An article in the Winnipeg Free Press by Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, MD, talks about recurrent yeast infections in women. It covers several pertinent points, such as the fact that lots of women who think they have yeast infections actually have different types of infections, and that over the counter treatment might be a concern because of the lack of a proper diagnosis.

Why mention that here? Because of a little anecdote at the end of the story (and one that’s gathering the most attention).

My colleague, faced with repeated failure, decided to ask if his patient had an animal living with her. She replied she did have a small dog and the dog did, in fact, enjoy the comforts of her bed on many occasions. But that was nothing new. It was only after intense probing that she finally admitted with embarrassment to teaching her dog a trick. Since she was away all day at work, she had taught the dog to urinate in the bathtub! The dog had a yeast infection!’

Good for them for thinking about pets. It may have taken time to get there, but at least the question came up. However, this may be yet another example of finally asking the question but stopping the thought process too soon.

Was the pet a possible source of recurrent yeast infection in the person? I can’t discount the possibility. We really don’t know much about the potential for transmission of this kind of infection, but the pet could have been contaminating the bathtub, leading to subsequent exposure of the person.

Did the pet really have a yeast infection? That’s an important question, since they just finished saying a lot of women who think they have a yeast infection don’t actually have one. I wonder whether the yeast infection was properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Was there any evidence that, if they both had an infection, the same bug was involved? Probably not. However, if you really want to know if the pet is potentially involved, a culture of both the pet and owner to see if the same yeast is present would be needed. Is it really worth doing? Perhaps, because if the pet and person have different yeast, it means that the MD needs to keep looking for possible causes of recurrent infection.

Could the pet have been getting infections from the owner? Possibly. If a pet and person have the same infection, and it’s not an infection that classically originates in a pet, then you have to consider the direction of transmission. If the woman had recurrent yeast infections, she could have been regularly contaminating the tub, where the dog could have been exposed when peeing.

It’s an interesting case that should raise some questions and hopefully lead to more thought about pets as a potential source of infection in cases like this, but at the same time, a more thorough investigation as well.