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Could Your Dog's Bad Odour Signal a Bigger Problem?

If your dog has a lingering and unpleasant odour, it could be a sign of a skin issue, often linked to an unbalanced immune system. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast, a common culprit behind that persistent "stinky dog" smell.

Yeast, particularly Malassezia pachydermatis, is a spore-like fungus that typically lives on your dog’s skin. Under normal circumstances, it coexists harmlessly. However, when it starts reproducing uncontrollably, it can lead to infection.

Dogs with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to these yeast infections, which frequently affect the skin and ears. The key to managing this issue is recognising the signs of infection early and using the most effective treatment available.

Remember, while your dog may have a distinct "doggy" aroma, it should never be overwhelmingly bad. If your pet's odour is persistently unpleasant, it’s time to address the root cause.

Immune System Imbalances and Your Dog's Health

If your dog has a weakened immune system, it may struggle to control yeast overgrowth.

Antibiotic treatments also pose a risk by reducing beneficial bacteria that protect the gut and skin. Factors such as high humidity, altered skin pH, and certain medications, such as chemotherapeutic agents and prolonged corticosteroid therapy, can further predispose dogs to yeast infections.

Yeast infections are most common in dogs with allergies. Allergies are immune overreactions, often treated with immunosuppressive drugs like Prednisone or Apoquel. While these medications reduce allergy symptoms, they can also impair the body's ability to manage normal flora, leading to yeast overgrowth.

Secondary skin infections in allergic dogs are frequently treated with antibiotics, which can exacerbate yeast issues. The more antibiotics used, the worse the yeast infections tend to become. Allergic dogs may even develop allergies to their own yeast, worsening the problem.

Where Do Most Yeast Infections Develop in Dogs?

Yeast infections can manifest anywhere on your dog’s body, particularly in moist, hidden areas like between the toes and within skin folds. However, the ears are the most common hotspot. Symptoms can range from mild to severe itching. Dogs with yeast infections between their toes often obsessively lick or chew their paws, while constant ear scratching typically indicates an ear infection.

You may also observe your dog scooting her rear across the floor or frantically scratching and chewing any itchy areas. This relentless itching can lead to trauma, sores, and significant discomfort. A distinct odour often accompanies yeast infections, described by some as akin to corn chips, cheese popcorn, or mouldy bread—a musty and overpowering smell.

Signs of a Yeast Infection:

  • Skin Irritation

  • Hair Loss

  • Greasy Fur

  • Secondary Bacterial Infections

  • Raised, Scaly Skin Patches

  • Redness and Inflammation: Especially around the ears, toes, pads, facial folds, anus, armpits, neck, and tail base.

  • Scaly or Oily Skin

  • Dark, Thickened Skin

  • Smelly, Yellow-Green Ear Discharge

  • Behavioural Changes: Including depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, and aggression.

Recognising these symptoms early can lead to quicker, more effective treatment, ensuring your dog stays happy and healthy.

Diagnosing a Yeast Infection

If you suspect your dog has a yeast infection, it is important to get a definitive diagnosis from a veterinarian who would typically use cytology, examining a skin swab under a microscope, or culturing, where a sterile skin swab is grown and identified in a lab. Most prefer cytology for identifying yeast overgrowth in dogs.

If an ear infection is diagnosed or suspected, it's crucial to confirm that the eardrums are intact before applying any liquids, gels, cleansers, or medications. Introducing products into the ear canals when eardrums are ruptured can harm the middle and inner ear.

Yeast infections in dogs often affect multiple areas, such as all four paws, both ears, or even the entire body.

The No. 1 Treatment for Chronic Yeast Infection: Diet

If your dog struggles with a chronic yeast infection, the most crucial factor to address is diet. Nutrition either supports your dog's immune system in managing yeast growth or exacerbates the problem. Dogs with yeast infections need an "anti-yeast diet," also known as the Prey Model Raw (PMR) diet, which is anti-inflammatory and species-specific.

Yeast thrives on sugar, and carbohydrates break down into sugar. Therefore, the first step is to eliminate all sources of starch from your dog's diet. Many popular pet foods contain hidden sugars, so don't assume that expensive means healthier.

To determine the starch content in your pet's dry food, follow these steps using the Carb Equation. Check the nutritional information on the packaging. Subtract the percentages of protein, fat, fiber, ash, and moisture from 100%. If ash and moisture values are not listed, use 8% as an average. The resulting percentage represents the carbohydrates in the food, typically between 30% and 60%. Pets don't need any starch in their diet, and higher starch levels can promote yeast growth. Overlooking diet is a common mistake in managing chronic yeast infections in pets.

Proper nutrition helps balance flora levels naturally. Additionally, consider adding natural antifungal foods to your dog's diet. Small amounts of fresh garlic, thyme, parsley, and oregano can help reduce yeast levels. Fermented veggies, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil (which contains caprylic acid with anti-Malassezia properties) are also beneficial.

Research indicates that a fresh food diet diversifies a dog’s skin microbiome. Spore-forming probiotics can further help balance this microbiome.

The Solution is a Two-Pronged Strategy:

First, let's fuel our dogs with a diet that truly mirrors what they’d eat in the wild—a PMR Diet (Prey Model Raw). This raw, species-appropriate diet is free from preservatives and sugars, slamming the door on those pesky bacteria and yeast. By feeding your dog a varied diet of natural prey, you ensure they receive all the essential nutrients they crave.

Second, introduce a quality probiotic such as our MicroMed or Barks and Whiskers brands. The MicroMed product also comes in a handy topical spray, which, when used with the oral version, can be extremely effective in balancing the microbiome.  These daily formulas, easily added to your dog’s food and body, flood their gut and skin with healthy microbes, outcompeting harmful fungi and bacteria. Together, these steps fortify your dog’s defences, making their body a fortress against any threats. Embrace this natural approach for long-lasting health and unparalleled vitality for your pet.



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