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Yeast Dermatitis (Malassezia dermatitis)

Yeast dermatitis is one of the most common infections of the skin and is particularly common on the Northern Beaches. Yeast and bacteria are part of the normal skin flora. They can be found in low numbers without causing any damage. Common locations to find these organisms are lovely moist nooks and crannies such as between the toes, around the mouth, in the armpits, groin and ears.

The skin acts as a protective barrier to the external environment, however any breaks in this barrier can lead to infection. A yeast infection is often a result of an underlying condition causing irritation and moistness of the skin and overpopulation of these organisms.

Predisposing Factors

  • Allergy
  • Excessive moisture, sebum production
  • Skin trauma
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Metabolic diseases (hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism)
  • Breed predisposition (West Highland White Terrier, Basset Hound, Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels)

The Skin Response

The skin responds to external challenges in 2 ways: activation of the immune system and thickening. Dogs with yeast infections are often itchy and have a musty odour. Other clinical signs are:

  • Excessive licking of affected area
  • Brown discoloration of the fur between the toes
  • Redness
  • Crusty, scaling, flaky skin
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Greasy skin
  • Thickened or hyperpigmented skin.

Diagnosis

A compromised skin barrier not only leads to yeast infections, bacterial infections are common as well. Both conditions can present with similar clinical signs, but the treatment differs. It is important to know what is causing the skin problem to treat it effectively.

Skin cytology is the easiest and fastest way to diagnose and differentiate between a yeast or bacterial dermatitis. The sticky tape technique involves collecting cells from the surface of the skin by pressing a piece of tape multiple times onto the affected area. The tape is then dyed with a special stain and examined by your veterinarian under a microscope.

Malassezia around the mouth. See the peanut shaped organisms
STP of Malassezia from a foot.
No Malassezi are seen on the STP of the foot. The small dots are cocci bacteria.

Treatment

Antifungal treatment is based on the severity of your dog’s condition. Basic treatment starts with anti-fungal shampoos and creams but often anti-fungal medication is also needed to be given by mouth. Oral medication is particularly useful if the problem is widespread and has been present for some time.

The average duration of treatment is 4 weeks. A repeat consultation with further cytology is very useful to make sure the problem has resolved and to plan long term management.

Management

Once your pet’s skin problem has resolved, your veterinarian can guide you on the best way to manage the skin. Skin problems are always about management. This can be much more difficult in dogs, as they tend to lick and traumatise the smallest itchy spot and make any skin problem much, much worse. 

It is important to remember that yeast dermatitis is often secondary to an underlying problem. For treatment to be successful, the underlying cause must be identified and managed.

Management with medicated shampoo 1-2 times weekly or daily wipes of affected areas help reduce occurrence. Regular cleaning of your dog’s bedding helps remove allergens that your dog could be allergic to and decreased the yeast numbers in the environment. Washed bedding is best dried in direct sunlight. 

If you are concerned your pet may have Malassezia Dermatitis it is best to book an appointment with one of our veterinarians. We can help you manage the problem and ensure that the skin condition does not deteriorate.

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Or call on  9913 7979

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