Yeast - or Malassezia otitis - infections are a common warm weather problem for dogs. Moist conditions, skin that is already irritated by other pests, and allergies cause yeast organisms to multiply quickly. Moist ear canals, under legs, foot pads and areas between toes are very susceptible to canine yeast infection.
Anti-yeast medications are effective against yeast infections. The underlying causes that make a dog a prime candidate for a yeast infection should also be addressed: mites, fleas and allergies. All of these are more of a problem for dogs in warm summer weather.
A yeast infection in a dog's ears is often a reaction to allergies and/or ear mites. Mast cells, located in a dog's ears, go into action to fight off allergens. The mast cells produce histamines, prostaglandins and other substances to counteract the allergens. This causes the dog's ears to over produce secretions and ear wax. Yeast spores are attracted to the ear wax and moisture, and the yeast multiplies quickly. Dogs may be allergic to the mites themselves, or other environmental conditions.
Yeast infections are usually diagnosed by the smell - it's bad. Yeast causes the irritated skin, or ear canal, to look pinkish-brown. Yeast also makes the skin and fur between a dog's toes turn pinkish-brown. Inflammation may be present. A veterinarian may detect a thick, spongy texture of the skin using a microscope. Yeast infections will make your dog scratch, too. Yeast infections itch.
Yeast infections are treated with clotramizole ointment, chlorhexidine rinse and other anti-yeast medications. Yeast will rarely clear up without aggressive treatment and veterinary supervision. Untreated, a yeast infection may abate, and then reappear when conditions are again prime for yeast growth.
Warm weather is "yeast' season. If your dog swims, lounges on damp concrete or is caught in one of Miami's regular summer downpours, make sure that he is well-dried afterward. Use a clean towel to gently dry ears. Keep fur trimmed from the ears, from behind the toes and other places that are prone to stay damp on your dog.
A yeast infection may progress quickly to a secondary bacterial infection. A dog should be discouraged from scratching or chewing yeast-infected patches. If a yeast infestation becomes infected, additional treatment with an antibiotic will be necessary.
If your dog suffers from frequent yeast infections, ask your veterinarian to screen for food allergies. Switching to a dog food specifically for highly-allergic dogs may resolve yeast problems.
To prevent a warm weather yeast infection, stay alert to the symptoms of allergies or pests. Ear mites are brown "dirty" clumps in a dog's ear. Fleas can be detected by the tiny black droppings and red bites they leave on your dog's skin. Use anti-flea medications as prescribed by your veterinarian. Allergies may be present if you dog scratches, rubs his head or ears, has runny eyes or stomach upset.