Sadie's Yeast Infection: How we overcame Malassezia Pachydermatitis
When Sadie first came to us in early November 2007, we noticed that she was "itchy" but attributed it to her move from humid Minnesota to very dry New Mexico. I bathed her with "dry skin" shampoo and conditioner, but the itching continued.
By December 21, I noticed that the fringes of her ear leathers were encrusted with yellowish, flake-like scabs that came off when I scratched them, but did not bleed like a true scab covering a wound. She was, by this time, scratching her ear leathers and ear canals furiously. She was also biting her toenails and licking her feet, symptoms I recognized as auto-immune reactions which can be caused by recent rabies vaccination, and she had one in October. I started her on an immune-boosting supplement called Transfer Factor.
I began looking for a cause online, and found a condition called vasculitis which seemed to fit the symptoms and also commonly follows rabies vaccination.
I won't define it here, but it seemed a likely candidate and requires veterinary attention, so I made an appointment with the vet, for Jan.8, first opportunity after her holiday vacation.
I bathed her on Dec. 22, paying close attention to her ear leathers, but was careful to keep water out of her ear canals. This did not help. Several days later, her ears were much worse. By the time I got her to the vet, her little ears were inflamed, the skin thickened and a deep burgundy red. They were encrusted with beige-golden colored flakes, especially around the fringes of her ear leathers and in the little pocket flaps on the outside edges of her ears. She was scratching so furiously that she had created secondary injury and was clearly miserable.
Holistic vet treated her with acupressure, homeopathics for vaccine and anesthesia remedy and gave me Chinese herbs to begin cleansing her liver and gallbladder. I left with dietary instructions which included continuing the raw protein diet (Primal raw meatloaf, green tripe, fermented veggies, raw goat milk kefir and raw goat milk cheese) she was already eating. No carbs or sugars allowed. (I had been feeding her eggs, but had discontinued them earlier, as a possible allergen.)
She gave me very little advice concerning treatment of her ears, and in fact, what she did tell me to do didn't help at all, so I embarked on my own treatment. (She advised gently wiping her ears off with a mild solution of baking soda and water, but it was obviously painful to Sadie, so I only did it once.) Her initial treatment was good for holistic care, but I would have certainly appreciated better advice and treatment of the ear infection, which was, by then, a primary concern.
Conferring with Julie Timbers and Debby Rothman, I finally concluded that she was suffering from the overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia Pachydermatitis. The vet probably knew this, but didn't bother to tell me about it. She did confirm that Sadie was definitely not suffering from any type of mange mite infestation.
How Did She Get It?
There is a lot of information available online about this type of yeast infection in dogs. Google it. Dogs have it present in their bodies, the same as we all have Candida albicans present in our bodies. Like us, when their immune systems are stressed or compromised, it offers the opportunity for this particular yeast to have its day. Looking back at Sadie's life as a show dog, the life style she lived, the places she traveled, vaccinations and drugs she received towards this end, all were stressors that contributed to this problem. Last summer, she had a litter of six puppies and soon after they were weaned, received another course of drugs for her itching problem. Soon after, she was spayed which caused an immediate hormone imbalance, received anesthesia, antibiotics and another, totally unnecessary, rabies vaccine ( a major challenge to her immune system). Then, she was transported soon after to Denver and on to New Mexico for a complete change in lifestyle and diet and caretakers. All this certainly caused major stress in a very short period of time in a young dog's life, no matter that every human involved loved and cared about her.
How Was It Successfully Treated?
Once I knew what it was, I knew where to start. She was already on an "anti-yeast" diet - no grain carbs or sugars or cooked foods.
The first and best thing I did for her, before I even knew what we were dealing with, was to start her on a course of immune-boosting supplement called "Transfer Factor". It's amazing stuff and utilized for show animals and sick animals, and humans, too. It contains every known immune-boosting substance, including the "transfer factor" that "transfers" cellular immunity. Read about it online at Shirley's Wellness Cafe.com and order it at 4Life.com.
The vet recommended feeding her yogurt, for the pro-biotics like acidophilus that it contains. I have something better at my disposal. We make our own authentic raw goat's milk kefir, which is far superior to yogurt in every way. Easily digestible, the different types of probiotics contained in kefir far outnumber those in commercial yogurt. And, unlike acidophilus and other bacteria in yogurt, which exits your body with every bowel movement, the bacteria in kefir actually colonize your gut and soon over-populate the "bad" bacteria and fungal matter (the enemy yeast we are trying to eradicate).
She receives about 1/8th teaspoon of Carlson cod liver oil every day, for the Omega 3's and the highly available natural A and D. Also, 1/4 tsp. fish oil and flax oil, for the Omega 3's and 6's, necessary for skin health and immune protection, etc. (She only weighs 11 lbs.)
I also feed her about a 1/2 tsp. of virgin coconut oil every day, which has amazing anti-fungal properties in the gut.
In addition, she receives fermented beets and beet greens and kale, which were grown in our organic garden this summer and are now fermented with the whey from our goat cheese. This produces a product that closely resembles the contents of a prey animal's stomach, complete with enzymes from the fresh veggies and whey, and natural lactic acid bacteria, some of the "good guys". Beets and greens for now, because they cleanse and strengthen the liver and gall bladder, which is the body's first line of defense against allergies as the immune system is strengthened. Any and all vegetables can be fermented, and the dogs get a rotating variety of organic veggies regularly.
(I explained how to ferment veggies for dogs using purchased yogurt whey on the Apso Blog).
Instead of using a drug to treat the immediate infection in her ears, I choose a product called Zymox Otic, which is an OTC enzymatic product in glycerin that "eats" the infection, be it viral, bacterial or yeast, and has no side effects. (I got it from 1800PetMeds.com). It comes in two varieties, with and without hydrocortisone, to suppress the itching. I chose the one without the hydrocortisone because I didn't want to suppress her itchiness, I wanted to know when and if the stuff was working and I would only know that if she quit scratching herself. Which, soon enough, she did. She's been on the once-daily Zymox treatment for ten days now, and her little ears, formerly burgundy red, inflamed, and encrusted with the golden yellow yeasty flakes, are now only slightly redder than Zeke's healthy pink ears. The inflammation is almost gone, her ears are once again pliable and the yeast has retreated to a thin line around the edges of her leathers and the edges of those little pockets on the sides of her ears. This past 24 hours she has not scratched once, and this morning, ten days into the daily treatment with the Zymox and 30 days since her ears were totally encrusted, I can find no fresh yeast on her ears at all.
Prior to the arrival by mail of the Zymox, I treated her ears with an herbal remedy consisting of garlic and mullein-infused olive oil with tea tree oil and lavender essential oils added. I used this for 3-4 days, and noticed an immediate clearing of the yeast. But because I learned that the yeast "feeds" on lipids, and I wanted to give the Zymox a fair trial, I discontinued my "home remedy" and started the enzymatic product. I also treated her poor little damaged ear leathers with my own Critter Balm, which contains olive-oil infused with calendula and comfrey with essential oil of tea tree and lavender, also. It healed up all the secondary scarring on her ears quickly and seemed to diminish the yeast considerably, too. But once healed from the secondary damage, I began rubbing the enzymatic Zymox on her ear leathers, with excellent results, as well, and discontinued the home remedy. Both tea tree and lavender oils have very good anti-fungal properties, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. Knowing that this particular yeast feeds on skin surface lipids, however, I would mix it with some glycerin instead of olive oil.
I also soaked her itchy feet and toenails in cider vinegar/water, which gave instant relief. Her nipples also became encrusted with the yeast at one point, and the application of the home remedy mentioned above, eliminated the yeast and softened her little nibs once again.
I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of her poor little ears at their worst, but I hope the description given will help in making an accurate diagnosis. As the yeast dies, it disintegrates and turns a dark reddish brown color and I was able to comb it out of her ears each evening before treating her with the Zymox. The yeast persisted in a very definable line around the perimeters of her ear leathers and on the edges of the ear flaps after it was eliminated from the inside areas of her ears.
The discharge from her ear canals was dark initially, the same color as the dried, dead yeast that I combed from her ears.
The following pictures are of her ears today, 10 days into treatment with Zymox and 24 hours since she has scratched with no real visible yeast showing. You can still see the areas where the yeast was growing, the "line of demarcation". And the redness persists, although moving towards a healthier pink. The inflammation is gone and the ears are soft and pliable once again.
Compare the photos of Sadie's ears with the beautiful, clean, pink healthy ears belonging to Zeke. The Vet said, on a 1-10 scale, Zeke being a "1", Sadie, at her worst, was a 9 or 10. I'd say she's now a 3 or 4, as the photos show. We'll continue on this program until she has #1 ears again and then continue preventative measures forever. I have purchased extra bottles of Zymox and a drying ear cleaner to use before and after every bath.
The ultimate cure is in an immune-boosting diet free from allergens and rich with enzymes and probiotics, and eliminating stress as much as possible from our dog's lives.
I've learned a lot from this experience and hope to keep her free from future occurrences, but I'll sure know what to do sooner, if it happens again.
Follow Up: April 2013
It has been several years since Sadie has had any problems with yeast.
For a time, after the success related above, she still had a tiny bit of yeast on the pads of her feet, which she would lick and bite at, usually in the evening. It would come and go.
I continued all of the above diet and treatment, including soaking her feet in a cider vinegar/warm water solution on a regular basis, until the yeast on her feet and toenails completely disappeared.
I feed her about 2% of her ideal weight daily, which is about 4 ounces. Her raw diet consists of eating through a cornish game hen, cut into about six pieces, for her "bone-in" meal. Her red meat meal is about 4 ounces of game meat scraps, venison, elk, bison, etc, which I get from a game processor. Otherwise, I purchase beef heart or turkey heart from a raw food buying club to which we belong, and that meat comes from Oma's Pride. I also buy whole sardines, mackerel or other small fish for the dogs. In addition, they get organ meats: liver, kidney, and various other organ meat as I am able to get it. I usually grind it up in my Kitchen Aid and freeze it in small containers. Organ meat should make up about 5% of their total diet. Raw, edible bone should make up about 10% of their diet. My other dogs eat chicken for their bone-in meal, which I purchase from Costco. I feed Sadie the cornish game hens because she is smaller and the bones in the little baby game hens are very soft and easy for her to eat. She does very well with them. If you've never fed a raw diet before, please go to www.rawlearning.com and read up on it, then join the raw feeding list ( http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/groups/rawfeeding/ )for excellent help and advice from old hands at raw feeding. I alternate feeding chicken or game hen one day, and red meat the next, which keeps their bowels moving and their poops firm.
Raw feeding is very easy, and even very economical, once you get the hang of it. I feed four dogs, totaling 150 pounds, a 100% raw diet. It just takes a little more effort than dumping a cup of dried kibble in their bowl, and the pay off is very healthy dogs who have very little need of expensive vet care. If you only have one or two small dogs, there's no excuse not to feed a quality raw food diet. Learn how and just do it. Your dogs, even the tiny ones, still have the same digestive system as their wolf ancestors. They are carnivores and need to eat like one! Raw meat, bones, fermented veggies and good fats!! NO Carbs, especially grain carbs. It just makes them fat and causes major health issues. You'll save a ton of money in the long run, and lots of unnecessary suffering.
Supplemental foods include fermented veggies of various kinds, depending on what's available: carrots, zucchini, beets, blueberries, yellow squash, tomatoes, green beans, etc.
I grind them up in my Kitchen Aid and ferment them, with or without whey, for several days on the kitchen counter, then refrigerate them in a sealed canning jar. All the dogs get a portion several times a week. We also eat a lot of fermented veggies, like sauerkraut and kimchee and dill pickles. You can learn how at www.culturesforhealth.com I use a little device called The Perfect Pickler, which makes the process no-fail, but you can do it without one, like I did for years.
As a supplement, I give a sprinkle of Organic DV Yeast Concentrate (also know as Epicor), which is an immune-boosting yeast. We initially purchased it to supplement the feed for our chickens and goats and for ourselves, but since we no longer have the goats and chickens, I just use it on the dog's food and in our own smoothies.
They get a lot of good pro-biotics from the fermented veggies, but if I feel a need to give them additional kefir-type bacteria (the kind that colonizes your gut), I will give them a teaspoon of a product I buy at the local Health Food Store called Inner Eco. Find it in the refrigerator section. It is a water kefir made with fresh coconut water, no dairy. We all take it, and one of my dogs will just lap it up out of a spoon. We buy the unflavored, unsweetened variety, but it comes in great flavors sweetened with stevia. We have been using this since we no longer have raw goat milk to drink and to make kefir from. Excellent product and highly recommended.
For Treats, they get a variety of goodies. Since they are all very healthy now, I feel I can give them some good cooked meats, leftover from our meals or from the stock pot when I make bone broth from either chicken or beef bones. ( NEVER give a dog a cooked bone of any kind, however! It will splinter and cause serious problems. And dogs don't need bones to chew on for "recreation". The large, hard beef bones can actually break their teeth. Raw feeders call they "wreck" bones instead of "rec" bones! Only give dogs bones they can actually eat and digest. For most dogs, that is a raw bone-in chicken or game hen for tiny dogs. ) They also get leftover broccoli, which for some reason they love, or whatever leftover cooked veggies we have. But NO ONIONS, which contain too much sulpher for dogs. Cooked or raw garlic, in small amounts, is fine, though. I also give them tiny bits of frozen raw liver as a special treat.
Anything, almost, but "dog biscuits" and purchased treats. You should be especially wary of any "treat" coming from China, especially chicken jerky treats, or any type of jerky treats. They have been implicated in the death and kidney destruction of many dogs, so be very wary and don't buy them at all. Whatever the Chinese are putting into them is deadly to our dogs. Don't forget the melamine dog food disaster of a few years ago.
Sadie continues to enjoy excellent health, is energetic and has all the vitality of a much younger dog. She'll be eight this year and still plays with the other two Apsos like a puppy.
I haven't seen any trace of the yeast for several years now.
Zeke's clean, healthy ear, for comparison. Vet said he was a "1" on a scale of 1 - 10. (And this is three weeks without a bath!)
Sadie's ear canal. Still shows the dark, dead yeast draining from her ear in the Zymox glycerin solution. You can see the dark areas on her leather, above, where the yeast was actively growing.
Sadie's whole ear. You can see some dark spots on the ear leather where the yeast was growing. There is a dark line also around the perimeter of her ear leather where the yeast continued to grow. The ears are now far less "burgundy" colored than they were even just a few days prior.
This shows Sadie's ear flaps. You can still see the tiny flakes of yeast around the edges of the pocket, extending out into the hair. At one time, it was entirely filled with the crusty yeast flakes.