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Ear Mites (Otodectic Mange) in Dogs

American Staffordshire Terrier

Otodectic mites are small insects that live in a dog or cat’s ear passage and they feed by first piecing the skin. Although not contagious to people, they’re extremely contagious to dogs and cats. Ear mites are the single most common cause of ear troubles in puppies and young adult dogs. If the dog has trouble with both ears, ear mites are the most likely cause.

Ear mites aren’t to be confused with other mites that cause Sarcoptic mange. The latter is a different disease but symptoms may include crusty tips of the dog’s ears.

A hypersensitive reaction can happen with only a few ear mites and it can cause intense itchiness, which leads to violent head shaking and scratching. The flaps of the ears get crusted and excoriated, turn red and start to scab. The ear passages may have a dark brown, crumbly, dry, waxy discharge that may resemble coffee grounds. A horrible smell may be caused due to a secondary infection.

To identify ear mites, get some wax from the dog’s ear with a cotton-tipped applicator. Then put it on a black background and look through a magnifying glass. They will appear as white flecks no bigger than a pin’s head.

After ear mites have been diagnosed, every cat and dog in your home MUST be treated so a re-infestation won’t occur. If you have a ferret or a rabbit, their ears must also be checked. It’s crucial that you clean the ears as explained for external otitis. Dirty ears may have cellular debris and wax that mites use as shelter and that makes it more difficult to use medications to kill them off.

Once the ears are clean, use a prescribed miticide ear preparation. Most formulas have thiabendazole and pyrethrins. The most common formulas have an antibiotic, a miticide and a steroid which all helps relieve the itchiness. Make sure you follow strict instructions when using them. Carry out the entire treatment course because if you stop early, the poor dog will be re-infested with a new army of mites.

When the dog is undergoing the treatment, mites will escape from the ears and find a different spot on the dog’s body to live on, causing more itchiness and making him scratch. Apart from treating the ears, the whole dog and ALL animals he has been in contact with must be treated weekly, for four weeks, with a pyrethrins-based flea powder or shampoo.

Ear mite infections are frequently complicated by a secondary bacterial otitis and, if present, must be treated thoroughly as well.

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Kennel Cough

One health risk that’s common for dogs is being exposed to kennel cough (also known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis. There are a number of viruses and bacteria that can cause kennel cough. In fact, it’s common that the cause is a mixture of both viruses AND bacteria. The most common viruses include: Canine Parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus types 1 and 2.

The most important organism that can cause kennel cough is a bacteria named Bordetella Bronchiseptica. If a dog has one or more of these organisms, he’ll get serious inflammation in his bronchi and trachea as well as a severe infection. Symptoms may last four days up to two weeks. However, most dogs will have symptoms 7-10 days after they have been exposed.

The most typical symptom is a deep sounding honking-like cough that seems to hit quickly. The cough doesn’t usually produce anything and your dog may look like he’s dry retching, a problem in itself. He’ll have coughing fits and then it will settle and become minor bouts. Coughing may become aggravated by activity, drinking water or when moving from places with different temperatures. E.g. a warm to a cool environment or the other way around.

Most dogs that have kennel cough will behave normally except for the coughing. They’ll also eat normally. However, a dog may have a higher temperature reading (as high as 105°F), lose his appetite and have a nasal discharge.

You generally don’t need to treat your dog because the infection usually disappears on its own within 10 days. However, some dogs may cough for as long as three weeks. If the symptoms are severe, you may need to consult your vet and get medication to help settle the problem. If the cough is productive, let it continue (provided it doesn’t affect his ability to sleep and rest) because this can clear debris and inflammation. If the cough is productive and so annoying that your dog can’t get enough rest, a cough suppressant is indicated.

You can use an over-the-counter human cough medicine or put some honey on a bread slice and the cough should settle. If not, consult your vet because more serious medications may be required. Antibiotics will be necessary, especially if his temperature is high for more than a couple of days. However, remember that antibiotics will only stop bacterial causes.

The body’s natural defence systems will combat the viruses, in the same way they do in people. If the medications don’t work or the symptoms become worse, the dog should be taken to the vet to be reassessed.

Kennel cough can occur as part of more severe respiratory diseases and will need a more detailed diagnostic plan and treatment regimen. The dog has to be isolated from other dogs so it’s not spread. Organisms spread mainly on drops of water in the air and directly between dogs when they make contact.

A vet generally recommends isolating the sick dog until there has not been any coughing for a minimum of seven to 10 days. So it doesn’t spread, the ventilation in the dog’s kennel needs to be increased to the point where the air is being swapped 12-15 times each hour. Humidity should be kept under 50% if at all possible. Crates, kennels and dishes must be washed thoroughly with powerful disinfectants and then let completely dry before they’re next used.

Some vaccines can prevent kennel cough. These can be given as nasal drops or as an injection. The nasal drops seem to give a higher amount of protection. Obviously no vaccine is perfect, they apparently have the capacity to reduce kennel cough. In most cases, kennel cough is only a minor problem for dogs but it can quickly become more severe and spread in groups quickly if ignored.

All dog owners need to understand how they can prevent this debilitating disease and also how to reduce its ability to spread. It’s unfair to make other dogs sick if you take your infected dog for walks, present him at shows or let him play with other dogs.

Here are some natural remedies that can be used to boost your beloved pet’s immune system and battle any infections he may have.

Vitamin C. Use it three times per day (250 mgs for small dogs). If you already use this regularly, then that’s very good. This should be added to whatever dose you currently use and should be spread out through the day.

Herbal tinctures. Echinacea. Give him a few drops three times each day, either in his mouth or on his food.
Golden Seal. The same applies as with Echinacea.

Colloidal Silver. 1-2 drops three times per day either in his water or food.

To specifically fight the kennel cough virus:

Homeopathic remedies: (they work when the right remedy and symptoms are matched, regardless of how potent the remedy is).

Bryonia. 1-2 pellets three times per day. Dog can’t eat for 10 minutes before and after taking the pellets. You can get this from most health food stores in a 6C or 6X strength and that’s an ok but if you can get 30C, that’s stronger.

Drosera. Used the same as Bryonia.

If your dog has an irritated/sore throat, a teaspoon (small to medium size dog) or tablespoon (for a larger dog) of honey three times every day will help.

Avoid letting your dog be around second hand smoke and keep him in an even level humidity environment.
•Eliminate exposure to second hand smoke.
•Maintain humidity in the environment.

If you ever have concerns about your dog’s health, contact your vet. As with people, catching problems early means they can be treated faster and make a complete recovery.

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Heartworm Disease

dogAn ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure

Heartworm (aka (Dirofilaria immitis) used to be a parasite that only existed in southern climates. Today it’s a global problem that affects cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, wolves and a few other animals. It was first discovered over 100 years ago in dogs and, in the 1920s, documented evidence verified that cats also faced this problem.

Scientists have created a myriad of preventatives, diagnostic tests and treatments of this disease. However, it exists in every state of the U.S.A. as well as many other countries.

The Heartworm Society reports that the places where the infection rates are at their greatest (in dogs) are within 150 miles of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts as well as the Mississippi River and its main tributaries. Places where there are hordes of mosquitoes also have a major heartworm infestation.

Veterinary clinics should remind clients of this serious problem by having an infected heart displayed with a sign saying it’s heartworm. Posters may also be handy to help educate customers. However, not everyone believes what they see, even if it’s something medically serious for their pets. Some customers see the heart with those horrible long worms each time they attend the vet clinic but they pray their dogs won’t be bitten by infected mosquitos.

It’s easy to prevent heartworm. The vet needs to take some blood to test if the worm is present. If so, the dog will need a regular course of medication. Heartworms are dangerous, sometimes proving fatal if left untreated for any length of time. Treated dogs go through weeks of hell during the time that they take the medication and kill the worms, which then get expelled from the pets’ bodies.

The parasite.

The heartworm parasite has several life cycles before it becomes an adult, often needing two hosts to finish that cycle. A mosquito is the intermediate host for the worm’s larval period (also called the microfilariae). Mosquitos get the larva because they bite a dog that is already infected. They deliver the larva to a different dog that isn’t already infected when they need another meal of blood.

The microfilariae dig into the dog and their cycles start. Once they become adults, they move to the right area of the dog’s heart via a vein where they wait for the chance to reproduce. Adults can grow as long as 12 inches and may exist in the heart of a dog for a couple of years.

Some dogs may have this microfilariae in their blood as well as worms living in their lungs and still not manifest this nasty disease. After the amount of worms hits a specific number, which depends on the activity and size of the “victim,” the adult worms will travel to the heart and then symptoms will quickly become apparent. The more active a dog is, the less likely it is that he’ll have a lot of worms. For dogs, the period between the first infestation and the adult reproduction is approx. 6 – 7 months.

The female of the species can give birth to thousands of live young worms in a single day. The young can move around the animal’s bloodstream for up to three years until the dog gets bitten by a mosquito. They go through some changes in their host as they prepare to infect an unwitting dog. The next time a bite of the mosquito occurs, they move back to the original hosting species. The changing process can take up to six weeks in colder climates but only 10 days when it’s warm.

Worms grow and multiply in numbers and infest the lungs’ arteries and the right section of the dog’s heart. They may also get into the veins that go to the heart and also those in the dog’s liver. The initial symptom of heartworms may not even appear for a year after the poor animal becomes infected. If your dog has a light cough, you may not think anything of it, whereas it could be that first symptom coming out.

The cough will get worse and your dog either faints or is very shaky after he has been exerting himself. He may lose conditioning and weight, become listless and weak and gets tired after doing almost anything. He may cough blood. His breathing capacity becomes more laboured as this disease worsens.

The heartworm disease can be quite traumatic. Your dog’s quality of life is greatly reduced. He can’t go for walks or catch a Frisbee without a lot of stress and trouble breathing. Congestive heart failure is the next stage and then your dog’s life is in danger.


Except for Antarctica, this disease exists on all continents. There are four factors that will tell you if your area is a risky one for heartworms:
• A stable reservoir of the disease.
• The climate must supports the parasite’s life cycle.
• A susceptible host population.
• A stable population of vector species.

Dogs are regarded as the definitive host for heartworms, despite the fact that dogs don’t transmit this parasite form one dog to another. Untreated dogs are the stable reservoir that’s required. Different mosquito species are the vectors (intermediate hosts). The microfilariae develop in mosquitos only when temperatures are at or above 80°F for two weeks. No larva will grow in the insect if the temperature is under 57° F


Vets can run one or two tests on a dog’s blood to determine if heartworms are present. The occult test is to detect adult worms and the filtration test is for microfilariae. Most vets do both tests for complete thoroughness. Just because one doesn’t exist, it isn’t conclusive that the other doesn’t. The test is done with one drawing of the blood, generally in Spring before the weather gets too warm.
X-rays can also show adult heartworms in your dog’s lungs and heart.


If either the blood tests or symptoms warn both the owner and the vet that this malicious parasite is present, treatment ca begin and will be successful if the case isn’t too far advanced. The vet needs to first assess the dog and treat any other problems so that he’ll be able to handle the heartworm treatment. Then the adult worms are killed off with a compound of arsenic. Vets now use a newer compound called Immiticide that has less side effects than previously used medications and is much safer for those dogs with severe cases of these worms.

The dog has to be given two doses per day for two days and then a couple of weeks of almost no activity. This enables the dog’s body to absorb the worms that have been killed. If your dog exerts himself, the dead worms may dislodge and move to his lungs where it may prove fatal.

At the 3 – 4 week point from when the drug was first given, more treatment is needed to eliminate the microfilariae. He is given a dose each day for one week and then another blood test. If they still appear, he can be dosed again but a higher amount. Your dog should be checked out again no later than 12 months after this all finishes.

It’s possible to remove the adult worms surgically and, if there are serious heart issues and the case is quite advanced, that may be necessary.


Topical and oral preventers are only available from your vet. Many drugs also kill mites, ticks, fleas and other parasites.

Talk to your vet and ask which products  are recommended for your dog.  Some heart worm preventatives can be dangerous if your dog already has heart worm disease. Be prepared to have your dog checked for heartworm disease prior to using some types of preventative products. Your Veterinarian is the best person to ask for advice on how best to protect your Canine from this terrible disease . If your pet needs a yearly vaccination, get the heartworm check done at the same time. Numerous vets recommend using a heartworm prevention medication all the time so the animals are protected from all mosquitoes in all seasons.

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