The list goes on… Many troublesome chronic health issues can be attributed to
yeast overgrowth, the most common of which is Candida Albicans.
Candida albicans is a naturally occurring single-cell organism in the digestive
tracts of dogs and cats, (and humans). It is an opportunistic organism, however,
and will begin to take over if given a chance. A course of antibiotics is the most
common instigator of a yeast infection, but proper conditions can also be set up
by steroid/prednisone use, chronic allergies, stress, chemotherapy drugs and an
inappropriate diet. Basically, anything that upsets the balance of healthy flora
(bacteria & yeasts) in the digestive tract is an invitation for trouble.
Antibiotics and other medications do not discriminate – they kill the healthy
or “good” bacteria in an animals system at the same time they are fighting whatever
infection they were prescribed for. Medications also alter the pH of the animal’s
system which further contributes to upsetting the balance of healthy organisms throughout
the digestive tract. That is why administering probiotics, the “good” bacteria,
is crucial when an animal is on antibiotics, steroids, chemotherapy or other strong
medications – to keep “the bad guys” in check before they become a problem. Once
the good bacteria are sufficiently compromised, the opportunistic yeast, candida
albicans, gets a strong foothold. If left unchecked, candida morphs from a single
cell organism into a multi-celled fungus that literally grows roots and penetrates
the intestinal wall. This leads to leaky gut as well as diminished nutrition as
the intestines can no longer absorb critical nutrients properly. A poor or inappropriate
diet promotes conditions for yeast overgrowth as well.
The Allergy Connection
Many of the symptoms and chronic health issues listed above are frequently diagnosed
as, or are attributed to allergies. Allergies can contribute to an animal’s susceptibility
to candida overgrowth, and an overgrowth of candida can also exacerbate allergies.
Eating poor quality, high carbohydrate diets or foods an animal is “allergic” or
sensitive to can lead to an imbalanced pH and will upset the balance of bacteria
and yeasts in the digestive tract which, as mentioned above, sets the stage for
candida overgrowth. When leaky gut develops, food molecules that are too large for
the body to process are allowed through the intestinal wall, setting off allergic
reactions and inflammation that frequently manifest as one or more of the symptoms
listed above – itchy skin, ear infections, urinary tract infections, etc. Candida
overgrowth, left unchecked, becomes a downward spiral of chronic health issues.
The candida must be controlled and the intestinal wall healed to finally eliminate
the allergies, and the diet must be corrected for the candida to be controlled.
A dog or cat that has been diagnosed with allergies and that does not respond
to treatment and diet changes is likely battling a yeast overgrowth. Many conventional
treatments used to battle allergy symptoms only exacerbate the yeast problem, so
even though a course of antibiotics or steroids give temporary relief of symptoms,
when the medication is stopped the symptoms return. And things may even get worse:
Once yeast is out of control it begins to produce toxins that further degrade the
animal’s health. Leaky gut means that bacteria and toxins are passing through the
intestinal wall along with improperly digested food molecules. Itchiness gets worse,
joints can become painful, the immune system is stressed, and an animal can appear
depressed and lethargic. Battling yeast is best done holistically, and winning the
battle takes time.
Yeasts feed on sugars – including those from grains, starches and other carbohydrates.
The good or beneficial bacteria in the intestines are what metabolize sugars and
keep the candida in check. When the beneficial bacteria are compromised and the
diet is high in carbohydrates, candida thrives. So how do you control yeast? You
start by starving them.
Components of a comprehensive Yeast Control Program:
Starving the yeast requires a very low carbohydrate, high protein diet. Not only
will such a diet assist in yeast control, it is a more appropriate diet for carnivores
such as dogs and cats and will improve the animal’s immune system through enhanced
nutrition. Dogs and cats transitioned to a
grain-free raw food diet often recover from candida more quickly and completely
than those eating processed foods. For many pet guardians a raw diet is not possible,
however, and many healthy alternatives are available.
Freeze-dried diets from Nature’s Variety are 95% meat and are the next best
thing to raw. Another highly nutritious option are mixes for easy home-prepared
diets such as
Honest Kitchen Preference or
Sojo’s Europa – both grain-free mixes to which raw or cooked meat are added
to make a complete and balanced meal. Many
grain-free canned foods are now available in a wide choice of meat sources for
those animals with specific protein allergies.
Grain-free dry foods are an option if one must feed dry food; they are lower
in carbohydrates than most grain-based kibbles, but still contain potatoes or other
starches which are necessary to form a dry kibble. If feeding kibble, it is best
to supplement with grain-free canned, home-prepared, dehydrated, freeze-dried or
raw food as at least part of the animal’s diet to help improve nutrition and lower
the overall percentage of carbohydrates in the diet.
Check out all of our
grain-free food, which is all candida-safe.
Improving digestion by adding enzymes to the food is a crucial component in controlling
yeast. Digestive enzymes aid in healing the lining of the intestines through enhancing
the break down of foods and facilitating the assimilation of nutrients. Digestive
enzymes can reduce the number of large food molecules escaping through a leaky gut
as well as reducing the amount of food available for the yeast. In addition, better
nutrition means more fuel available for the animal’s compromised immune system.
Digestive enzymes must be given with EVERY meal. During the initial two to three
weeks of treatment, it is best to double the recommended dosage of digestive enzymes
in your pet's food. Older animals can continue on a higher dose as they produce
less of their own digestive enzymes. Check out our wide selection of digestive enzymes.
Natural Remedies for Yeast Control:
As the candida organisms die, toxins are released into the bloodstream that can
exacerbate symptoms and make a dog or cat feel downright miserable. Humans who experience
this “die-off” reaction report flu-like symptoms including gastrointestinal upset,
nausea, diarrhea, body aches and exhaustion. This reaction can last for a week or
two – even longer in more severe cases or if the candida is still being “fed” through
an inappropriate diet.
Probiotic supplements such as NF Spectra Probiotic contain the good or beneficial bacteria needed in the digestive
tract. As the candida is brought under control, the beneficial bacteria need to
be replenished. Some digestive enzyme products contain probiotics or “prebiotics”
(nutrients that feed the beneficial bacteria), but many animals will need a higher
or more therapeutic dose than what is provided in the enzyme supplements. Depending
on the severity of the yeast problem, probiotics can be introduced in the second
or third week of starting a candida control program.
Healing the Digestive Tract:
Candida albicans is a resilient organism and will hang on for as long as possible.
Beneficial bacteria have a tougher time surviving in a damaged digestive tract,
and candida will thrive there. To return the proper balance of organisms in the
intestines, the walls of the digestive tract need to heal. Digestive supplements such as Only Natural Pet GI Support and Seacure support the digestive tract and help create a healthier environment
conducive to reestablishment of beneficial bacteria and proper digestion.
Controlling candida overgrowth takes time and a multifaceted approach as outlined
above. It can take three to six months to completely control candida and restore
digestive health, longer in the more severe cases. The length of time it takes to
heal will depend on several factors including the quality of the diet, the length
of time the yeast overgrowth has been established, and the overall health of the
Malessezia Dermatitis - Yeast Infection of the Skin
Many animals, dogs especially, develop yeast infections of the skin – often concurrently
with yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract. This yeast is typically Malessezia,
not candida. Malessezia is also indicated in some recurring ear infections.
Yeast infections of the skin are VERY itchy, and appear crusty and smelly. Skin
may turn black and scaly as the yeast infections progresses. Just as candida is
a normal inhabitant of a healthy digestive tract, Malessezia is a normal inhabitant
of the skin that becomes opportunistic and takes over when conditions are ripe.
The skin may originally become damaged as the dog scratches at fleas or allergic
irritations. Once compromised, the skin is susceptible to yeast overgrowth, particularly
in animals with a stressed or compromised immune system and poor nutrition.
The ear canal is a perfect environment for yeast to grow, and many chronic ear problems
in dogs and cats are yeast related. When yeast infects the skin or ears, topical
treatments need to be added to the protocol detailed above.
Coconut oil can be applied to affected skin (you’ll need to sit with the dog
or cat awhile to insure they don’t lick it off before it has had a chance to do
some good). Antifungal shampoos are available from veterinarians. For dogs, tea
tree oil can be added to shampoo to help control yeast organisms. For yeasty ears
Only Natural Pet Ear Care or
Love My Pet Stinky Ear Oil. It is essential to treat the whole animal with proper
diet and supplements as outlined above in addition to treating the skin and/or ears
or you may be battling the infection for much longer than need be.