Paw yeast infections are one of the more common ailments of dogs. And although they aren’t life-threatening or likely to ruin your dog’s quality of life, they can be quite irritating for your pooch.
Accordingly, you’ll want to treat them promptly and help your dog to clear the infection as soon as possible.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
Yeasts are microscopic fungal organisms that live everywhere. There are about 800 identified species hanging out on planet earth (and likely many that remain undescribed as of yet), and they play a variety of roles in different ecosystems.
Some are important for making delicious treats like bread and beer, while others are pathogenic and cause medical problems. Others simply hang out and do yeasty things, without really being beneficial or problematic. There are undoubtedly countless yeast organisms on you, your dog, and everything you own at this very minute.
Most of these yeasts are of no concern, and they form a normal part of the microscopic world surrounding us at all times. But problems can occur when one of two things happen:
1) Your dog (or you, for that matter) comes into contact with a pathogenic yeast species.
2) The bacteria living on your dog’s body (or yours) begin experiencing problems, which allows normally benign yeasts to experience a population explosion.
It is the second occurrence that is likely the most common, and fortunately, it is often the easier of the two to treat.
What Are the Symptoms of a Dog Yeast Infection?
Your dog can display a number of different symptoms that indicate the presence of a yeast infection. Some of the most common include:
- Inflamed, swollen or red nail beds
- Musty odor coming from the paws
- Thickened skin
- Greasy skin
- Flaky, crusty skin on the paws
- Discharge from the skin or nail beds
- Swelling of the afflicted area
- Excessive chewing and licking of paws
Itchiness is typically the first thing owners notice, so if you see your dog constantly licking and chewing his feet, take a closer look (and be sure to give them a sniff – many owners report their dog’s paws smelling like corn chips, earning the title “Frito Feet”).
Keep in mind that the symptoms of a yeast infection vary depending upon the area in which the infection takes hold. We’re primarily focusing on yeast infections of the paws today, but dogs suffering from yeast infections in other parts of the body exhibit different symptoms.
For example, dogs who experience yeast infections of the urinary tract don’t get itchy paws. Instead, they feel the need to urinate more frequently.
Dogs who have yeast infections of the ears may flap them back and forth repeatedly. A distinctive musty odor (sometimes likened to cheese) is also commonly associated with yeast infections of the ears.
Are Any Dogs at Higher Risk of Yeast Infections than Others Are?
Some breeds (and combinations thereof) are more susceptible to yeast infections than others are. Some of the most susceptible breeds include:
- Shih Tzu
- Cocker Spaniel
- Basset hound
- West Highland white terrier
- German shepherd
Additionally, some medical conditions, including hormonal imbalances and allergies, can also increase your dog’s risk for suffering from a yeast infection.
Some dogs can even end up suffering from recurrent yeast infections due to some larger imbalance. In these cases, it will be necessary to treat the underlying condition to get the yeast problems under control.
So, What Do I Do When My Dog Has a Yeast Infection on His Paws?
First thing’s first: Always reach out to your vet anytime your dog is experiencing a health problem, particularly if it is a new issue which has never occurred before.
However, if your dog has suffered from yeast infections in the past, and you’ve already discussed the issue with your vet, you may be able to treat recurrences yourself.
Yeast infections are pretty common and easy for vets to diagnose; many feel comfortable doing so based on the combination of a detailed history, visual inspection, and the presence of the characteristic cheesy odor that accompanies yeast infections.
However, some vets may desire a bit more confirmation than this. There are a number of diagnostic techniques vets can do to verify the presence of yeast, but one of the simplest (and most common) is to collect superficial skin scrapings or take tape impressions from the afflicted area. These can then be inspected under a microscope, thereby producing a definitive diagnosis.
Once your vet is convinced that a yeast infection is the root of the problem, he or she will move on to effective treatment strategies. Typically, antifungal shampoos are the treatment of choice.
Yeast infections can also occur alongside bacterial infections, which will necessitate the use of shampoos that can not only take care of the yeast, but any harmful bacteria present as well. Also, because flea bite allergies are sometimes associated with yeast infections, your vet will likely ensure that you are providing your pet with a good preventative flea medication.
Home Treatments for Yeast Infections
In addition to veterinary assistance, there are a few things you can do to help prevent yeast infections from recurring in the future. You may even be able to help your dog get over very mild yeast infections at home.
Some of the best ways you can help include:
Keeping Your Dog’s Paws Clean and Dry
Your dog’s paws come into contact with some grade-A filth on a daily basis, and this undoubtedly includes plenty of yeasts. So, you may want to wash your dog’s paws off after returning from walks – particularly if your pooch has been running, jumping and playing in especially dirty places. Alternatively, it may be wise to fit him with some doggie booties to keep his feet clean.
If you are going to wash your dog’s paws, you must be sure to dry them thoroughly when you are finished, as damp conditions encourage the growth of yeast. Make sure you get between his toes when doing so, as well as all of the other cracks and crevices of his pad pads.
Remember that your dog’s sweat glands are primarily located in his paws, so it is wise to wipe down his feet after long walks or vigorous exercise.
Examine Your Dog’s Diet
Some foods are thought to increase your dog’s chances of suffering from a yeast infection. Typically, simple carbohydrates are to blame, so you may want to consider switching foods to combat yeast problems (with your vet’s guidance and consent).
It is also a good idea to cut back on the people food and any other unhealthy treats (especially those that are loaded with refined carbs, corn syrup, or similar ingredients) until you get the problem under control.
Bathe Your Dog’s Feet in a Weak Apple-Cider Vinegar Solution
The normal and beneficial bacteria that normally live on your dog’s skin thrive in a slightly acidic environment, while yeasts usually prefer a slightly alkaline environment instead. So, by bathing your dog’s paws in a weakly acidic solution, you may be able to help restore the conditions that will favor the bacteria and disfavor the yeasts.
Most advocates of these treatments use a 50:50 combination apple-cider vinegar and water. Just be careful to avoid applying it to any area with broken skin (ouch) and dry your pup’s paws thoroughly when you are finished.
Note that this treatment approach is only likely to be helpful with extremely mild cases of yeast infections, and it may actually exacerbate misidentified problems, such as bacterial infections. So, once again, it is always wise to touch base with your vet first.
Does your dog battle with yeast infections? Have you determined the reason he is susceptible to them? What types of things have you done to help alleviate the problem? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.