Yeast Infections in Dogs & Red Paws

Ever notice your dog licking or chewing on her paws for what seems like an unreasonably long amount of time? Or maybe you've caught a whiff of something that smells like corn chips coming from down around where her feet are. Closer inspection might even reveal a red or rusty color on those little things, especially in between her toes. If you've spotted any of these symptoms, particularly rusty, smelly paws, chances are your dog has a yeast infection. While this condition can result in some very irritating and itchy symptoms, it is pretty easy to treat, be that with medication or DIY home yeast infection remedies.

Golden retriever licking its paw
If your dog is licking its paws a lot it could be due to infections.
credit: C. Karim / FOAP/foap/GettyImages

What are yeast infections?

A yeast infection, also known as yeast dermatitis, is an infection that occurs when too much Malassezia pachydermatis fungus becomes overgrown in an area, explains VCA Hospitals. Yeast infections are commonly associated with women's health, but dogs are just as susceptible to this irritating disorder. Canines typically experience yeast infections on any parts of their bodies that can create dark, damp conditions for yeast to live, namely, their paws, between their toes, or inside of their ears.

Like bacteria, the fungus that can lead to a yeast infection is already present on our skin, as well as on the skin of our dogs. Sometimes, however, certain things can lead to the overgrowth of fungus, which can lead to an infection. One main reason dogs experience yeast infections is because their immune systems are compromised by an existing infection or illness. Another reason why your dog may have a yeast infection is due to a condition called seborrhea, which prevents the healthy regeneration of skin cells, says Merck Veterinary Manual.

Does my dog have one?

When a dog has a yeast infection on his paws, he may be seen excessively licking or chewing on his feet in an effort to relieve the itchy discomfort that comes with such a condition. Yeast infections are easily spotted as a rust-colored stain on a light-haired dog, but can also produce symptoms like scaly skin, greasy fur, or a distinctive odor, commonly known as "Frito paws" among dog owners. If the infection is on his feet, you may notice that a dog paw is red between pads, or that your dog's paws are red between toes. If you suspect that your dog may have a yeast infection but aren't certain, a veterinarian can diagnose his condition with a skin scrape, a cotton swab sample, or even a biopsy, VCA Hospitals adds.

You can also run a quick checklist in your head to see if your dog may have a yeast infection, which may help determine your next course of action. For example, has your dog gone swimming or walked on a wet or damp surface in the last few days, or has the redness appeared after he has been diagnosed with a different illness? Does your dog compulsively lick or chew on his paws due to an unrelated reason, like anxiety or to self-soothe during thunderstorms or fireworks? If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, then your canine companion may have some yeasty paws to treat.

How to treat yeast infections

When treating a yeast infection on your dog, there are a few different ways you can go about it, any of which will depend on what you prefer to use and your dog's reaction to that method. For many people, prescription medications provide a simple solution to yeast infections and can be obtained through your veterinarian. Others may choose to opt for all-natural anti-fungal treatments, like vinegar solutions — but whatever you lean toward, make sure you do something, as the problem will not go away on its own. One thing that is not recommended to try is using tea tree oil to treat your dog's yeast infection on her paws as that area is very easy to lick and ingestion of tea tree oil can be toxic to dogs.

Finally, the best way to deal with the occasional yeast infection on your dog's paws is through prevention, which can also work to alleviate existing conditions. The best way to prevent the growth of yeast on your dog's paws or in between his toes is to keep those little feet as dry as possible. This can be done by towel-drying your dog's paws after he comes in from a walk in the rain or a romp in the dewy grass, or by dressing him in rain booties, which will keep those precious paw pads off of the wet ground entirely. Additionally, do your best to discourage frequent paw licking by offering a distraction, like a snack or a toy, and if chronic yeast infections are an issue, consult your veterinarian to discuss possible allergies or other underlying conditions.

Medicated treatment options

The most traditional way to treat a yeast infection on a dog is with anti-fungal oral medications, like ketoconazole or terbinafine, says Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles. Oral medications are more often intended to treat large areas of the skin, however, so if your dog's yeast infection is still contained on her paws you might be able to apply a more localized, topical treatment. Medicated wipes can be used to treat smaller areas of the skin and medicated shampoos containing chlorhexidine, selenium, or miconazole can wash away an infection over time — just be sure to keep an eye out for paw licking when applying topical treatments to any parts your dog can reach.

DIY yeast infection treatments

If you're looking to go the all-natural route, there are two solutions that some people turn to, the first one being apple cider vinegar. Containing naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, apple cider vinegar or ACV has been used as a DIY ingredient to treat skin conditions from acne to athlete's foot to yeast infections. To treat your dog's paws with ACV, simply mix one part vinegar to one part warm water in a spray bottle and shake well before spraying onto infected skin. Be sure to allow your dog's paws to dry thoroughly, either by air drying or by gently rubbing them with a clean towel after several minutes.

Another way to treat a yeast infection with apple cider vinegar is to add a few teaspoons directly into your dog's water every day, which will attack the infection systemically. This method can also be done with probiotic-rich yogurt. To use yogurt to treat yeasty paws, add anywhere between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup of yogurt to your dog's meal daily, depending on his size.

Sores between dog toes treatment

If you notice other types of infection on your dog's paws, like sores between her toes, you may have something more serious than a yeast infection on your hands, no pun intended. For sores between dog toes, treatment will depend on what type of sores your dog has. The College of Veterinary Medicine at The University of Illinois states that interdigital cysts are fairly common but may make it difficult for your dog to walk, and can be treated with oral anti-inflammatories, laser therapy, or even surgery. Merck Veterinary Manual adds that some growth between toes can be abscesses caused by a bacterial infection and are usually treated with oral antibiotics or medicated foot soaks.