor airflow, which explains why ears are commonly affected. Keep your dog's ears dry after a bath and trim the hair around them to increase airflow.
A Word of Caution
While home remedies for yeast infections in dogs may be helpful, your first step is to see your vet. Yeast overgrowth often develops from underlying conditions such as an allergy, seborrhea or something else. If you fail to address the underlying problem, you'll soon be back to square one as yeast will recur periodically. Keep also in mind that if your dog has recurrent yeast infections, his immune system may not be working as it should. See your vet for an accurate diagnosis and always talk to your vet before trying any home remedies.