Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's NOT Ear Mites

One of the things I commonly hear from clients is that when they see their pet having an issue with the ears - be it shaking the head, discharge from the ears, etc, they ASSUME it's due to ear mites.

If these pets are not kittens or puppies, it is very unlikely.  I have seen a few outdoor cats that have chronic ear mite issues. But even in the outdoor cat population I see, it's simply not a problem. The funny thing is I often hear this from my clients with adult dogs. 

They go Wal-Mart or seek the advice of a friend, relative, etc and get "meds" to treat ear mites. Guess what? It doesn't work. Guess why? Well, it's not these little parasites:

Ear mite seen under a microscope. You won't see these with the naked eye!

It's usually a yeast and/or bacterial infection. I'd say nearly all the time there are SOME yeast seen on a slide. We take a small swab and roll the material onto a slide and then stain it.  We can tell if there are yeast and what types of bacteria, if any, are present (cocci - round, rods - long, well, rods!). 

The purple "peanuts" are yeast organisms.

This will dictate the course of treatment we recommend. It almost always involves a topical treatment. That is key. It can sometimes include oral medications but generally not initially.

Some dog breeds - namely those with "down" or floppy ears - Labs, Goldens, Cockers, etc - have a high incidence of CHRONIC ear issues. Yes chronic. Often these true infections are tied to allergies. Food allergies are the most common cause even if it's just one ear that always plagues your dog. Finding which allergens your dog is reacting to is not a simple task and I'll save that discussion for another day.

Cleaning with an unscented baby wipes - versus putting any liquid down into the canal or using Q-tips - is what I recommend. Also seeing your vet to get the proper diagnosis and follow ups needed is crucial for successful management. 

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