Ear Disease in Pets

The most common ear problem in dogs is inflammation of the outer ear, technically termed otitis externa. The area between the outside opening and the eardrum can be irritated by infections, parasites, allergies and foreign objects.

Signs of Ear Problems

Signs of irritation include scratching, shaking the head, and reacting painfully when the ears are touched. You may also see discharge. Ear hematomas are common if irritation goes untreated. Depending on the cause, one or both of the ears may be affected.

How Ear Problems are Diagnosed

Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look into the ears. He will also take a sample of ear discharge and examine it microscopically to check for signs of infection or ear mites. If infection is present, the sample may be sent to a lab for culture. Cultures provide information about the kinds of bacteria present and the medications that can help. During the examination, the veterinarian may also see foreign objects such as foxtails in the ear canal. If your dogs ears are very painful, sedation or anesthesia may be required.Ear Problems

Common Causes of Ear Problems
Some pets are prone to ear problems due to anatomy, allergies, or skin conditions. Ventilation of the ears is poor in dogs with floppy ears, resulting in a warm, moist environment perfect for growth of bacteria and yeast. Certain breeds of dogs are also more likely to suffer from skin allergies and disorders like sebhorrea. These skin problems affect the ears too, causing chronic inflammation and susceptibility to infection. The lining of the ear canal, like the rest of the skin, normally contains small amounts of bacteria and yeast. These organisms are harmless unless they multiply out of control. Overgrowth causes irritation, inflammation, foul odor and discharge. Chronic infection can lead to damage to ear tissues, including rupture of the ear drum. If the ear drum is ruptured, the infection can gain access to the middle ear, causing serious problems like head tilt, loss of balance, and inability to walk normally. Parasites in the ear include ear mites and ticks. Ear mites are tiny creatures that are just barely visible with the naked eye. They are quite contagious between animals. They cause severe itching and produce large amounts of black, waxy discharge. Pets with ear mites scratch their ears incessantly. This can lead to ear or skin infections as well as damage to deeper ear structures. Ticks can attach to the inside of the ears. They may irritate the ears or obstruct the canal, preventing normal ventilation and interfering with hearing. The most common foreign bodies in the ears are foxtails or grass awns. These pointy seeds get caught in pets fur and gradually work their way into the skin, nose, ears, and paws where they can cause major damage. Foxtails in the ears are very irritating. If they are not removed, they can penetrate the ear drum.

Treatment for Ear Problems

The first step in treating ear problems is a thorough cleaning of the ears. This may require sedation or anesthesia. Once the ears are clean, specific medications are prescribed. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections, antifungals for yeast, anti-inflammatories for irritation and allergies, and insecticides for ear mites. Most of the medications are administered directly into your dogs ears proper administration is crucial for effective treatment. Medication must be given exactly as instructed and continued for the full duration prescribed, even if the pet seems to be fully recovered sooner. The final step is to minimize the factors that can put pets at higher risk for ear problems. Skin problems and allergies may respond to dietary supplements, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatories. Routine ear cleaning with a product recommended by your veterinarian can also help. Check out our own brand- Spring Pet Products Ear Cleanser to help maintain a healthy ear environment. Avoid allowing pets in areas that contain foxtails and check for foxtails when they return from outdoors. If signs of ear problems recur, seek prompt medical attention before the condition worsens.

Spring Pet Ear Cleaner for Dogs and Cats ~ 16 Ounces ~ Soothing Aloe Vera and Vitamin Veterinary Strength Formula Made in USA

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto for short) is caused by a bacterium that attacts the liver and the kidney in both people and animals.  The cat, luckily, is one species that seems to be resistant to the bacterial infection. The Leptospires are sprirochetes that live in water and have a spiral shape with a hook on each end. People and animals bcecome infected from swimming or drinking contaminated water or in direct contact with urine from an infected animal, such as raccoons, rodents or cattle. The Lepto spirochete has an uncanny ability to penetrate unbroken skin.  Once the victim is infected, the bacteria attacks  the kidney, the liver or the blood system. Signs begin to appear four to twelve days after exposure with signs varying depending on what organ is being attacked.

If the kidneys are attacked, renal failure can result. Early signs are fever, listlessness, excessive thirst and urination progressing to kidney shut down and the inability to make urine. Often times, the urine may appear brown or reddish.

If the liver is affected, the liver is damaged and the body becomes yellow or jaundiced. There will also be vomiting, fever and general illness.

The worst form is the hemorrhagic form. The dog will have a fever and develop small hemorrhages in the skin. The disease progresses to internal bleeding and bloody diarrhea and urine. This form is often fatal.

Diagnosis is often difficult because the early signs are similar to other diseases and antibody titers do not rise early in the disease.

Treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy, such as intravenous fluids and a lengthy hospital stay. The fluids from the infected dog will shed the bacterium for several weeks, so care must be taken not to expose family members or hospital staff. Antibiotics are given for a few weeks after the illness to ensure killing all of the organisms. Some dogs may have lingering kidney damage resulting in chronic renal failure.

Prevention for dogs is accomplished with vaccinations. There are 4 major strains of Lepto that the vaccines will protect for. Every now and then, there are other strains that can pop up that are not covered by vaccinations. Since dogs are more likely to be exposed,  protecting them with vaccinations will help reduce possible exposure to their human friends. The downside is the lepto vaccine can cause allergic reactions in dogs. The reactions ususually result in hives or facial swelling and can be relieved with anti-histamines. I see more reactions in the Dachshunds than any other breed for some reason. Sometimes the vaccine may also cause soreness for a few days.  I feel that the benefits of vaccinating for this disease outweighs the risks of the vaccine, especially, since my clients live in a wooded neighborhood with possibility of exposure. If your dog lives in an apartment and never goes to the woods, swims in lakes or streams,  or has exposure to garbage where rodents may get into (a common source of infection), you and your veterinarian may fore go vaccinating.

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It is Maternity Season for Bats in Houston

Bats that have migrated south in the fall have returned to Houston for their mating season and have their babies. The mother bat carries the baby bat (called a pup) under her wings when she flies because the pups haven’t quite acquired the flying skill yet.

Sometimes, the heat and the extra weight of the baby results in some bats crash landing on the ground to rest. The result is that your dog or cat may discover the resting bats and find it irresistible to investigate. Because bats can carry Rabies, it is a good idea to make sure your pet is current on their vaccinations. It is also a good idea to make sure that you or  your children do not attempt to pick up the bats.  Once the bats have rested, she and her pup will mosey on home.


Can Dogs Get Arthritis?

Did you know that dogs and cats can also develop arthritis in their joints?  Osteoarthritis is the most common type of disease in our pets and is frequently found in the hips, knees, shoulders, elbow and in the bones of the spine. Some arthritis can develop from a ligament rupture such as a torn cruciate in the knee or a knee cap that slips from the groove of the tibia. Hip dysplasia in dogs is the most common cause of arthritis of the hips. Early surgical correction of the knee and hips can help stave off the arthritis. Obesity, and congenital conditions can also contribute to arthritis formation. Old, large breed dogs, such as Labradors, can also get arthritis in their spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a malfunction of the dog’s immune system. The antibodies that normally protect the dog from foreign invaders incorrectly attacks the joints of the dog causing severe cartilage and bone deterioration. Blood tests can help identify rheumatoid arthritis. Auto-immune arthritis is treated with corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.

Arthritis can also be caused by infections, either bacterial, fungus or viral. Leptospirosis and Lyme disease are common invaders that can cause arthritis. Septic arthritis is ususually treated with antibiotics.

Some dogs may not exhibit symptoms of arthritis until the disease is well advanced. Lameness, limping, difficulty in getting up, reluctance to jump or resisting walking can be signs of developing arthritis. Sometimes a loss of appetite, lethargy or other signs may also develop.

A trip to your veterinarian for an exam, blood tests and radiographs (x-rays) can help identify the problem. Surgical intervention can help with some cases of arthritis, especially of the knee, and hip. Arthroscopic surgeries and joint replacements are now common place at larger referral hospitals or Veterinary Universities. Rehabilitation with water treadmills are now available for our pets, too.

Some arthritis can be managed with anti-inflammatories, such as Rimadyl or other NSAIDS. Diagnostic blood work is recommended to monitor for possible affects on the internal organs.

Glucosamine and chondroitin may also be effective with arthritis by providing the basic components cartilage needs to repair itself. These supplements can be given as a chewy treat  (Joint support) or can be in prescription diets such as Hill’s j/d diet.

Your veterinarian can help advise you in a treatment plan to alleviate the pain in your pet and have a better quality of life.