There's nothing inherently wrong with yeast on your dog's skin. It's normal for these microorganisms to dwell there. Unfortunately, cocker spaniels are genetically prone to yeast infections, when opportunistic yeasts start multiplying because of changes in canine skin. Your vet must treat your cocker spaniel's infection and determine the cause.
An infection of the yeast known as Malassezia pachydermatis (because it can cause a dog's skin to resemble that of an elephant) often affects the skin in a cocker spaniel's long, pendulous ears. Although cocker genes might predispose them to yeast infections, that doesn't mean every spaniel has to suffer. According to the District of Columbia Academy of Veterinary Medicine, this type of dermatitis is almost always secondary to an underlying ailment.
If yeast infects your cocker spaniel's ears, you'll notice constant scratching, along with a foul smell and discharge. You might see crusty lesions near his ear flap, as well as hair loss. Severely affected dogs might lose their balance or constantly tilt or shake their heads. Yeast infections on other parts of your dog's body cause many of the same skin and itching symptoms. Commonly affected areas include the head, feet and abdomen. If it's left untreated, your cocker spaniel could develop that thick, discolored "elephant skin." Your vet will take skin samples to diagnose the condition.
Your vet might prescribe medicated shampoos and topical products for the lesions. If the ears are affected, your vet might sedate your dog and perform a thorough cleaning. She might prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the yeast infection. Your vet will also conduct skin tests to find out the underlying cause of the disease. If she suspects a food allergy, your cocker spaniel might require a special diet, or a trial-and-error diet to pinpoint the culprit.
In cocker spaniels, the underlying disease triggering the yeast infection is often seborrhea. If your pet develops greasy skin, take him to the vet for treatment before lesions break out and yeast gains a foothold. Yeast infections are more common in regions with high humidity and less so in arid areas. While you probably don't want to move to the desert because of your dog's yeast infection, remember to inspect your cocker spaniel's skin and ears more thoroughly during humid weather.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.