Yeast (Malassezia) is a very common cause of skin disease in our dogs and cats. It can cause itchiness, redness, darkening skin, “elephant” skin, excessive scaling (dandruff) and malodor. While Malassezia is a normal inhabitant of the skin, certain underlying conditions like allergies can cause an overgrowth and/or infection of this yeast and some people and pets can actually develop an allergy to their own yeast. Many of our patients have an overgrowth of yeast as a part of their skin condition.
Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions about the yeast that lives on the skin of dogs and cats. First and foremost, the yeast that commonly causes problems in humans is Candida albicans. Candida lives in the intestines of humans and feeds on sugars and carbohydrates ingested. Malassezia lives on the skin and feeds on fats. This is why, limiting carbohydrates, sugars or giving probiotics does not treat Malassezia skin infections.
It is essential to completely control Malassezia infections in order to control the symptoms listed above. Cytology is a diagnostic test by which the doctor takes a sample and looks at it microscopically. It is used to diagnose a yeast infection. When a yeast infection is identified, a combination of oral and topical therapies will be recommended to treat the yeast.