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Q: My dog was just treated for an ear infection last month and now he has another one! Why did it come back? Was it not treated appropriately the first time?

A: Ear infections (otitis externa) in dogs are an infection of the outer ear canal. The outer ear canal in a dog has a unique shape and is longer than a human’s ear canal. With this unusual shape and length, material and moisture can get trapped deep down in the canal providing an environment friendly to yeast and bacteria overgrowth.

Getting water in the ear canals due to bathing or swimming is one of the most common reasons for ear infections. Once the water gets deep in the ear canal it cannot be removed, even with vigorous head shaking, and then the ear canal is set up for yeast and bacterial overgrowth.

It is recommended to flush the dog’s ears with an appropriate dog ear flush solution to get the water out of the ears after bathing and swimming. An over the counter dog ear flush has the appropriate ingredients to clean and dry out the ear canals.

The other most common reason for ear infections is allergies either to food, environment or both. Skin allergies can cause all sorts of skin lesions, infections, and irritation including in the ear canals.

Inflammation of the skin disrupts the normal barriers of the skin and allows for secondary infections. When the ear canals become inflamed due to allergies they too create the ideal environment for yeast and bacterial overgrowth.

When treating ear infections that are due to allergies, it is vital to determine and treat the underlying source of the allergies or the infections will continue to re-occur. It is also important to treat the inflammation, and typically that is done with an oral allergy medication along with the topical therapy.

Ear infections are primarily treated topically because oral medications do not penetrate the outer ear canal well. When allergies are suspected to be the inciting cause then oral allergy medications are also used.

If your dog continues to get ear infections even with treatment, then it is likely the infections are secondary to allergies and will probably be a chronic issue that needs to be managed and not cured.

Q: I just adopted a kitten and I am confused as to when to get her vaccinated and spayed. What is your advice?

A: Getting your pets properly vaccinated when they are young is essential for long term immunity against highly contagious and deadly diseases that they might be exposed to during their lifetime.

It is not the quantity of vaccines that a young animal gets that is important, rather it is the timing and quality of the vaccine that is crucial.

After being weaned, a young animal still has immunity from the mother. This immunity will fade over time as their own immune system starts to take over. It is during this time that the early vaccines are used to start to educate the animal’s own immune system as to how to “respond” when exposed to one of these diseases.

Vaccines should be given 3-4 weeks apart until the kitten is 4 months of age. Typically, we start giving vaccines at 8 weeks and then give them every 4 weeks until 4 months of age. Giving vaccines more frequently than every 3-4 weeks is not recommended and can be detrimental to the young animal’s health.

It is important to know that prior to the last kitten vaccines at 4 months the immune system is not completely mature yet and the pet could still be at risk for contracting diseases. After the kitten is fully vaccinated then it is recommended to get the kitten spayed.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com.

This article originally ran on azdailysun.com.

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