Troublesome ear infections; antifreeze kills

Ear infections: They make life miserable for some dogs. And it
would seem that modern medicine should make it easy to treat and
eliminate these ear problems. But as the saying goes, it ain’t that
simple. Here’s why.
Ear infections: They make life miserable for some dogs. And it would seem that modern medicine should make it easy to treat and eliminate these ear problems. But as the saying goes, it ain’t that simple. Here’s why.

Otitis externa – inflammation of the outer ear canal – is caused by many different conditions in dogs. Bacterial infections are common, but yeast is also a frequent pathogen found in the ear. All these and allergies make treating ear problems a challenge for any veterinarian.

Dogs have a deep ear canal that takes a sharp turn before it reaches the eardrum (or tympanic membrane). This anatomy encourages entrapment of moisture and debris that contributes to ear problems. It provides that classic dark, warm and moist environment that bacteria and yeast just love.

If too much earwax builds up in a person’s ear, it usually comes out easily because the canal is so short. But pity the poor canine. His long twisty canal traps earwax, allowing it to build up. In some cases, it can completely occlude the eardrum.

Wax is part of the ear’s natural defense mechanism. The lining of the canal produces small amounts of this material to help protect the surface. But when the canal is inflamed, earwax production increases. The net effect can be a canal that is literally plugged with this stuff. Wax also entraps more moisture and bacteria or yeast, and it’s easy to see why canine otitis can be so persistent.

Not all ear problems are infectious. In fact, many are related to allergies. Dogs that are allergic to pollens, or any other allergens (even some foods) can have itchy skin and ear problems. Ear discomfort can be an early indication that a dog has allergies.

So as you can see, ear “infections” can be caused by several different problems. And whether he has an infection or allergy, Fido can have the same symptoms … itchy, itchy ears.

How do veterinarians treat ear problems? First, a thorough examination is done to check the overall health of the patient. The canal is examined for foxtails and ear mites, and if nothing obvious is found, a swab of the ear canal is taken. I know it sounds a little like CSI but this little swab can yield lots of information. And, after all, we are trying to find out what’s responsible for the ear problem.

Under the microscope, we can see if there are yeast or bacteria. Sometimes a culture and sensitivity is done to determine what antibiotic will most effectively treat the infection. But if none of these pathogens are found, a presumptive diagnosis of allergies is made. These pooches don’t need antibiotics. But they do need other medications to get their allergies under control.

The good news is that most otitis external patients can be treated successfully. The bad news is that some require constant, lifelong medication to prevent the problem from recurring.

If your pooch’s ears are sensitive to touch or if they have a funny smell, have your veterinarian take a look. There’s a lot that can be done to make those ears healthy and happy again.

Q: Our neighbor’s cat recently died from kidney failure. The vet asked if his cat ever drank any antifreeze. Is antifreeze dangerous to animals? How does it cause problems with the kidneys?

A: Antifreeze is extremely dangerous to all animals. Its active ingredient, ethylene glycol, causes rapid formation of oxalate crystals and stones. These occlude the renal tubules and disable the kidney’s normal filtration process. The end result is kidney failure.

It takes very little of this stuff to kill a cat or small dog. As little as one tablespoon can be lethal for an average size cat. Even diluted in radiator water, ethylene glycol is very dangerous. And unfortunately, this stuff has an attractive taste to most animals.

Years ago, a story circulated about one of the California condors that had been released. It was found dead with no signs of any struggle or injury. An autopsy showed that this bird had died of renal failure as a result of antifreeze ingestion. The assumption was that someone’s automobile had leaked radiator fluid with antifreeze and the bird drank the liquid. Just another example that it doesn’t take much for this liquid to be deadly.

If you have pets, keep them away from all chemicals. And never, never let your pet near radiator fluid or antifreeze.

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