Some of the more common medical problems our practice sees are itchy skin conditions and ear infections. Ear and skin infections result from infection by bacteria and/or yeast. These organisms need to be treated to clear the infection, but there is almost always an underlying cause of the infections. Without determining or addressing the cause, these conditions will keep returning. Ear problems are usually the result of an allergy. Dogs rarely get ear mites. Therefore, never purchase over the counter ear mite medication for a dog, as it will probably make the problem worse. Cats very commonly get ear mites. The allergy could be to food, fleas or to microscopic allergens in the environment. Some animals are affected by all of these. We have control over the first 2, food and fleas. Although a dog can be allergic to any food ingredient (just like people), there are many ingredients that commonly affect dogs. The most common that I see in my practice are wheat, corn, and chicken. Often the culprit is the dog treats, as many contain large amounts of wheat. Typically, I recommend avoiding the biscuit type treats, like milk bones. The best treats are made from single ingredients, likely dehydrated duck or salmon jerky treats. Duck and salmon tend to be low allergenic. It is very important to look on the ingredient list of the treats and pet food. It may say lamb and rice on the front of the bag, but on the ingredient list it will likely also contain chicken. Allergies are not dose related. Even a small amount can trigger a reaction and start the skin infection or ear infection process.
Fleas must also be controlled. I commonly hear daily “My pet never gets fleas.” Western Washington and Oregon are loaded with fleas. This is a fact of life, that as pet owners, we need to come to grips with. Fleas don’t care how clean or dirty your home is. Also, indoor only animals get fleas just as often as outdoor pets. If you travel to the eastern side of Washington and Oregon, fleas are nearly non-existent because of the dry climate. The only way to assure a flea free pet is to use high-quality, continuous flea control. For dogs, there are 3 products that are about of equal efficacy: Bravecto, Trifexis, and Comfortis. These are all oral products. Bravecto is great because one pill lasts 3 full months and also protects against ticks. Trifexis and Comfortis are basically the same product, but Trifexis also acts as a monthly dewormer. Trifexis and Comfortis do not treat or prevent ticks. Trifexis and Comfortis both last one month. Bravecto generally tastes great to dogs, whereas Trifexis and Comfortis don’t taste very well. Revolution, a prescription topical product, works very well, but generally takes a few days to take full effect and requires proper application to work well. The only over the counter products that work well are Advantage and the Seresto Collar, although I am seeing more and more failures with these products that used to be predictably effective. Frontline, Hartz, Sergeants, and the generics thereof, are not effective.
For cats, Comfortis is my favorite, but does require oral administration, which can be a challenge in cats. Revolution works well, but does require a few days to take full effect. However, it also treats ear mites and is a dewormer, all in one. The only over the counter product that works in cats is Advantage, but I am even seeing a fair number of failures with this product that used to be nearly 100% effective. Frontline, generic frontline, Hartz, and Sergeants, etc. will fail almost 100% of the time. Products with pyrethrins (like Hartz and Sergeants) are not safe for cats. We commonly treat toxicities from these products.
If you have additional questions about these topics, please don’t hesitate to call or set up an appointment.