Fungal infections are one of the most common issues that pet owners face and many wonder, “can I use antifungal cream on my dog as a home remedy?”
We reached out to Carol Young, a veterinary technician, to get her advice on certain fungal infections, how to treat them, and what creams are safe to use on your dog.
What causes skin fungal infections in dogs?
Yeast skin infections are often caused by the production of excess skin oils, and this happens frequently in dogs with skin allergies.
Yeast dermatitis, for example, is extremely common in dogs and is caused by the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis.
According to VCA1, even though this yeast is normally found on the skin, its abnormal overgrowth can cause dermatitis or inflammation of the skin.
This can create an environment in which bacteria can thrive and reproduce, creating what veterinarians refer to as a secondary infection.
However, this kind of yeast infection is not contagious.
Symptoms include hair loss, redness and itchiness, thickened, crusty skin, and a distinct musty odor.
In floppy-eared dogs, an overgrowth of yeast produced by a warm, moist environment can cause ear infections of both the middle and inner ears.
Other fungal infections occur when fungal spores in the environment come into contact with your dog via inhalation or through the skin.
There are many different types of these external fungi, including blastomycosis, a fungus that affects the lungs, or ringworm, which is caused by a fungus called dermatophytosis.
When most people hear the term “ringworm,” they think of worms. However, ringworm gets its name from the circular shape of skin lesions that the fungus creates on the skin.
The fungus that causes ringworm, dermatophytosis, lives on the skin, clothes, and furniture, and humans can also contract ringworm from infected dogs and cats.
How do you treat a fungal infection on a dog?
Once your dog is diagnosed with a fungal infection, your veterinarian will discuss a treatment plan appropriate for your dog’s needs.
The treatment plan depends on the severity of the case, the nature of the fungus, and if there are any other pets in the household.
A vet can determine the identity of a fungus in several ways, such as by taking a skin-scraping sample, microscopic examination, or via a special ultraviolet light called a Wood’s lamp that can detect the fungus dermatophytosis.
Treating fungal infections in dogs usually involves the use of topical antifungal creams such as clotrimazole and miconazole, oral medications, and environmental decontamination if needed.
If the dog has an ear infection due to yeast overgrowth, treatment may involve a thorough ear cleaning and a round of antibiotics to fight possible secondary bacterial infections, as well as antifungal ear drops.
Other treatments may involve the use of medicated shampoos.
Many dogs with oily skin will first require cleansing with a shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide or selenium sulfide, or bathing with an antifungal shampoo that contains chlorhexidine and antifungal agents.
The good news is that most dogs make a complete recovery after several weeks.
So, can I use antifungal cream on my dog?
If you found that your dog has a fungal infection, you may be looking for a cream that’s safe to use.
When using antifungal creams on your dog, make sure that you check with your veterinarian first about proper use and application.
There are several creams that veterinarians prescribe to combat fungal infections, and these creams are applied topically to your dog’s skin where a fungal infection is located.
However, keep in mind that they’re only meant to treat small areas of the skin, and if your dog has a fungal infection that covers a large portion of their body, or areas that aren’t easily accessible, then creams aren’t going to be the best choice.
Common antifungal creams for dogs may contain the following active ingredients:
1. Miconazole. Monistat is an antifungal cream that is typically used for vaginal yeast infections in humans.
The active ingredient is Miconazole Nitrate, which is effective for the treatment of fungal infections such as ringworm, and for superficial skin and ear infections caused by an overgrowth of yeast.
It’s also a common ingredient in medicated dog shampoos along with other antibacterial agents, such as Chlorhexidine.
Although Monistat is safe to use on dogs, it’s important to check with your veterinarian first before applying it to your dog or your dog’s ears.
2. Clotrimazole. Also known by the brand name Canesten or Lotrimin, Clotrimazole is a topical antifungal cream used to treat athlete’s foot in humans and fungal infections in dogs and cats.
The cream is usually a 1% Clotrimazole concentration and it can be purchased over the counter. (However, don’t use it on your dog without direction from a veterinarian.)
The usual dose is to apply a thin layer to the affected area twice a day for 14 days.
3. Ketoconazole. Sold under the brand name Nizoral, this cream is used to treat fungal skin infections, and can also come in the form of wipes mixed with the antibacterial solution Chlorhexidine.
4. Econazole. Econazole Nitrate cream comes in a 1% concentration and is used to treat ringworm in dogs, cats, and horses, as well as other fungal skin infections.
5. Itraconazole. This medication usually comes in the form of an oral solution, but it’s also available as a 1% concentration in a cream. It treats serious fungal or yeast infections in dogs.
Can my dog lick the antifungal cream?
Antifungal creams and lotions are meant for external use only, and veterinarians will recommend preventing your dog from licking and swallowing any of these medications.
Many veterinary formulations are designed for rapid absorption through the skin to minimize issues with ingestion.
Some veterinarians may also recommend the use of an e-collar to minimize the licking of treated areas.
Alternatives to antifungal creams
Medicated shampoos are often used to treat fungal infections in dogs. They contain antifungal medications that can help control skin infections and eliminate the need for topical creams.
Your veterinarian may recommend using medicated shampoos twice a week, for up to 4 weeks.
Be sure to allow the shampoo to soak into the skin for at least 10 minutes before rinsing and don’t allow your dog to lick off the product.
It’s important to use only medicated shampoos that are designed for dogs and cats. Human shampoos can be harmful to pets.
Recommended reading: Can I Use Palmolive to Wash My Dog?
MiconaHex+Triz Shampoo is a popular product that contains Miconazole. This is the same active ingredient that’s used in some antifungal creams intended for dogs and cats.
If your dog doesn’t like baths, you can use medicated wipes instead. These wipes are ideal for treating mild cases of ringworm.
We love Dermabliss Medicated Skin Wipes by Vetnique Labs. This product contains Ketoconazole, which, again, is an antifungal drug that’s also used in many antifungal creams.
Similar to medicated wipes, you can use a medicated spray.
Here, too, we recommend Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Medicated Spray, which contains the same active ingredient as in their medicated wipes.
Although this isn’t a treatment for fungal infections, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help your dog with itching and inflammation and make them less susceptible to dry skin and allergies.
Sardines, mackerel, and salmon oil are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Antifungal cream is a great way to help your dog with skin infections, but it should be used after consulting with a veterinarian and if the fungal infection only covers a small area of your dog’s skin that they can’t lick off.
Other alternative treatments include medicated shampoos, wipes, and sprays, as well as dietary supplements such as fish oil to alleviate some of the symptoms and prevent future flare-ups.