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Your Pet and Malassezia...

Your Pet and Malassezia...
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What is Malassezia?

Malassezia pachydermatis is a type of yeast found on the skin and ears of most dogs. In most cases, these yeast organisms cause no harm. However, in some dogs, an abnormal overgrowth of Malassezia can result in the skin and/or ears becoming inflamed and sore. 

What is Malassezia?

Malassezia pachydermatis is a type of yeast found on the skin and ears of most dogs. In most cases, these yeast organisms cause no harm. However, in some dogs, an abnormal overgrowth of Malassezia can result in the skin and/or ears becoming inflamed and sore. 

Why does Malassezia sometimes cause disease?

There are a number of theories why Malassezia causes disease in certain dogs.

These include:

            - increased humidity (weather, and humid body areas such as ears and armpits)

            - underlying skin disease (e.g. allergic skin disease, hypothyroidism)

            - breed predisposition (e.g. Bassett hounds, West Highland White Terriers)

 

What are the symptoms of Malassezia dermatitis/otitis?

Malassezia dermatitis symptoms include:

-  itchy and inflamed skin

- thickened “elephant” skin, which may become dark or pigmented

- scaly, crusty skin

- distinctive  musty or “doggy” odour

- often affects armpits, feet, neck, lips and facial folds

Malassezia otitis (ear infection) symptoms include:

- long-standing or recurrent ear infections

- itchy, inflamed or painful ears

- chocolate brown wax build up in ears

- distinctive musty or “doggy” odour

 

How is Malassezia diagnosed?

Malassezia is diagnosed by taking samples of discharge from the ears, or tape impression smears from the skin, staining them and examining under the microscope. Although small numbers are present on healthy skin and ears, in cases of Malassezia dermatitis/otitis, huge numbers of the yeast are seen – they appear like blue or purple peanut shaped structures. The sample will also be examined for the presence of inflammatory cells and bacteria, as this may influence diagnosis and treatment.

How is Malassezia dermatitis treated?

The aims of treatment are to manage any underlying conditions and to lower the numbers of yeast back to normal levels.

Usually, topical products such as shampoos, wipes, creams and ear drops are prescribed. It is important to carefully follow the directions for use in order for these products to be effective – if you have any queries, please speak to our vets or nurses. In severe cases, oral medications may also be prescribed.

Unless underlying conditions such as allergic skin disease can be controlled, Malassezia dermatitis is often a recurring problem.

Malassezia dermatitis is not contagious to people or other animals.

 

Pennard Vets employ two RCVS dermatology certificate holders, and a visiting RCVS dermatology specialist, so we are happy to answer any questions you may have about your pet’s skin.