Monday, June 23, 2014

Pet Health Tip #14- Ear Mites

Dogs and cats are both susceptible to ear mite infestations.  However, the most common victims are kittens.  Ear mites are microscopic creatures.  Under the microscope, they resemble a tick.  These little creatures will set up residence inside the kitten’s ear canal.  The mites crawl around inside the ear causing the kitten constant irritation.  The most common symptom your kitten will demonstrate is constant scratching and digging at her ears.  She will also shake her head a lot.  Ear mites feed on dead skin, so they don’t cause damage to the ear.  However, the kitten’s constant scratching can cause damage to the sensitive skin inside the ear, which can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.  Another symptom associated with ear mites is a build-up of black debris that has a gritty quality.  It has a consistency similar to sand.  This build-up is essentially mite waste.

Ear mites do not infest humans.  However, as I said, they will infest both dogs and cats.  It is common to have more than one animal in the household affected.  The treatment is simple and involves thoroughly cleaning the ears and applying medication.  It is important to consult your veterinarian for treatment options.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pet Health Tip #13- Ringworm

I have had several people over the years ask me if ringworm is really caused by worms.  The answer is no.  Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection.  Only a few diseases can be spread from one species of animal to another or from animals to people (zoonotic).  Ringworm is one of the diseases that can be contagious between species.  Cats and dogs can give ringworm to each other, and both of them can give it to people.

In humans, ringworm causes a lesion on the skin that is usually circular and very itchy (pruritic).  In dogs, it causes patchy hair loss (alopecia) that can occur anywhere on the body.  The skin in the area of the alopecia is usually flaky. Unlike humans, dogs are usually not pruritic.

Cats are the tricky ones.  Some cats will have patchy hair loss.  Usually, the hair loss is localized around the mouth, eyes, and on the ears.  However, there are cats who are asymptomatic, which means they have the fungus on their fur, but don't have any lesions.  These cats are still contagious!  So, if you suddenly come down with a ringworm lesion and you recently had contact with a cat, the cat was probably the source, even if it appeared healthy.

The fungus that causes ringworm can also survive very well in the environment, including the dirt.  The fungal spores can also travel through the air and hide in places, like air conditioning ducts, for long periods.  It is extremely difficult to get rid of ringworm once it has entered an environment.  The fungus is very susceptible to household cleaners.  So, it is pretty easy to kill it on cleanable surfaces.  The problem areas are the places we don't usually clean or are difficult to clean, such as furniture or air ducts.

If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, limit the areas he has access to and keep him isolated from other pets and children.  Ringworm is a treatable disease, but as I said, it is difficult to eliminate it from your environment once it’s there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pet Health Tip #12- Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Several great flea control products are on the market.  However, flea allergy dermatitis is still a major problem for dog and cat owners.  Three common factors contributing to that are: 1- Failure to properly apply flea control products.  2- Extreme sensitivity to fleabites.  3- Failure to treat indoor pets.

First, let's talk about the failure to properly apply flea control products.  Often owners don't understand when and how to apply the topical flea control products.  A good rule of thumb is to remember to wait at least two days after a bath before applying the product and to wait at least two days after applying the product before giving a bath.  The products use the oil glands associated with the hair follicles for absorption into the skin.  Most shampoos strip these glands of their oil. Therefore, waiting a few days after the bath will allow the oil glands to replenish.  By the same token, it takes a few days after applying the product before it is completely absorbed into the skin. Therefore, the product needs time to absorb before allowing your pet to get wet.  This two-day rule also applies to swimming.  If your dog is a frequent swimmer, then I suggest using an oral flea control product and avoiding the topical products altogether.

Another application error is failure to apply the product directly to the skin.  To apply properly, part the hair, put the end of the tube against the skin, and then squeeze out the liquid.  Don't touch it!  I have had several clients who have told me they "rubbed it in."  Don't!  That only takes the product off your pet and onto you.  Also, with cats, it is important to apply it to a part of the head they can't reach with their tongues.  Cats are notorious for bathing the products off.

Another possible reason for your pet’s flea allergy dermatitis is that some dogs and cat are extremely sensitive to fleabites.  Some animals are so allergic that one fleabite can cause them to itch for an entire week!  Therefore, you may never see the flea that is causing the allergy.  It is essential to limit the amount of time these animals spend outside in order to limit their possible exposure to fleas.  Also, it is especially important to keep them on a flea control product all year round.

Finally, a common mistake I see pet owners make is to only treat their outdoor pets and not the pets that live indoors.  I see this most often with owners who have indoor cats and indoor/outdoor dogs.  They treat the dogs for fleas, but not the cats. The problem with that is the fleas will hitch a ride on the indoor/outdoor pet.  Once they get inside, they will jump off the animal that has been treated and onto the one that hasn’t.

Diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis is pretty straightforward.  Typically, a distinct pattern of hair loss and redness of the skin appears on the animal’s rump.  The pets are usually very pruritic (itchy) and will bit and scratch at the base of the tail.  If your dog is showing these symptoms, then it is almost certainly fleas.  Look very carefully, and you may spot one.