Today’s topic, while a little gross for some, is one that most canine caregivers cannot avoid. For many of us, at least at some point during the lives of our canines, we will experience a period when our canines smell like corn chips, may appear itchy, shake their heads repeatedly, continuously nibble on their paws, and even perform some butt rubbing on the carpet…. A period of Yeast Overgrowth.
That distinctive “frito” smell (some say it smells like corn chips, or popcorn) is a sign that their immune systems, for a potential multitude of reasons (which we will highlight later), can be slightly off kilter, causing the development and overgrowth of various factors that normally exist in harmony on our canine’s skin (and even ours!). Note: A canine’s natural body odour will have a smell similar to corn or nacho chips, but it is when this smell starts to be quite pronounced, smell sour, or smell slightly off-putting, that you know the balance is off.
Yeast growths can be regional or systemic, occurring in just one ear, or on one paw, but can even over the entire body… leading to an extremely uncomfortable canine. When the canine begins to scratch and nibble at these zones, they can quickly grow in size, become sore, raw, and weepy, produce discharge, and even become secondarily infected.
The reasons for these changes can be quite wide spread. For some canines that have just come off of antibiotics or steroid treatment, the time it takes for their systems to rebalance leaves them open for overgrowth of yeast and bacteria that would normally be kept in control by the other “good” micro-fauna that populate the same area.
Yeast overgrowth can also occur in canine suffering from allergies. Again, their immune system is compromised by being busy fighting the “allergy” and it leaves them more susceptible to yeast-overgrowth.
This overgrowth is also more likely to occur in some breeds of canines. Brachiocephalic (squished, or flat faced) dogs, and dogs with lots of extra skin and skin folds have lots of little spots in which yeast can hide and thrive.
So what can we do!?
The best way to keep on top of yeast overgrowth’s is to keep our canine clean and healthy. Regular body checks of their ear’s, paws, anal region, and “arm pits” are good places to start. It is far easier to deal with a small spot of overgrowth on one paw than two, three or four paws. If you have just come from a wet park, or the beach, make sure you help dry the ears and feet using a soft, clean towel. Pro Tip: Perform your checks when you are looking for ticks after a walk so it doesn’t seem like an extra chore!
If your canine is susceptible, or is a frequent swimmer or mud roller, cleaning the ears using a mild ear cleanser/pH balancer after swim/play sessions will go a long way to keeping those ears healthy and happy. Ask your veterinarian what is best for your application. I have had great luck doing this with my Lab and his ears are totally manageable now with an inexpensive over-the-counter product (even with all his swimming 🙂 ).
Yeast cells thrive in all the warm, wet, nooks and crannies. So you can imagine all the little hiding spots on a paw… fur, nails, pads! So one of the best “natural” ways to deal with a yeast overgrowth on paws is using a foot soak to make sure all the areas are addressed. Anti-fungal washes, and natural options (water/peroxide/vinegar solutions, tea tree oil) are available so talk with your vet about what preventative methods are best and what concentrations to use.
If you have a canine that gets full body overgrowths, or have multiple spots in different locations, using the “soak” approach to give their whole body a bath with help make sure that no spots were missed being cleaned. Veterinarians can recommend further treatment, some taken orally, other’s prescribe creams/gels to help soothe and address “hot spot” locations of overgrowth. Make sure you know all the in’s and out’s and possible outcomes.
When it all goes wrong:
Sometimes we miss the small signs. We forget to do our regular checks and things get out of hand. If you find a spot that appears white, almost creamy, can have a negative smell associated with, or has discharge associated with it and you haven’t encountered this sort of thing before, CHECK WITH YOU VET. These sort of over-growths are quite painful and while your dog will do it’s best to hide it, it will only get worse without addressing the issues. If you find your canine has these issues often, your dog could be suffering from a food allergy which needs to be addressed. Veterinarians/Nutritionists can even recommend anti-yeast (low carb) or anti-inflammatory diets to help keep this in check, and make sure your pup is healthy and happy, and to keep you from worrying.
So next time you smell the “frito paw” you will know!