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    PeterDobias.com / Blog / health knowledge

    9 step natural treatment plan for skin yeast infections (Malassezia) in dogs

    By Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. His love of dogs and passion for natural healing and nutrition led him to writing, teaching and helping people create health naturally, without drugs, chemicals and processed food.

  • 1. Introduction
    • 2. What is Malassezia yeast?
      • 3. How is Malassezia diagnosed?
        • 4. What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
          • 5. Yeast infection (Malassezia) treatment
          • 6. Natural and drug free treatment of yeast and fungal infections in dogs
          • 7. Prognosis and summary
            • Introduction

              When I am out and about walking with Pax I really enjoy speaking with other dog lovers we meet along the way. Something I often hear is that their dog has been diagnosed with yeast, and then it usually continues with a story about how difficult the treatment has been and that it hasn’t worked very well.

              Perhaps your dog is one of t
              hose dogs who suffers from a yeast infection, if so, this article is for you. If your pooch is lucky enough to be able to keep yeast at bay, I suggest you also continue reading because It never hurts to have extra knowledge in your arsenal, just in case your vet ever says: “Your dog has a yeast infection and needs to be put on drugs.”

              This blog will help you make your dog’s yeast infection a story of the past, allowing them to live a much happier and healthier life.

              What is Malassezia yeast?

              Malassezia is a harmless yeast species that lives on skin, and is the most common microorganism on healthy skin, however when given a chance, its population can get out of control and cause a lot of damage when the right (wrong) conditions arise. Malassezia loves skin that is inflamed, weakened, or traumatized.

              magnified image of Malassezia yeast

              The immune system of healthy skin normally keeps Malassezia yeast in check, but when the defences fail, yeast infiltrates to deeper skin layers, aggravating the immune system and causing serious chronic skin disease.

              This problem is so common that some people assume the yeasty smell is normal for dogs — but it isn’t!

              How is Malassezia diagnosed?

              Unlike bacteria, which is quite easy to cultivate in a petri dish, yeast and fungi are very difficult to grow in vitro.

              The diagnosis of a Malassezia infection is rather tricky, because its presence does not necessarily mean it causes the pathology to be seen.

              Note: Skin biopsies are not a reliable diagnostic method and microscopic examination of a skin sample collected by skin scraping, swabbing, or using acetate tape is more helpful.

              The problem is that yeast is the most numerous microorganism on healthy skin, which makes the diagnosis of a true “yeast infection” difficult. Also, Malassezia yeast infections are always secondary to an underlying cause.   

              The most important question that you and your veterinarian should ask is:

              “What is the primary cause of the skin yeast infection and why does yeast, which normally lives in harmony with the body, “go rogue” and cause serious problems?”

              What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

              Before I describe the symptoms, remember that Malassezia yeast infections are always secondary to an underlying cause that deserves your primary focus. In a healthy dog, yeast exists in harmony with the host despite being the most common microorganism on the skin’s surface.

              However, when the defences fail and the yeast population grows out of control this leads to actual skin disease.

              In such cases dogs present with either generalized or localized symptoms of hair loss, and itchy, greasy, red and flaky skin that can thicken and increase in pigmentation over time.


              a dog with a skin yeast infection around their eyeYeast and fungal infection can also affect the nails and ears, which can be seen as an extension of the skin, and therefore the same approach to treatment can be applied.

              Yeast infection (Malassezia) treatment


              This is where you as a dog lover must be on guard.

              When a dog is given a yeast infection diagnosis, the typical response is to use topical or oral anti-fungal drugs, which are often ineffective and come with an array of undesirable side-effects that can seriously affect your dog’s health and lifespan.

              In order to illustrate what each of the common treatments does, let me explain in detail.

              Anti-fungal shampoos

              Conventional treatment protocols recommend bathing with shampoos containing anti-fungals like miconazole, ketoconazole, in addition to chlorhexidine. The condition may subside for some time, but usually it comes back, the treatment has to be repeated and eventually stops working.

              Cons: Such treatment doesn’t consider the underlying primary causes of disease that I will mention later on in this article. Also, medicinal shampoos do not act selectively, instead they also destroy other beneficial microorganisms living on the skin, which comes with further negative consequences and disrupts the eco-system of the skin.

              Topical anti-fungal creams

              The cons I mentioned about anti-fungal shampoos also apply to creams.

              The only additional problem is that dogs generally lick ointments and creams off, which makes them ingest petroleum products as well as the anti-fungal medicines within the cream.

              Oral (systemic) anti-fungal medication

              I am always cautious when it comes to oral “anti-anything” medication, and have experienced only a few situations where they would be truly needed, after the true and primary cause of fungal and yeast infections is addressed.  

              I would like to emphasize that the term “side-effects” stands for the effects of the medication that have just been put in a separate category.

              The irony is that many people assume that side-effects do not happen to them or their dogs when they administer drugs, and I believe this is one of the biggest reasons why conventional drugs are still so widely used.

              Common systemic anti-fungal medications and their side-effects

              The biggest group of anti-fungal drugs are those ending with “-azole” and indeed they are called “azoles”:

              Ketoconazole is one of the most commonly used anti-fungal medications that also suppresses the body’s immune system and inflammation.  

              At first this may seem beneficial, however, such effects have a greater impact on the healthy functioning of the body.

              15 out of 100 patients will experience side-effects such as vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and elevated liver enzymes. Ketaconazole is hepatotoxic — meaning, it can damage the liver.

              Itraconazole and Fluconazole are other antifungal agents that penetrate deeper into the tissues and have a longer half-life than ketoconazole. The side-effects are the same, including digestive issues and hepatotoxicity. Drugs that stay in the system longer can have a greater negative impact on the body.

              Terbinafine is different from the -azoles, however the range of side-effects is similar: vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, liver enzyme elevation, and excessive panting.

              If you are wondering what anti-fungal drug I would choose for a dog with a fungal or yeast skin infection, the honest answer is NONE!

              Treating one problem while causing another, such as liver disease, should be a concern for every practitioner who should at least discuss such risks with the owner and warn about the high likelihood of side-effects. Sadly, this often doesn’t happen.

              As I mentioned above, fungal or yeast infections frequently reappear when the anti-fungal drugs are stopped, unless the primary disease cause is addressed.

              To summarize, anti-fungal and antibiotic medication should be used as the very last resort, as they carry numerous risks, and further disturb the metabolic and microbiome balance of the body.

              Natural and drug free treatment of yeast and fungal infections in dogs.

              A closer look at the true causes of yeast (Malassezia) infections

              For starters, I would like to present you with a list of primary causes and then give you more information about each of them, including links and references to other materials that you may find helpful.

              1. Dog food and treats
              2. Deficiency of essential nutrients
              3. Endocrine issues (hormonal disease)
              4. Weakened immune system
              5. Toxicity
              6. Compromised and weakened skin – blood, nerve and “electrical” flow
              7. Collar injuries
              8. Back problems
              9. Stressful living conditions
              10. Too frequent bathing
              11. Overuse of anti-fungal medication and chemical shampoos leading to a disruption of the microbiome
              12. Use of steroid medication

              If your head is spinning right now, do not worry, I will go through each of these steps in enough detail for you to understand but not feel overwhelmed.

              Before you start…

              The most important thing is to ensure that your dog does not have an underlying disease. Ideally, if your dog has an ongoing chronic skin disease and has been diagnosed with a yeast infection, ensure that a full blood panel is done, including urine examination, and endocrine testing for:

              Cushing’s disease (click here to learn more)
              Hypothyroidism (click here to learn more)

              A skin exam should be done for parasites such as mange, fleas, lice and a fecal sample for intestinal parasites.

              When the above is completed, you can take your dog through the following 9 step program of yeast infection treatment.

              Dog Food and treats

              Processed food is one of the key reasons why yeast “goes rogue” within the body. Here are the main problems with processed kibble or canned food:

              • It is not species appropriate, as dogs do not eat grain, wood fibre, fillers and preservatives.
              • It is stored for months, and sometimes years, which makes it rancid.
              • It is usually made from low quality ingredients.
              • If the food is human grade, it is still heavily processed and stored for a long time.
              • Kibble stresses the gut and the immune system, as 80% of immune function is closely related to gut health.
              • Carbohydrates in food increase the chances of Malassezia skin overgrowth.
              • All of the above also applies to processed dog treats.

              If you are worried about switching your dog’s food or going against your veterinarian’s advice, I understand, but that should not stop you from trying. I have been recommending a natural raw or cooked diet for more than 25 years with great results, and a raw or cooked diet is safer and better for your dog than processed food.

              After all, no human doctors recommend that you eat processed food instead of wholesome food, and the same should apply to dogs.

              If you still feed kibble, be kind to yourself, most likely it is because of the influence of giant pet food companies and your veterinarian (who has been indoctrinated by their mantra of “processed food and kibble”).

              You must decide who you trust, but your dog’s health is at stake.
              FYI, I do not sell or endorse any dog food.


              • Feed your dog either a cooked or raw diet by using the Healthy Dog Food Recipe Maker. Make your dog treats at home in small batches. Do not put any rice, pasta, or flour in your dog’s food or treats.

              Deficiency of essential nutrients 

              Skin is the largest organ in the body and it depends heavily on essential nutrients such as mineralsvitaminsOmega-3, and probiotics. It is highly likely that your dog is missing many essential nutrients as soils are overused and depleted, and therefore produce depleted food.

              In reality, the question is not if your dog is depleted, but how much, and because the body cannot make essential nutrients on its own, these nutrients must be supplemented in the most natural form available.


              • If your dog suffers from yeast infections or if you just want to prevent them. Here are the four essential nutrients we call the Fab4.


              The Fab4 essential supplements for dogs

              Endocrine issues (hormonal disease)

              As I mentioned above, your veterinarian must make sure that your dog is not suffering from two common hormonal conditions: Cushing’s disease and Hypothyroidism.

              Weakened immune system

              There are many reasons why immunity can be weakened, but the most common one is poor gut health. Other factors that play a role are deficiencies, stress, and also steroid and immuno-suppressive treatments, which are commonplace in veterinary medicine.

              Poor intestinal health and low immunity are also related to frequent prescriptions of antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections.

              Just remember, yeast infections of the skin must be treated from the inside out, and topical treatments aimed only at destroying yeast or bacteria usually deliver poor or very short lasting results.


              Toxins within the body can be seen as the hooligans at a soccer game. They wreak havoc in the body’s metabolism and can lead to weakened immunity. This is an indisputable fact. At the same time, it would be difficult to determine the exact effect of each chemical compound.

              The safest way to go is to consciously aim to reduce the toxin levels in your dog’s environment and body by feeding fresh wholesome food, using natural cleaning products, and discontinuing use of any pesticides or chemicals.



              • Twice per year, detox your dog with LiverTune.
              • Avoid using toxic flea and tick products and choose natural and fully guaranteed alternatives FleaHex and TickHex.

              Compromised and weakened skin - blood, nerve and “electrical” flow

              There are many reasons for skin to be weakened, however, the most common one is related to local or general restrictions of blood, nerve, and electrical (energy) flow to the affected skin.

              Skin health is closely related to the spine and its segments, and each segment of the spine supplies blood and nutrients to a particular patch of skin. The same applies to nerves and energy lines, the so-called meridians.

              Energy lines of the spine

              This could be compared to a garden with a watering system, where each branch supplies a particular garden bed with nutrients. If any of the branches are clogged, pinched or broken, the garden bed doesn’t thrive, and the same happens to the skin when the spine is injured or muscles are tight and inflamed.  

              If a spinal segment is injured, inflamed or congested, the adjacent skin health and immunity deteriorates and the yeast and bacteria population can easily spin out of control.

              The same can happen when a local muscle is injured, the flow is blocked and disease occurs. Dogs also frequently scratch at the injured area, which further traumatizes the body.

              What are the most common causes of injuries?

              Dog collars – read more here.Dog on a choke chain collar and leash
              Wrong activity and exercise that lead to spinal issues – read more here.

              Remember that most veterinarians have not been adequately trained to recognize subtle changes in the spine and muscles as a result of injuries.

              Sometimes, dogs twitch their skin, chew, lick, or scratch repeatedly at a certain area, which can be a sign of inflammation, abnormal sensation, or pain.


              Stressful living conditions or use of steroid medication

              You may be surprised that I have put these two together. The reason is that excessive stress or the administration of steroid drugs for skin disease both lead to an excess of steroid hormones within the body, immune system suppression, and a greater chance of yeast and bacterial skin overgrowth.


              One of the biggest mistakes in treating yeast and fungal infections in dogs is to try to “wash them off” despite the fact that the core of the problem lies deep within the body.

              Bathing dogs with yeast infections rarely helps, and it definitely doesn’t address their deeper origin.

              In fact, repeated washing and moisture creates optimal conditions for yeast growth, and the use of chemical anti-fungal and antibacterial shampoos leads to further destruction of the skin microbiome (the beneficial bacteria that normally colonizes healthy skin).


              • Use a gentle non-chemical shampoo once or maximum twice per month, or less often if your dog has a yeast infection. Washing your dog more frequently is like trying to wash your car when your engine is broken.
              • If your dog is itchy and in discomfort, use herbal Skin Spray, which is an all-natural solution to reduce itching and inflammation of the skin. This will help calm the skin in addition to the treatment plan above. Find Skin Spray here.

              Remember that the problem is internal, no matter how external it appears, and Skin Spray is intended to calm the irritated and inflamed skin while the rest of the treatment plan is implemented.

              Prognosis and summary

              Assuming that your dog has not been diagnosed with a hormonal condition, and is not on steroidsantibiotics, or anti-fungal medication, you should start seeing positive changes in your dog within 4 weeks after starting the protocol outlined above.

              If your dog has other underlying problems, or has been on steroids even once, treatment will be lengthier, but possible with good guidance from an open-minded veterinarian.

              Do your best to resist the temptation of using drugs again, as they only delay suffering and cause more problems in the long run.

              Skin disease is sometimes difficult to face, as we don’t like to see dogs in discomfort, but it is rarely fatal. On the other hand, liver disease and other drug related problems can be more serious.

              Have patience, and step-by-step, you will begin seeing positive changes.

              Good luck, and give your dog a hug for me! ❤️

              PS:  Below is a summary of all the suggestions I have made in this article.
              • Feed your dog either a cooked or raw diet by using the Healthy Dog Food Recipe Maker. Make your dog treats at home in small batches. Do not put any rice, pasta, or flour in your dog’s food or treats.
              • If your dog suffers from yeast infections or if you just want to prevent them. Here are the four essential nutrients we call the Fab4.
              • Detox twice per year with LiverTune.
              • Avoid using toxic flea and tick products and choose natural and fully guaranteed alternatives FleaHex and TickHex.
              • Read the articles on dog collar injuries and exercise injuries.
              • Stop using retractable leashes and get a Gentle Leash.
              • Never attach a leash to a collar. Get a well fitted harness for your dog.
              • Have your dog assessed by a chiropractor, physical therapist, acupuncturist or other therapist familiar with spinal alignment and rehabilitation.
              • Use a gentle non-chemical shampoo once or maximum twice per month, or less often if your dog has a yeast infection. Washing your dog more frequently is like trying to wash your car when your engine is broken.
              • If your dog is itchy and in discomfort, use herbal Skin Spray, which is an all-natural solution to reduce itching and inflammation of the skin. This will help calm the skin in addition to the treatment plan above. Find Skin Spray here.

              Click here for an audio version of this blog post. 


              Anti-yeast arsenal collection page


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              Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. He graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 in the Czech Republic and obtained the Canadian Certificate of Qualification in 1995. He is currently licensed in the European Union, and his unique approach to healing and nutrition helps holistically minded dog lovers worldwide.

              Dr. Dobias strongly believes that disease prevention, natural nutrition and supplements, the right exercise and a drug free approach to medicine can add years to your dog's life.

              As a formulator of his all-natural vitamin and supplement line and co-inventor of natural, chemical free flea and tick control, FleaHex® and TickHex®, his unique healing system and products currently hold the highest independent five star customer rating. For more information click here.

              Any general recommendations that Dr. Dobias makes are not a substitute for the appropriate veterinary care and are for informational and educational purposes only.

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