How can I tell if my dog is suffering from a skin yeast infection, bacterial infection or allergies and what is the best course of treatment for each?

Original Question: Hello, my father-in-law listens to you on the radio all the time and suggested that I contact you with a question about our dog in hopes that you can help me. Here’s the issue, we recently found out our seven-year-old miniature Schnauzer is covered in a skin yeast infection. We purchased an anti-fungal shampoo and bathe her every few days. We'll also spray her with a water/apple cider vinegar blend in between bath days and have taken her off her grain free food that contained sweet potato. We made her a homemade meatloaf with beef, quinoa, broccoli, garlic, oregano and a little coconut oil. Does it sound like we're doing the right thing? Any suggestions on what else we could do or what type of food we should feed her to fight this (we aren't too big on a raw diet and would like to avoid it if possible). It’s very challenging to find dog food without oats, grains, starches or other high sugar sources. Also do you suggest an antibiotic to treat this? Much appreciated! - Teresa

How can I tell if my dog is suffering from a skin yeast infection, bacterial infection or allergies and what is the best course of treatment for each? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Angie,

Thanks for your question. I really appreciate it.

So this is an interesting question for me. You start by saying there is a yeast infection but you end by saying should we treat with an antibiotic – an antibiotic will not cure a yeast infection. My first thought is whether you truly know that this is a yeast infection.

I recommend that your vet perform a skin scraping to determine if this is a yeast infection. If it is, then you could consider using the anti-fungal shampoo every day. Be sure to leave the shampoo lathered on your dog for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing it off. If the infection is still not under control, you can consider starting on oral anti-fungal medication. These medications can be a little bit hard on the liver, some more so than others. Have a discussion with your veterinarian about which one might be right and consider doing some liver testing before and during the treatment to make sure your dog is tolerating it well. If this is truly a yeast infection then this should permanently resolve it.

You’ve mentioned diet in your question a lot about diet. This leads me to believe that you’re concerned about allergies. It’s very common for chronic recurrent skin problems to be caused by a combination of allergies, bacterial infections, and possibly a yeast infection. The allergies can create an inflammation of the skin that potentiates the other infections to develop. It’s hard to confirm if it is allergies when there’s other infections going on so the first thing you need to do is resolve the infection. If it’s a yeast infection you’ll be able to cure it with what I’ve already mentioned. If bacteria’s present, I’d recommend an antibiotic at the same time and then re-check the skin scraping after the entire treatment is completed. If yeast still remains then I would continue treatment for it however, if bacteria still remains, then I would have you consider performing a bacterial culture and sensitivity test. This test will grow whichever bacteria is on your dog’s skin and tell you exactly what antibiotic treatment is required.

Once the infections are gone, you can then assess for allergies.  It’s a complicated disease process to treat and I encourage you to take a look at our article ‘Dealing With Your Pet’s Allergies’,  video ‘What You Should Know About Over-the-Counter Antihistamine Use in Dogs & Cats’, as well as our chart ‘Antihistamine Medications for Dogs’ to further educate yourself about this topic. Again, have a look at these resources and be sure to do the treatments I’ve already mentioned and I think you’ll be able to resolve your dog’s health issues.

I wish you all the best. Good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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