Malassezia in dogs: symptoms, causes and treatment

If your dog has an intense itching in any part of the body or with an otitis, one of the possible diagnoses is malassezia dermatitis.

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Malassezia is a yeast commensal, that is, that lives naturally in the skin of the dog, but in certain cases it proliferates exaggeratedly causing a dermatitis.

This problem is often confused with scabies and allergies, since it presents similar clinical signs. However, it is a completely different disease. Therefore, YourCatCareguide has prepared this article so that you know everything about Malassezia in dogs: symptoms, causes and treatment.

Malassezia in dogs

What is Malassezia? The Malassezia is a fungus that lives naturally in some ears and other body parts of dogs. These fungi do not cause any problems to the dog except when they overgrow.

This fungus feeds on substances produced by the skin and likes especially wet regions. Puppies of any age, race or gender may suffer from malassezia dermatitis, that is when these fungi proliferate too much eventually damaging the skin.

Malassezia dermatitis in dogs

Any dog, regardless of age, race or gender, may suffer from malassezia dermatitis. However, there are certain factors that predispose to the appearance of malassezia dermatitis in dogs :

  • Hot;
  • Moisture;
  • Skin folds;
  • Obesity;
  • Skin or ear swelling.

This problem is usually secondary to various diseases such as allergies, endocrinopathies ( hypothyroidism , Cushing’s disease) and other diseases that compromise the dog’s immune system.

The species that most frequently causes this problem is Malassezia pachydermatis . As we have already mentioned, it can be found naturally in the skin of the healthy dog ​​without causing trouble. Problems arise when the skin barrier is compromised and there is an exaggerated increase in population.

Although it can affect all dogs, there are some breeds more predisposed to this disease , among them the West Highland White Terrier, Basset Hound , Cocker Spaniel, and the Shar Pei.

Malassezia dermatitis does not only happen in dogs, it can also happen in cats, although it is less common, and the races usually affected are Persian or cats with some problem that affects their immune system.

Malassezia in the dog’s ear

The ears are one of the zones most frequently affected by these fungi. Due to some endocrine disease or any alteration that affects the dog’s immune system, the fungi or yeasts of the skin suffer an imbalance and Malassezia takes the opportunity to reproduce exaggeratedly in the ear in the dog causing an external otitis.

The otitis externa is an inflammation of the skin tissue of the dog, causing much itching and discomfort. If you suspect your dog has a ear infection, you should consult your veterinary surgeon so that you can start treatment as soon as possible.

Malassezia of dogs caught in humans?

If you are wondering if the malassezia of dogs catches on humans ? The answer is no ! Although these fungi may also exist in humans and other animals, they are not transmissible. That is, if you have healthy skin, this microorganism lives naturally on it without causing any problems. In case of any problem in which the skin barrier changes, these microorganisms can multiply and cause dermatitis. The mechanism is similar to that of the dog.

Symptoms of malassezia in dogs

The clinical signs of these problems are diverse and depend on the location of dermatitis. Often this disease is confused with scabies or other dermatological problems and for that reason the correct diagnosis done by a veterinarian is essential.

The symptoms of malassezia in dogs are :

  • itching ;
  • irritated skin;
  • reddish skin;
  • secretions in the ears;
  • crusts;
  • hyperpigmentation;

Dogs do not always have all the symptoms and may only have one of them. It is also important to note that clinical signs are not always associated with degree of infection. For example, dogs with a large infection by this fungus, do not always present a high level of itching as expected. Therefore, at the first clinical signs you notice, consult your veterinarian.

The most affected areas of the dog usually are the ears, the neck, the armpits, the legs and under the tail.

Laboratory diagnosis of malassezia

The veterinarian, in addition to a thorough physical examination of the dog, assists with laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. The cytology skin or ear is the most common test to confirm whether it is a case of dermatitis Malassezia.

If the veterinarian detects a large number of these microorganisms associated with intense pruritus and skin irritation and after excluding other diagnostic differences, such as scabies as we have already mentioned, the definitive diagnosis of malassezia dermatitis is reached.

To exclude other differential diagnoses, your veterinarian may need other laboratory testsand even an elimination diet if you are suspicious of an allergy or food intolerance that also show clinical signs very similar to malassezia dermatitis.

Treatment of malassezia in dogs

Treatment of malassezia in dogs usually involves the use of topical pharmacology , ie shampoos, creams and lotions. It may also be necessary to use systemic drugs such as ketoconazole, fluconazole, and other drugs that your veterinarian may consider to be more appropriate for such specific cases.

Generally, topical treatment is advised for more localized malassezia dermatitis and systemic treatment for more severe cases or generalized infestations.

Since secondary bacterial infections are very common, your veterinarian will most likely choose to also prescribe an antibiotic.

Above all, the most important thing is to treat the cause that caused an imbalance in the dog’s immune system, which allowed the exaggerated proliferation of the fungus.

Home treatment of canine malassezia

A treatment prescribed by a veterinarian is undoubtedly the most effective and scientifically studied way to solve the problem quickly. However, there are some frequently used canine malassezia home treatments that have shown some effectiveness, namely:

  • Baths with sulfur soap
  • Vinegar diluted in water 1: 1
  • Supplementation with sunflower oil

Before using any home remedy, consult your veterinarian. Sometimes we try to do the best for our animals and we are only masking a few symptoms that later make it difficult for the vet to diagnose. It is imperative that your dog is properly diagnosed before applying any type of treatment.

This article is purely informative, in we do not have the capacity to prescribe veterinary treatments nor to make any type of diagnosis. We suggest you bring your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or malaise.

If you want to read more articles like Malassezia in dogs: symptoms, causes and treatment, we recommend you to enter our section of Skin problems .

Emily Harris

Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-p I am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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