Your dog’s head shaking: a sign of trouble?

Filed under Pharmacy Blog

Excessive head shaking can have a number of causes

Almost every pet owner is familiar with the shaking that occurs after liquids get on our pet’s head. That energetic shaking that splashes water everywhere makes it quite impossible to finish giving our dogs a bath without us also getting thoroughly soaked along with them. There is a secret that nobody talks about though—the secret is that, although we sometimes complain about getting wet with the dog, most owners secretly love it when this happens! Most people, including me, consider this part of the fun and excitement of owning a pet. It also provides particular amusement to family members who witness the event from far away, and usually much laughter ensues.

There are times however when head shaking is a cause for concern. When a pet continuously shakes his or her head without an apparent reason, it could be an indication of a possible ear infection, inflammation, or even the result of an uncontrolled allergy. Since allergies are among the most common causes and often even predispose the pet to infections and inflammation in the ears, we’ll start with that topic. Read More »

Ear Mites: Some Quick Tips

Filed under Pharmacy Blog

One of the symptoms of ear mites is itchiness

I don’t know why this seems to happen, but dog and cat diseases appear to come in cycles or waves. For the past month, it seems like every time I pick up the phone in the pharmacy the question is about ear mites. Even though this is probably coincidental or simply in my imagination, I decided to do a “Quick Tips” page for those that might be helped by it. Read More »

When Scratching Is Not a Good Idea: Ear Mites

Filed under Pharmacy Blog

Ear mites are extremely contagious between pets that are in contact with each other.

“When the itch is inside the boot, scratching outside provides little consolation” ~ Old Chinese Proverb.

Although ear mites are extremely itchy, they generally do not infect an area that cannot be reached. The problem is that continuously scratching the ear for that bit of consolation may cause a severe secondary bacterial skin infection. The best way to provide any lasting relief for the itch that accompanies ear mites is by actually treating to cure the underlying condition itself.

Ear mites are quite tiny and they resemble microscopic ticks. Rabbits, ferrets, dogs and cats are susceptible to this infection; however, cats are the most commonly infected. Ear mites do not burrow into the skin but derive their sustenance from tissue and ear wax causing discomfort, irritation, and itching. Mites that do burrow into the skin are responsible for causing mange. The life cycle of the ear mites consists of 4 stages:

Read More »

How to Clean Your Pet’s Ears

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

An ear solution containing a drying agent is especially useful for floppy eared dogs

I find the best way to clean a pet’s ears is to obtain a water-soluble solution that contains drying agents such as salicylic acid. I find that these agents are often most effective in breaking and drying  up the wax and discharge that may develop especially in floppy eared dogs, and which is often is responsible for the development of secondary bacterial and yeast infections.

One of my favorite ear solutions is Epi-Otic, which has been around for many years. I find that flushing the ears liberally with this solution for several minutes is often the best way at cleaning such often waxy ears. The pet will often shake his head of the excess moisture which can then be wiped safely away with dry gauze or cotton balls. While I will often use Q-tips in the exam room in deeply cleaning out the ear canals, I usually don’t instruct clients to do this at home because of my concern about perforating the ear drum if they go too far down. I will usually recommend flushing the ears out with a good drying solution at least a few times a week, and sometimes more frequently if a pet has an active current infection.

For those pets who like to swim or bathe a lot, I will recommend flushing the ears out after bathing or swimming. Another of my favorite products, Zymox Otic HC is great to use in those pets prone to yeast or bacterial infections, as not only does this solution kill these microbes, but they will naturally and enzymatically keep the ears clean, without the need for using additional cleaners or medications in many cases.

Ear Mites in Pets

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

Symptoms of ear mites include a brown waxy discharge and head shaking or ear itching.

One of the more common causes of ear inflammation and discharge especially in younger puppies and kittens is the presence of ear mites. Ear mites usually come from direct contact with mites in the environment, or from other animals. Symptoms often include dark waxy discharge from both ears, as well as head shaking and ear itching. Some pets will develop other skin symptoms including patchy hair loss and scabs, especially around the head and upper body.

While ear mites may live outside the ear for a period, they will usually die after a short period of time. Rarely, humans may develop scabs and crusts on their skin in some cases; however, this usually resolves after the mites are treated in the animals. Diagnosis of ear mites is usually made by evaluation of ear discharge under the microscope for the live mites or mite eggs.

All animals in a household need to be treated.  Many animal guardians will erroneously feel that their adult or older pets may have ear mites, but in those cases yeast and/or bacteria are more often involved, often secondary to underlying allergies. These can be differentiated by evaluation of ear discharge. There are many possible treatments for ear mites, including topical antibiotics such as Tresaderm, as well as other anti-parasitic medications such as topical Milbemite, as well as Acarexx.  Some veterinarians will use products with Ivermectin such as Ivomec in treating other pets. The prognosis for ear mites is excellent and cure is likely.

Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

How often you should clean your pet's ears depends on a number of factors.

One of the more common questions asked in veterinary dermatological practice involves cleaning pets’ ears.  The frequency of ear cleaning needed will depend upon several factors, including the presence of pre-existing ear disease, anatomic conformation, as well as presence of wax and/or discharge.

Certain breeds, including many Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, will need their ears cleaned up to a few times weekly as maintenance, because of the tendency to build up wax and discharge.  Many pets, including most cats, often don’t need their ears cleaned at all.  If a pet develops an ear infection with increased inflammation, wax, odor, discharge or pus, then cleaning ears is often an important part of the daily treatment and regimen.

The type of ear infection diagnosed by your veterinarian will determine what is ideal to clean the ears.  Many veterinarians will evaluate the ear discharge under the microscope to see if yeast and/or bacteria are present, both of which usually require different types of ear cleaning solutions.  A few of my favorite all purpose ear cleaning solutions are Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser and Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution with Hydrocortisone which can work in a wide variety of types of ears and for various types of discharges. It is easiest to simply flush these solutions liberally down the ear canals and then allow the pet to shake their head, before wiping excessive solution with a dry gauze or cotton balls.

Ear Hematomas in Pets

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

An ear hematoma is a collection of blood within the cartilage flap of the ear canals.

Ear hematomas are common presentations in small animal veterinary medicine.  Hematomas are collections of blood within the cartilage flap of the ear canals, which often appears as a balloon-like swelling of the ear flaps. Most often this is due to trauma from scratching the ears or shaking the head in dogs or cats suffering from underlying inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies

While many animal guardians and some veterinarians will sometimes attempt to drain the swelling with a needle, recurrence of the hematoma will often recur.  Therefore, the best treatment for pets with ear hematomas is surgical drainage of the ears under anesthesia. When done appropriately, the prognosis for healing is excellent.  In those cases left to go down on their own, healing will still occur, but often with a dramatic amount of scar tissue in the ears.  It is important to address the underlying causes of the ear hematomas mentioned above, or the likelihood of recurrence is greatly increased.

Recurrent Ear Infections in Pets

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

Your vet should look for underlying causes if your pet suffers from recurrent ear infections.

Recurrent ear infections in pets can have many possible causes.  Rather than just prescribing more topical antibiotic/steroid medications like Mometamax or Otomax, it is important for animal guardians and veterinarians to look at underlying causes to avoid frustrating relapses and repeat veterinary visits.

Many animal guardians will often erroneously think that their animal companions have ear mites; however, ear mites can be easily ruled out by having the ear discharge examined under the microscope.

A proper veterinary otic exam can also rule out ear polyps, foreign bodies, and growths down the ear canals. The most common underlying causes of ear infections in dogs are inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies.

Amongst the many potential contact allergies are: molds, grasses, trees, dander, house dust mites, and pollens.  Many of these problems tend to be seasonal.  Diagnosis of inhalant/contact allergies is often made on clinical history; however, definitive diagnosis requires blood and/or skin testing.  Treatment not only addresses the overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the ear canals, but also must treat the underlying allergic causes either through symptomatic antihistamine or cortisone therapy, or through allergy shots.

Because many pets with food allergies will often present with recurrent ear infections, any pet with repetitive ear infections should also have a 6-8 week trial with a novel hypoallergenic diet such as rabbit, duck or venison based foods.   Unless the potential underlying causes are addressed, pets will continue to suffer from relapses and veterinary visit expense.

Managing Head Shaking Symptoms in Pets

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog
Head shaking is a common symptom of ear inflammation which could be caused by allergies or an ear infection Head shaking is a very common concern I receive from pet owners with various size pets. In many cases, the cause of this historical complaint is due to some sort of underlying ear inflammation and/or allergy.  Allergies are most commonly due to inhalant/contact allergens such as molds, grasses, trees, dander, house dust, pollen, as well as possible food allergies.

Many times underlying allergies may lead to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections of the ears, which often result in excessive wax or discharge and thus secondary head shaking.  In younger or outdoor pets, ear mites may be an underlying cause of head shaking, and these need to be ruled out by veterinary exam and/or evaluation of discharge under the microscope.

To help treat the symptoms of head shaking in your dog or cat, I recommend antihistamines such as Benadryl (dose of one mg per pound twice daily) and using cleaning agents like Zymox Otic which may help until a definitive diagnosis can be made and long term treatment plan instituted with your pet’s veterinarian.

What Is Causing My Dog’s or Cat’s Head Shaking?

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog
Often times pet owners will come in to inquire about their pet frequently shaking their head. By far the most common cause of this historical complaint is some sort of underlying ear inflammation and/or allergy. Allergies are most commonly due to inhalant/contact allergens such as:

  • Mold
  • Grass
  • Trees
  • Dander
  • House dust
  • Pollen
  • And possible food allergies
Frequent head shaking can be the result of ear infections including inflammation and potential allergies

Many times pets with underlying allergies may lead to secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections of the ears, which often result in excessive wax or discharge and thus secondary head shaking. In younger pets or pets that spend most of their time outside, ear mites may also be an underlying cause of head shaking, and these need to be ruled out by veterinary exam and/or evaluation of discharge under the microscope.
For symptomatic treatment of head shaking, antihistamines such as Benadryl (dose of one mg per pound twice daily), and using cleaning agents like Zymox Otic may often help until a definitive diagnosis can be made and long term treatment plan instituted.