A yeast infection on a dog’s paw is actually a very common problem for dogs and is a common reason for itchy paws. And although dogs can suffer from yeast infections and itchy skin on just about any portion of their bodies, the paws are one of the most common places a yeast infection occurs.
This type of itchiness will usually cause dogs to spend lots of time licking and chewing on their paws. A dog paw yeast infection can be extremely irritating for your canine, and they can even predispose your dog to other painful skin conditions.
Fortunately, yeast infections – particularly those that afflict a dog’s paws – are often easy to treat, and most dogs will heal relatively quickly.
We’ll talk about what dog yeast infections are, why they occur, some symptoms of dog yeast infections on the paws and how they can be treated below.
Back to Basics: What Are Yeast Infections in Dogs?
Yeasts are single-celled fungal organisms, who feed on sugars and other carbohydrates. Many yeasts are ubiquitous and found throughout the environment; some even live on the skin and inside the ears of dogs. Other yeasts only live in very specific environments.
Some yeasts are pathogenic, meaning that they typically cause illness. These types of yeasts are usually contracted from a single “portal of entry,” as the Merck Veterinary Manual explains, before being disseminated to multiple locations or organ systems. Your dog is most likely to pick up such yeasts from the soil.
Other yeasts are opportunistic. For example, Malassezia pachydermatis – one of the most commonly implicated yeast species that cause infections in dogs – is part of your dog’s normal microbial skin flora.
Assuming your dog is healthy, his immune system will keep these yeast populations in check, thereby preventing the yeasts from causing problems. Some of the bacteria that normally live on your dog’s skin also help to compete with the yeasts and further restrict their growth.
However, when your dog consumes an overabundance of carbohydrates, suffers from an autoimmune disease or experiences a disruption in the normal microbial flora of the skin, the yeast population can explode.
The yeast cells can produce hyphal outgrowths, which penetrate the skin or mucous membranes, leading to irritation.
Where Do Yeast Infections Occur in Dogs?
Yeast infections most commonly occur in the paws or ears of dogs.
Both areas have numerous skin folds and crevices that can trap moisture and provide the environmental conditions that are conducive to yeast growth. Additionally, your dog’s paws are frequently in contact with the ground, which is often contaminated with yeast organisms.
Infections also commonly occur on other portions of the skin, the nasal passages or in the urinary tract.
Typically, yeast infections occur in one location, but they can afflict multiple areas of the body in rare cases.
Dog Yeast Infection Symptoms
Yeast infections in dogs can cause a wide variety of problems, but some of the most common signs and symptoms of yeast infections include:
- Paw chewing
- Paw licking
- Itchy paws
- Itchy ears
- Itchy skin
- Ear flapping
- Head tilting
- Skin inflammation
- The presence of crusty, yellow scale-like flakes on the skin
- Thickened, leathery skin
- Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin)
- Moldy, musty odor (often likened to cheese)
- Discharge from the afflicted area
- Red nail beds
- Frequent urination
Which Dogs Are Most Vulnerable to Yeast Infections?
Any dog can come down with a yeast infection, but some are at a much higher risk of developing them than others. Some of those at highest risk include:
- Dogs who spend lots of time outdoors
- Dogs kept in damp kennels
- Dogs who exhibit compulsive licking or chewing behaviors
- Dogs with exceptionally furry paws
- Dogs who are bathed too frequently
- Tracking dogs
- Hunting dogs
- Dogs who swim frequently
- Dogs kept in crowded conditions
- Dogs with compromised immune systems
- Dogs suffering from other health problems
Additionally, yeast infections appear to be more common in some breeds than others. Some of the most frequently afflicted breeds include:
- German Shepherd
- West Highland White Terrier
- Basset Hound
- Shih Tzu
- Cocker Spaniel
- English Setter
If your dog is a member of one of the breeds listed above or fits into one of the aforementioned categories, you’ll want to remain observant for the first signs of a yeast infection.
This way, you can begin treatment promptly and hopefully stop the problem before it causes serious symptoms.
SEE ALSO: 10 Tips to Protect Your Dog’s Paws
The Importance of Veterinary Assistance When Treating Dog Paw Yeast Infections
The first thing you’ll want to do anytime you suspect your dog is suffering from a yeast infection in his paws (or anywhere else) is to visit your vet.
Yeast infections can produce symptoms that are quite similar to bacterial infections and other health problems. Accordingly, it is imperative that you obtain a positive diagnosis, as the treatments for yeast infections are often very different than the treatments for other problems.
Additionally, yeast infections of the paws can be secondary to other medical problems. For example, flea allergies, environmental allergies and food allergies can all cause your dog to lick and bite at his feet.
This will cause your dog’s toes to remain moist for long periods of time, which, when combined with the original condition that caused the itchiness, often allows yeasts to colonize your dog’s feet.
In these types of cases, you’ll have to treat both the yeast infection on the paws and the underlying problem to have success – otherwise, the yeast infection may not respond to the treatment, or it may return after going away for a short time.
Veterinary Treatments for Dogs With a Paw Yeast Infection
To get to the bottom of possible yeast infection on your dog’s paw, your vet will likely begin by taking a detailed history. He or she will ask you questions like:
- What are your dog’s primary symptoms?
- When did the symptoms first start to appear?
- Where does your dog spend most of his time?
- Does your dog swim frequently or hang out in damp locations?
- Do they occur at all times or do the symptoms come and go?
- What food are you feeding your pet?
- How often do you bathe your dog?
- What flea treatment do you use for your pet?
- Is your pet on any medication?
- Has your pet ever had a yeast infection before?
After you answer his or her questions, the vet will likely examine your pet’s paws very carefully. Your vet will probably collect a sample of the discharge or scabs around the afflicted areas too, as this will help provide a positive identification.
Samples can be obtained in a number of different ways, but the simplest way involves simply scraping some of the tissue away from the skin with a scalpel.
After verifying that a yeast is the causal organism (and treating any underlying bacterial or physiological problems that may have led to the yeast infection), your vet will likely prescribe an anti-fungal medication.
Usually, these medicines will take the form of shampoos, wipes, sprays or topical creams, but oral medications are sometimes required in serious cases. Some dogs fail to clear these paw infections entirely, even with medical help.
In such cases, you’ll likely have to use anti-fungal medications for the rest of your dog’s life.
Dog Paw Yeast Infection Home Remedy
While you’ll need your vet’s help to both identify and treat a yeast infection on dog paws, you can do a few things to help prevent them from occurring and accelerate the healing process.
Consider the following six home remedies for a yeast infection on your dog’s paws:
1. Keep Your Dog’s Paws Dry
Yeast loves damp, moist crevices, and your dog’s wet paws can provide exactly these types of conditions. This can be especially problematic if his paws are allowed to remain wet for long periods of time. Just be sure to dry your dog’s feet thoroughly after baths or walks in the rain.
2. Examine Your Dog’s Food
Carbohydrate-packed dog foods may contribute to problems with yeast, as this increases the availability of food to the tiny organisms. Additionally, some foods can trigger food allergies, which can lead to yeast infections if not addressed promptly (be sure to check out our guide to the best dog food for yeast infections).
3. Clean Your Dog’s Paws After Walks
Your dog’s paws are likely to collect yeasts, bacteria, and other pathogens while on walks, so it may be wise to clean them off once you get home. This will reduce the number of pathogens on your dog’s feet and reduce the likelihood of a yeast infection taking hold.
You can clean your dog’s feet in the bathtub with a little soap and water (just be sure to dry them thoroughly once you’re done), but it is usually easier to use dog wipes that are designed to eliminate yeasts and bacteria.
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4. Cut Back on the Processed People Foods
Many processed human foods are full of sugars and carbohydrates, so sharing them with your dog may cause or exacerbate existing yeast infections in dog paws. Additionally, people foods can also represent a potential trigger for food allergies, and they’re rarely good for your dog’s waistline.
There’s probably nothing wrong with giving your dog the occasional French fry or steamed carrot, but don’t make it a habit.
5. Use a Good Preventative Flea Treatment
Flea bites can cause your dog’s paws to itch, which will usually cause him to chew or lick his paws repeatedly. This means your dog’s paws will remain damp for long periods of time, which will provide the kind of conditions that allow yeasts to thrive.
Additionally, some dogs become allergic to flea bites, which will often trigger even more paw-licking behavior than typical flea problems will. You can check out our guide to the best flea treatments for dogs to find a good solution for your pet.
6. Apply a Vinegar Solution to Your Dog’s Paws
A 25% to 50% solution of apple cider may help get your dog’s yeast infection under control. Vinegar has a low (acidic) pH, which can help make the skin on your dog’s paws less hospitable to yeasts.
A dog paw yeast infection soak isn’t always effective, and it is highly unlikely to resolve significant yeast infections, but it is relatively safe and often worth trying.
Just mix a cup of apple cider vinegar with two to four cups of water and apply the solution to your dog’s paws with a rag or cotton ball. Just use a little bit, as you don’t want your dog’s paws to stay wet for very long. You’ll probably need to do so about once a day for a week or two to have a realistic chance of success.
Just be sure that you stop applying apple cider vinegar to your dog’s paws if it begins to irritate your dog’s skin, or if it fails to produce results.
Paw Yeast Infection FAQs
Many owners have questions about yeast infections, so we’ve tried to answer some of the most common below.
Ans. The best yeast infection treatment for dogs paws is to visit your vet and use a prescription anti-fungal medication. However, apple cider vinegar can sometimes be used to eliminate yeast infections.
Ans. While it is difficult to completely eliminate the possibility of yeast infections, you can reduce the chances that your dog will suffer from one by keeping his paws and ears dry, feeding a nutritious food, and using a good preventative flea treatment. It is also wise to limit the amount of people food you feed your pet.
Ans. A 25% to 50% solution of apple cider vinegar and water can sometimes help eliminate a dog yeast infection in the paws, but it is unlikely to be effective for treating serious infections. Just dab the solution on your dog’s paws with a cotton ball about once per day until the infection disappears. If it doesn’t work within about a week, you’ll need to visit your vet.
Ans. Dogs are exposed to yeast organisms all the time, but the immune systems of dogs and the beneficial bacteria living on your dog’s skin usually prevent the yeasts from multiplying and causing problems. Accordingly, most yeast infections occur when a dog is already battling some other health condition.
Ans. Yeast infections can occur in several different body parts, but they most commonly occur on the paws and inside the ears. They can, however, occur on any portion of your dog’s skin, as well as internal organs, such as the bladder.
Ans. Yeast infections aren’t likely to kill your dog, but they can make him very miserable. Additionally, if left unchecked, yeast infections can also trigger bacterial infections and other serious sequelae. Accordingly, it is important to treat yeast infections promptly.
Has your dog ever suffered a dog paw yeast infection? What did you do to treat the problem and stop paw licking or chewing? Was it easy to clear, or did it take months of constant treatment?
Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.