"Malassezia Dermatitis in Dogs
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"Malassezia Dermatitis in Dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Malassezia are types of yeast found in the top layers of a dog's skin and when all is okay, they do not cause any sort of a problem. They work in conjunction with other types of bacteria in a beneficial way. The most common type found on a dog's skin is called Malassezia pachydermatis which is not only found on the skin's outer layers, but also in a dog’s ear canals and mucosal surfaces. The problem starts when the levels of Malassezia rise which can then cause an irritation and inflammation of the skin.

It is thought there could be several reasons why a harmless yeast suddenly causes a problem which includes the following:

  • An increase in humidity - yeasts thrive in areas of the body that are moist which includes the fold and creases found in a dog's skin as well as in their ear canals
  • An increase in the level of nutrients as well as growth factors - dogs that already suffer from skin disorders, a hormonal disease or have some sort of allergic skin disorder are more at risk of developing Malassezia Dermatitis
  • Genetics - breeds known to be predisposed to inheriting any sort of skin disorder are also more at risk of developing the condition. As such, genetics may well play a part in why some dogs suffer from Malassezia Dermatitis more than others

Breeds More at Risk

There are certain breeds that appear to be more at risk of developing Malassezia Dermatitis than others and this includes the following:

  • Bassett Hounds
  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • Boxers
  • West Highland White Terriers

Signs to Watch Out For

The condition is quite commonly seen in dogs and the most obvious sign of there being a problem is when they develop itchy and sore looking skin on certain parts of their bodies. The areas that tend to be the most affected include the following:

  • Lips
  • Neck
  • Ear canals
  • Armpits
  • In folds of skin more especially around the face
  • In between toes

Dogs with the condition tend to have greasy skin and often they smell quite bad too. If Malassezia Dermatitis goes untreated, it can result in a thickening and darkening of the skin. Often a dog's claws will turn a reddish-brown colour if no treatment has been given to alleviate the symptoms.

Diagnosing the Problem

When it comes to determining whether a dog is suffering from Malassezia Dermatitis can be quite challenging because there are many other skin diseases that present similar symptoms. As such, a vet would need to carry out specific tests with the most useful being to take a sample of a dog's skin which they would then examine under a microscope.

If the number of Malassezia organisms is found to be low, then it is almost certain that the cause is something else. However, if the vet finds an elevated number of them which could well be in the thousands, the next step would be to set in place an effective treatment with an end goal being to correct the imbalance.

Treating Malassezia Dermatitis

The end goal of treating a dog with Malassezia Dermatitis is to lower the levels of yeast organisms back to acceptable levels. However, a vet would want to find out what has triggered the condition in the first place to make sure the levels don't rise again. There are several topical products that can be used to treat Malassezia Dermatitis in dogs with the following often being recommended and prescribed by vets:

  • Anti-fungal shampoos
  • Anti-fungal wipes
  • Anti-fungal rinses
  • Anti-fungal creams
  • Anti-fungal ear drops

It's worth noting that if the root cause of the problem cannot be established, recurrence of the problem is often inevitable which is why it's important for a vet to have a dog's full medical history and for them to be made aware of a dog's living environment. This allows vets to rule out certain triggers.

Treatment Sooner Rather than Later

As soon as it becomes apparent that a dog is starting to develop any itchiness on their faces or bodies, it's essential for them to be examined by a vet sooner rather than later. Not only does this mean a dog would not have to suffer unnecessarily, but the sooner the yeast organisms are brought back under control, the easier it tends to be to manage a dog's condition.

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