The following was an email sent to me by a fellow groomer, and my response:
"I have seen on the forum that you have some products that may improve certain skin conditions on dogs. I have a client with a shih-tsu and his face stinks. His eyes tear all the time and it results in a stinky, wet face. He doesn't have eye gunk or crusty stuff on his face. It's wet and stinky.
Do you have any idea what can I do to help? or what can I suggest the owner do between grooms?
I do believe that this odor could be from a common cause- yeast. For dogs with larger eyes and those which have a short muzzle- or are brachycephalic- one commonly sees staining, odor and wetness across the stop and under the eyes within the folds of skin found there. In the damp or wet space that holds moisture as the eyes weep, yeast will commonly grow here as it is a perfect environment for it. Diet choices which are high in grains can also add to the yeast count of a dog's skin and inner systems, as well as allergies or underlying health issues which pull down the natural flora and balance of the skin and inner systems of a dog.
Redness or staining can have multiple causes- from simple red dyes in the food and treats (ask the owner if they can alleviate all red colored food and treats)- which leach out in the pet’s saliva and tears, to high mineral or iron count in the drinking water (which are present in the tears and saliva and as they wet and then dry onto the coat), they oxidize and leave behind staining. To an overproduction of yeast that is elevated in the mucus membrane areas of the dog and also leaches from the saliva and tears (part of the reason we see a licked area also turn a rusty red) and will culture upon the skin in a localized area when it is kept moist.
Yeast is ever prevalent in a dog’s GI tract, and on their skin, but when it becomes too prolific, that is when we begin to see redness or sometimes secondary skin ulcers or eruptions, and smell the odor that almost always goes along with yeast overproduction- especially candida yeast.
Anyway, now that I have set the explanation of how this occurs. There are a number of ways we can possibly help this with our grooming and consulting with owners.
Talk to the owner about quality foods and treats. The better a food, the cleaner its ingredients and there for the better digestible ingredients for the pet- the less filler it will also have and therefor commonly far less a possibility for being the origin of adding ingredients to a pet’s systems that will only be synthesized as food for yeast growth. Poor diet is the number one cause to not just yeast, but a plethora of many other diseases and symptoms.
Sometimes a dog which is diabetic, or has serious allergies, or has hormone imbalance- can be sugar sensitive and will commonly also have yeast issues. Without working with their vet, it is best to simply mention the sugar and yeast relationship (grain or starches begets sugars and sugars feed yeast) and leave getting to the bottom of possible health issues to the owner and their vet.
As groomers, we need to keep the skin folds beneath the eyes of these dogs trimmed closely so that no hair rubs against the eyes and could possibly cause more tearing which leads to more yeast. Tell the owners to bring them in often even if it is only for a face trim, and to wipe the face with a warmly wet clean cloth (with plain tap or distilled water)often thru the day to help keep it clean. Commercial eye wipe pads can have peroxide in them which may lighten stains (check the label), but this does not end tearing and can actually with time irritate the mucus membranes of the eyes and lead to worse tearing or eye crust. Some dogs also GROW hair from the cornea of their eyes (if you look at the ShihTzu breed, they are prone to have active hair follicles which produce actual hair and it will grow from the eye and cause it to tear or weep constantly). Look at the dog's eyes to be sure that indeed no hair is growing from the eye surface. I know it sounds weird- but it is possible.
As groomers we also need to do a very thorough job of washing the pet’s face at each groom. I personally will clipper the face some before the bath so that I know I can get in there very well when using my fingers to scrub the face. I use a good clarifying tearless shampoo, or a facial wash on the face to be sure that it is completely clean and odor free when they leave the salon. Dogs with allergies should not have highly colored or fragranced topicals (shampoos, conditioners, coat sprays and colognes) used on them as fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergic reaction relating to the grooming experience. I also personally wash the face well first and then wash the rest of the dog- allowing the face to soak in the shampoo- before rinsing the entire dog in the tub.
Keeping the eyes well trimmed of surrounding hair, or looking for ingrown eyelashes and plucking them if needed, noting any lumps along the eyelid which can sometimes be calcium deposits- which can block the tear duct and interrupt regular tear production, or noticing an ingrown hair, these can cause the tears to pool on the eye and the eye to be always irritated and therefor to weep in effort to cleanse itself- by looking for these things we can often find a topical reason for weepy eyes. Remember that inhalant or contact allergies (those where direct exposure can cause the eyes to be irritated much the same as with humans) can also cause weeping.
Once diet is out of the equation, the hair around the eyes is trimmed away from the eyes (or banded and wrapped if the pet is kept in full coat)- and hopefully there is no hair growing from the eye itself- if the face is kept clean and as dry as possible, you will most likely see a drastic change.
At home, the owner feeding these things can also help lower elevated yeast levels in the dog's body:
Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil (does an excellent and quick job of killing back yeast and can also be rubbed directly onto the coat, into ears and into the foot pads of dogs with a bad allergic response)
High quality, grain free food or super premium food and treats if the pet is sure to not have grain allergies (the most common type of food allergy is to grains- notably corn)
As groomers, cleaning and trimming will give us the best and fastest results for the client and their pet. To completely end yeast as much as possible, the owner will also have to follow up with at home care. As well, they will need a vet who does not off the cuff prescribe a steroid or antibiotics to end what they see as an allergic reaction and can commonly only be yeast overproduction which has the same accompanying symptoms as allergies: itchiness or painful areas, discolored hair and skin, skin lesions or loss of hair from licking and/or chewing, and a strong odor. Symptomatic pets need a vet with an open mind and not just allopathic care methods.
When you have time, do some online reading on "yeast and dogs", there's a whole world of info out there arising about yeast and allergies and supportive veterinary care for the canine.
Hope that this helps!