Ear mites: Why your pet looks like they have coffee grinds in their ears

Dr. Attix checking Bobbi’s ears

Have you ever asked your pet a question and had them shake their head in response? Only to later realize that they have been shaking their head all day long. This recently happened to one of our support staff and as cute as it was to ask her cat a question, the poor girl couldn’t help but shake her head. When the doctor examined her she realized that the dog had not learned to speak human language, but instead had bugs in her ears. For our dogs and cats, having little critters living in their ears is unfortunately a relatively frequent occurrence. One such ear gunk muncher is commonly called the ear mite.

What is an ear mite?

Ear mites are tiny little creatures that often produce a substance that resembles coffee grinds in your pet’s ear or ears. If you were able to see them without the assistance of a microscope they would look like tiny, little white dots, moving about the ear. Ear mites feed off of skin and debris in the ear canal. They will generally lay eggs in the ear and after about 3 weeks the eggs hatch and continue the reproduction cycle. As the ear canal is not a very large space to be continuously reproducing, it does not take long before you pet has a serious problem on their hands (or in this case ears)!

How to know if my pet has ear mites:

Common signs of ear mites are head shaking, scratching at the ears, the coffee grind-looking discharge they produce, and inflammation. Unfortunately, there is not much else to warn you that your pet has something going on. They are also much more common in cats than dogs. Generally a doctor will recommend an ear cytology, where they look at a sample under the microscope to determine whether or not the issue is a mite or something else. If it is a mite there are few steps to help get rid of them.

Treating your pet for ear mites
The first step to treating an ear mite issue is to thoroughly cleaning of the ear. This will help reduce the amount of discharge the mites have created, and help the ear prepare to heal. After this there are a few options for treating ear mites and it really depends on what your doctor sees. They may recommend a monthly flea and parasite preventative like Revolution (for cats) or a prescription medication, such as ivermectin.  Thankfully, ear mites do not like to live on humans, so you are unlikely to get an ear infection from them, but you can act as a carrier from one pet to another. This means it may be necessary for multiple pets in the house to be treated to ensure they are not just passing from pet to pet and back again. If you think your pet may be showing signs of ear mites, or other ear related problem, please give us a call 760-757-2442 or shoot us an email, info@pacificanimalhospital.com.

Class IV Laser Therapy and Your Pet

Living through the 1980s we all had dreams of grandeur about lasers. They were going to save the world from evil invaders, be the weapon of choice, and shoot from our eyes like super heroes. Sadly, we still can’t shoot lasers from our eyes and haven’t had Darth Vader land on earth, but that is not to say we haven’t made amazing advances in the world of lasers. So much advancement, in fact, that we can now use lasers to help heal wounds and manage pain.

Starting this January we are now able to offer Class IV Laser Therapy as a treatment modality to our patients. Although it can be used in many different situations, this is an alternative treatment for pets with pain and inflammatory conditions including long-term arthritis and stiffness, back injury, ear infections, lacerations and wounds, bladder infections, bone fractures, skin disease, muscle and tendon injury, and most other painful conditions.

As crazy as it sounds (especially if you are still picturing the lasers coming out of Superman’s eyes) study after study show amazing results. Even for the patients in our hospital who have been receiving laser therapy, the results are astounding. Laser therapy relieves pain, speeds healing, and restores function and mobility by reducing inflammation and swelling, increasing blood flow and releasing endorphins in targeted areas. There are no known side effects from laser therapy and the treatments can help reduce or eliminate the need for expensive medications that may have adverse side effects.

Happy Betty getting laser treatment during our staff meeting demonstration!

You may have seen some of the pictures on our Facebook about the Class IV Laser Therapy, but still wonder what the appointment is like. For most pets there are two options, either an appointment with mom/dad, doctor, and patient; or you may drop your pet off in the morning, they can hang out with the staff for the day, receive their treatment and any other preventative care needed. Our hope is to make the appointment as convenient for you and your pet as possible! Your pet will be comfortable and feel only slight soothing warmth during treatment. To help protect their eyes during the procedure, the doctor, technician, pet, and client are all wear special goggles. Each treatment takes only 3 to 12 minutes. Your pet may only need 1 to 3 treatments for short-term conditions such as ear infections or wound healing.  For long-term conditions such as arthritis, six to eight treatments over three weeks are needed, then treatments are tapered to once every one to two months depending on response.

Laser therapy relieves pain and increases mobility without medications or surgery.  Treatment cost is very reasonable as compared to expensive pain and arthritis medications.  Please call us (760-757-2442) to make an appointment or speak with a doctor about this new treatment option to help your pet.

Is My Dog Aggressive?

Although just a pup, it is important to always be on the look out for any signs that your dog may be experiencing fear, anxiety, or learned negative behaviors.

Remember the time you went to the dog park and saw two dogs get in a fight? What was your first thought, “Wow! That dog is super aggressive?” or perhaps, “Those owners need to train their dog!” For many dog owners understanding what “normal” behavior is can be very difficult. Understanding a new pet can almost be like speaking a foreign language (after all the dog cannot speak human and likely you don’t speak dog). For many dogs a tiff at the dog park is just that a tiff, no more and no less. Once broken up, both dogs go their separate ways and never have issues again. For other dogs aggression is a major issue for the parents to be aware of. There are three main reasons why a dog may act out or be aggressive:

Fear –Similar to small children, unfamiliar places or people can cause a dog to be afraid. Their aggression may simply be to protect themselves from what they do not understand. Signs that your dog may be afraid are: flattened ears, tail tucked between hind legs, cowering, lip licking, and/or raised hair. This is not to say that if your pet has these symptoms that they are 100% going to bite or become aggressive, these are just signs to watch for. If you pet has these symptoms it is always a good idea to check in with them, removing them from the stimuli and trying again later.

Protection –It is well known that dogs have a pack mentality. When the dog entered into your human family, the family and the dog become a pack and your home became the “den” or pack’s territory. Unfortunately, many dogs will protect the pack or territory aggressively, you can usually tell this behavior by their growling, snapping, or barking. If your pet is doing any of these things be careful not to reinforce the behavior. Any attention you give them only encourages them to continue. Instead, wait until they stop and then praise them for the behavior you want (such as sitting quietly, watching the mailman without barking, etc.).

Learned behavior -Many of the traits our pets show when they are fearful or protecting are the result of learned behavior. On purpose or not, everything we say and do with our pet in absorbed by them. For instance, if you have a puppy who barks behind your legs when company comes over talking/yelling/scolding or touching your puppy tells them that this behavior will get them your attention. Although it seemed to calm them down the first time, they are likely to now repeat that behavior to once again get your attention. Instead, keep your attention off of your pet; help them to understand that behavior you do not like will only lead to less attention from you.

This is obviously just the beginning to understanding your pet’s behavior and why they do what they do. There may be serious repercussions to an aggressive pet, such as biting another pet or person. We highly recommend that if your pet shows any signs of leeriness or aggression to speak with one of our doctors, in person, by phone or email. Our staff is always happy to help assess a pet’s behavior and offer advice on how you can work with your pet to reinforce the behaviors you want and stop those you don’t.