Dog: Malassezia Dermatitis

General information

Other common/scientific names: yeast infection, fungal infection, skin infection


Malassezia are yeast organisms which are normally found in the skin, ear, anal sacs, vagina and mouth of dogs. These yeast are opportunistic, meaning they cause disease only when the skin is damaged by another existing condition. Once the skin is weakened, the yeast organisms multiple and the increased numbers of Malassezia result in a secondary skin infection. Malassezia yeast are also a common complicating factor in ear infections (otitis).

Skin conditions which cause this overwhelming yeast infection include:

Cardinal symptom



Dogs with Malassezia skin infection are itchy and have a yeast-like odor. Other clinical signs include raised, red pustules with scabs and crusts. The skin can feel greasy. In chronic conditions, the skin can become darkly pigmented and thickened. Any area of the skin can be affected but skin folds, skin between the toes and ear canals are more prone to a yeast infection because of the increased humidity of the skin in these areas.


A skin scraping is performed to remove cells from the affected skin. These cells are stained and examined under a microscope for the Malassezia organisms. These yeast have the appearance of tiny snowmen or barbells and are abnormal in large numbers. Scotch tape can also be pressed onto the skin to obtain a sample and then examined with a microscope to identify Malassezia.


It is important to remember that successful treatment of Malassezia must be aimed at diagnosing and treating the existing or primary skin condition. Treatment of the Malassezia infection will not be successful if the underlying disease is not identified and treated.

Topical treatment with antifungal shampoos, leave-on conditioners and wipes are used to treat Malassezia. Topical medications for ear infections are also used. To be successful, these treatment must be used for 2-3 weeks. Long term oral antifungal medications may be necessary in severe, chronic cases of Malassezia. Anti-inflammatory medications can be used to help alleviate the itching.


Prognosis is good in cases where the underlying cause is identified and treated. However, Malassezia can be frustrating, recurring and expensive to treat if the existing condition cannot be eliminated.


When using a medicated shampoo, it is important to allow the shampoo to soak for 10-15 minutes before rinsing. This allows the medication in the shampoo to absorb into the layers of skin.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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