Time to Clean Your Pet’s Ears?

Woman veterinarian examines ear of a dachshund dog

Veterinarians see a lot of patients with ear infections. In fact, it’s the second most common reason for a client visit, according to pet health insurer, VPI Pet Insurance. With ear problems prompting so many trips to the vet, should ear cleaning be a necessary part of grooming your pet?

Generally, cleaning a dog’s ears on a routine basis is not necessary, according to Leonard Jonas, DVM, MS, DACVIM, a veterinarian with Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colo. That’s because animals have a naturally occurring self-cleansing process.

“I’ve had pets my whole life,” Jonas said. “I don’t remember ever routinely cleaning out their ears.”

However, that doesn’t mean pet owners should never take notice of their dog’s ears. Certain breeds, lifestyles and physical characteristics will make a dog more prone to what Jonas calls “abnormal situations,” in which the pet’s normal homeostasis is disrupted. This is when something, either systemically or locally in the ear, interferes with the normal surface barrier defense system and the normal cleaning process that keeps bacteria and yeast under control.

There are signs to watch for if your pet is having an issue with its ears. These, according to Jonas, include:

  • Shaking its head
  • Flapping its ears
  • Rubbing at its ears, either with a paw or by rubbing against furniture or carpet
  • Self-massaging the ear to ease itch, pain or irritation
  • Debris and/or redness inside the ear
  • Sores inside the ear
  • Odor in the ear due to abnormal oils and bacteria

“If you [the pet owner] look in the ear, you can see sometimes a lot of debris,” said Jonas, explaining what an ear with an infection or problem may look like. “Then [you] see redness on the ear flaps (inside) or sores developing. And then there’s also odor that occurs when you have an abnormal ear.”

Breeds to watch
There are certain breeds of dogs—such as Shar Peis, bulldogs and poodles—that have narrow ear canals and have a higher chance of incurring ear issues. Poodles, especially, have more hair in the canals, Jonas explained. “The hair itself is not a problem, but if they’ve got something abnormal with their whole defense system, all that extra hair in there makes it difficult.”

Cocker spaniels are notorious for ear problems, Jonas added.

When to clean your pet’s ears
According to Jonas, it’s best to consult your veterinarian before going forward with an ear-cleaning regimen. Unlike cleaning the teeth, cleaning the ears does not need be done regularly. If a pet owner suspects that something may be wrong with the ear, it’s advised to visit the veterinarian and establish whether the dog’s ear needs to be cleaned by the owner either routinely or for an instructed period of time.

Cleaning the dog’s ears without first seeing a veterinarian is not a good idea, Jonas said, “because you don’t know what’s going on inside. You don’t know if there has been a ruptured ear drum; you don’t know if there’s a stick or a stone or something stuck down inside the ear that needs to be fished out by a veterinarian.”

A veterinarian can diagnose the problem and make the proper recommendations, which may be cleaning and/or medication.

Typically, there are two situations for which a dog’s ears would need to be cleaned regularly. The first is when a veterinarian instructs for it to be done, and the second is when the dog is frequently in water. “Water in their ears disrupts the normal defense barrier system in that ear, and can make them prone to getting infections and irritation and inflammation,” Jonas said.

If there needs to be ear cleaning
A veterinarian should show the owner how to properly clean the dog’s ears because “there are a lot of different techniques, and it depends on what the problem is,” Jonas advised.

There are a couple of precautions to always remember, according to Jonas. First, never use a Q-tip, because it tends to push the wax and debris further into the ear. Second, be sure a groomer does not pluck the hair out of the dog’s ears, unless that hair is contributing to an ear problem; Jonas believes that doing so may cause irritation.

One thing pet owners should also consider is that if the dog has an ear infection, it could be very painful for them. Forcing the dog to get its ears cleaned or putting medication in them can be a dangerous situation for the owner and the dog.

“If your pet doesn’t want you to do it, don’t, because it hurts,” Jonas said. “You’re just going to create a problem, and you need to look to alternatives.”

 

Originally published by Healthy Pet.

Don’t Ignore Breathing Difficulties in Short-nosed Dogs

Portrait of a pug dog

Unfortunately, the only thing normal about noisy breathing for dogs with “pushed-in” faces is that it is an expected response to a shortened upper jaw, which creates excess soft tissue in the back of the throat.

Some dogs are affected to the point where they experience brachycephalic (the scientific term for breeds with pushed in faces) obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS. If left untreated, problems can get worse to the point where an animal can collapse due to a lack of oxygen.

Owners of affected dogs may be putting them at risk if they do not recognize the problem and seek treatment, according to researchers Rowena Packer, Dr. Anke Hendricks and Dr. Charlotte Burn of the United Kingdom’s Royal Veterinary College.

In their 2012 study, the researchers discovered that owners of such dogs as pugs, English bulldogs, Pekingese, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih tzus and others were not aware of the signs of BOAS. In fact, 58% of surveyed owners said their dogs did not have breathing problems even when more than two-thirds of the dogs showed difficulties during exercise.

What to watch for
According to Packer, while it is not yet known which are the best predictors of BOAS, signs to look for include:

  • Increased and abnormal breathing noise that sounds like snoring, both when the dog is awake and asleep
  • A shortness of breath while exercising or playing
  • Effortful, labored breathing with obvious abdominal movements
  • Interrupting exercise, play or eating to catch their breath
  • Inability to exercise for reasonable periods of time without becoming out of breath
  • Difficulty cooling down after a walk; panting for long periods
  • Physical collapse while exercising
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or periods where the dog stops breathing during sleep
  • Restlessness and difficulty getting comfortable at rest, stretched out head and neck position, forelegs spread and body flat against the floor
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as difficulty swallowing, and bringing up food, stomach content or a lot of saliva.

“If you notice these signs, take your dog to your veterinarian for an assessment to learn whether they are compatible with the disease or due to a different problem,” says Hendricks.

“If left to develop,” says Burn, “BOAS can lead to secondary problems due to the effort required to breathe—putting pressure on the voice box, digestive system and heart. In addition, the more severe the breathing problems, the greater the severity of GI signs. They may reflect inflammation of the esophagus, stomach ulcers and, in some cases, hiatal hernias, when part of the stomach can become displaced into the chest cavity during breathing.”

Option for severe BOAS
If your veterinarian believes the dog may have BOAS that requires treatment, he or she may refer you to a veterinary surgical specialist. There, the dog’s airway is likely to be examined under general anesthesia to assess whether it shows the abnormalities associated with BOAS—an elongated soft palate, collapsing voice box and narrowed nostrils.

If present, these abnormalities would be surgically corrected, says Packer. That could mean, for example, that excess tissue in the nose and throat would be removed.

Surgery may improve clinical signs, she says, but the dog may never be “normal,” because of the head structure and is likely to remain susceptible to heat stress.

For severely affected dogs, where significant secondary problems have occurred—for example, severe laryngeal collapse—then treatment choices may be limited. In some cases, either permanent tracheostomy or euthanasia may be recommended.

“That is why it is vital,” says Hendricks, “that owners recognize the clinical signs of BOAS and perceive them to be a ‘problem’ as early as possible, so that these secondary changes can be avoided by early intervention.”

Options for mildly affected dogs
For all dogs, including those that have had surgery or have been determined by a veterinarian to only be mildly affected, owners can help with some lifestyle changes, says Burn. Owners should do the following:

  • Closely monitor the dog to keep it at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can exacerbate the condition.
  • Use body harnesses rather than collars on walks so the airway is not compressed by a neck collar if the dog pulls at the leash.
  • Avoid walking on hot or humid days. On particularly warm days, keep dogs calm and indoors in a cool, aerated room with access to water.
  • Avoid having dogs in particularly stressful or exciting situations.

 

Originally published by Healthy Pet.

What is the FURminator?

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If your pet is a shedder, you need to try the FURminator. As pet owners ourselves, we know how quickly that pet hair adds up in the home, covering furniture and clothing and even getting into our food! Vacuuming is time-consuming and counterproductive at times—you clean the whole house, but the source, your dog or cat, is still shedding!

That’s where the FURminator comes in. The FURminator is a comb that has been specially designed remove the loose fur in your pet’s undercoat where the shedding fur typically originates. This tool does not cut or damage the coat at all, ensuring that your pet isn’t losing more fur than they can stand to lose, but instead it pulls away the fur that was going to fall out and scatter around your home anyway!

How Does the FURminator Reduce my Pet’s Shedding?

The FURminator tool is only designed to be used on pets with double hair coats, such as Golden Retrievers, one of the most popular shedders! The teeth in the comb are positioned to rake out the loose undercoat, removing the hair that has already come loose and will be shed.

The FURminator should be used on your pet 1-2 times per week for approximately 10-20 minute sessions, but may be used more frequently during heavy shedding seasons, including springtime. Be extra careful around ears and tail though as these areas are often more sensitive!

Where Can I Get the FURminator?

The FURminator is sold in various sizes, depending on your pet’s size, and can be found at all three of our animal hospital locations. You can pick it up at River Oaks Animal Hospital, Pet Care Center of Apopka, or East Lake Animal Clinic! If you have questions about this tool or hope to see it in action, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

ASPCA Guide to Pet-Safe Gardening

Garden tools and dog

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions who’ve had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants.
“Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you’ve stepped outside,” says Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert. “Protecting your pet from potential hazards in your yard is just as critical.”
While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions.

Our experts recommend you watch out for the following:

Poisonous Plants
When designing and planting your green space, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that many popular outdoor plants—including sago palm, rhododendron and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe all affect the heart. Please visit our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your garden.

Fertilizer
Just like you, plants need food. But pet parents, take care—the fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.

Cocoa Mulch
Many gardeners use cocoa bean shells—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. Depending on the amount involved, ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and even seizures. Consider using a less-toxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, but always supervise curious canines in yards where mulch is spread.

Insecticides
Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.

Compost
You’re doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth—you’re composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you’re tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding your pet.

Fleas and Ticks
Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep those lawns mowed and trim. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesia.

Garden Tools
Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don’t appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

Allergy-Causing Flora
Ah-choo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don’t give him any medication that isn’t prescribed by a veterinarian. It’s also smart to keep your pet out of other people’s yards, especially if you’re unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there. Keeping your pet off the lawn of others will make for healthy pets and happy neighbors.
Originally published by the ASPCA.