Yeast dermatitis or yeast infections, more formally known as Malessezia Dermatitis, can occur on almost any type, age or breed or dog. Most commonly it is found on dogs with double coats where the ideal warm, moist environments for the yeast to grow and spread are naturally more optimal. However, even short haired and single coated breeds of dogs do get yeast dermatitis under the right conditions.
All dogs have some yeast present on their skin at all times. During times of stress, during allergic reactions or even during different phases of the reproductive cycle the skin may produce additional oils, which lead to an ideal growth medium for the yeast. Dogs with naturally oily skin or with existing skin conditions such as seborrhea are the most likely candidates to develop yeast dermatitis. Since seborrhea may be caused by several factors it is very important to work closely with the vet to try to determine the cause of the excessive oil production. In addition there are also some breeds that are just more genetically likely to develop the condition. These breeds include Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Basset Hounds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Lhaso Apsos, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Silky and West Highland White Terriers and the Maltese. Although the disease looks and smells rather nasty, it is not contagious and cannot be spread between dogs, humans or other pets.
The first signs of yeast dermatitis are typically the constant scratching and licking at one area of the skin, very similar to the reaction to a hot spot. The owners may notice a rash or irritated looking patch that continues to worsen both with the dog's scratching and licking as well as with the increasing amount of yeast present. The skin will become wrinkly and elephant-like in appearance in the affected area, often with crusty, liquid looking lesions that have a very foul and noticeable odor. As the numbers of yeast on the skin increase, this condition can quickly spread across the dog's body.
The treatment of the yeast dermatitis is different depending on how large of an area of the skin is affected. For small skin areas or for small dogs a regular shampooing using anti-yeast shampoos to remove the oils from the skin that are feeding the yeast are often the first treatment option. In cases where there is a lot of skin affected, oral antibiotics are also prescribed to help the dog recover more quickly as well as to treat any secondary bacterial infections that may occur. Antibacterial skin wipes can be used to treat small areas and remove the oils from the skin.
The condition will likely occur again when the oils in the skin build up to appropriate levels to support the rampant growth of the yeast again. Routine bathing and treating all underlying nutritional, hormonal or metabolic disorders that may be contributing to the excessive oil production are critical in preventing another outbreak. Early treatment of even small areas needs to begin immediately when they are detected. For dogs that are constantly licking at the area an Elizabethan collar will be necessary, as will some type of protective dressing if they are scratching.