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Old 10-30-2010, 12:29 PM
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Pet advice for chronic ear infection and skin allergies?

I hope it's okay I'm posting this in here; I didn't feel like posting it in GD.

Here's the deal. My 4 year old black lab/pit mix has had chronic ear infections and skin allergies for the past two years. She shakes her head constantly, the undersides of her earflaps are dry and inflamed (and slightly gray-colored), and occasionally they discharge brown wax and what I presume to be pus (it all smells foul and yeasty). As far as the skin allergies go, she's always chewing at her paws and licking her bum , and she's lost a lot of fur on her belly and has 'hotspot' rashes in a few locations.

We've taken her to the vet (two vets, actually) probably 8 times for the sole purpose of getting this treated, and we've tried both bactericidal and fungicidal antibiotics (specifically Baytril and Mometamax). Mometamax helped the most, but even after a couple months and using the entire bottle the infection persisted. Personally I'm not a big fan of using antibiotics over extended periods of time because I know the bacteria can eventually build resistance. We've also tried steroid shots and daily allergy supplements (Benadryl, Claritin) to reduce swelling and keep her from itching so much, but they've only marginally helped. We use an alcohol-based ear cleaner that the vet gave us about once a week, but of course it's doing nothing to cure the infection.

We've also tried some natural remedies. One of our holistic hippie friends suggested using garlic-infused olive oil to reduce swelling (omega-3's in the olive oil) and act as a bactericidal (compounds in garlic). It helped with the swelling/dryness to some extent, but I seriously doubt it's potent enough to really get at the infection. I also didn't like the idea of adding oil to her ear canal; seems like it would only make it worse. We stopped that pretty quickly. We also tried colloidal silver spray and lavender oil to soothe and reduce inflammation - the lavender helped soothe and make her ears smell better, but again, no major benefits.

We've tried targeting the common triggers of skin allergies - food, environment. She's currently eating Eagle Pack Holistic Select Duck & Oatmeal formula (no corn, soy or wheat), and we've also tried a salmon/oatmeal formula from the same brand and noticed no difference. She seems to digest it just fine. Our vet recommended some Purina hypoallergenic formula made of soy (it was a white dry dog food), but it was twice as expensive as the food she eats now so we turned it down. As far as environment goes, we have all hardwood floors and just one rug in the living room. We have the couches slipcovered and she has her own pet beds and blanket that get washed regularly. I've considered getting one of those air purifier towers too to reduce airborne allergens (and pet smells...).

So, my question for you pet experts is...what do we try next? If we take her back to the vet again, I know she's going to prescribe the same thing and we'll be out another $150 for a short-term treatment. I'd be interested in trying natural remedies simply because, like I said, I'm worried about building antibiotic resistant microbes in her ears. I've looked at a few things online including "DermaPaw" for the skin allergies and some Chinese herbal ointment for the ears, but of course I'm skeptical of both. I know we have some amazing dog experts on here and I hoped you would have some good advice.

Honestly, I wanted to post about this for a long time, but I was worried I'd be flamed for being a bad pet owner for letting this go on for so long. Really, my bf and I feel like we've tried almost everything our budget will allow, and we're up for any suggestions at this point. I just want Dora to get better.

Thanks in advance for your advice and understanding. And sorry for the book.

Also, if anyone has recommendations for a good pet health forum, I'm all ears (not that you guys aren't great, but I don't want to have to bug you all the time ).

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Old 11-01-2010, 09:05 PM
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Roxy, first of all Dora is ADORABLE and second of all never think you would come off as a bad mommy, it sounds like you have been very persistent in trying to keep your dogs troubles under control. I know that it can be very discouraging when you don't get the results that you are trying so hard to achieve and your pet is suffering in the meantime.

As for the ear infections I don't know much about them but I do know that my parents' dog has had the same problem for the past 7 years. Her ears produced the same brown gunk and after 4 years of it she finally went deaf. It wan't until after that a vet decided to check her teeth. Turns out she had an infected back tooth and the infection kept radiating into her ear. Once her tooth was removed her ears got better but not 100%. I would say always try to keep the ear dry and don't over use those drops and cleaners. A moist ear houses yeast and infection. I would clean it with just cotton balls a few times a week and see if that helps.

The allergies I have a TON of experience with. Pudge my bulldog has had SEVERE allergies ever since she was 6 months old. She would lick and gnaw at herself until she was raw. It was heartbreaking. We too tried everything under the sun for her. Benedryl, oatmeal baths, allergy shots, even putting her on the raw diet. She was on Temeril P for the past 5 years and it helped but she was on so much of it it made her gain tremendous amounts of weight. That caused her to have early arthritis and everyone looking at me like I was a bad mother because everyone told me how "fat" she was. I spent thousands trying anything to help her loose the weight but the bottom line was it was the steroid (Temeril P) that was making her gain but she needed that to not eat herself alive. About 6 months ago I read about a new drug called Atopica. It supresses the immune system and stops it from reacting to the allergy. It is a miracle drug! Well at least it is for us. We started her on two pills a day and after 4 months we have reduced it to once a day. Pudge doesn't itch at all and now that she is off the Temeril she has lost 14 pounds. There are some concerns since it does supress the immune system so make sure you just get a blood test every 2 months to make sure no other infections have set in. In the long run, it doesn't have nearly the amount of side affects that steroids do. The down side is that it is very expensive. We use the generic brand, Cyclosporine and it works just fine so I would recommend that to cut down on the cost. All in all it may not work for everyone but Atopica has changed Pudge's life and we are so grateful that she can now live without all the suffering that severe allergies can create. Look up reviews on Atopica at 1800petmeds.com and although there are some bad ones, the majority of them are outstanding, Ask you vet about it and if you need any other advice or have any questions PM me!

I hope Dora feels better soon and know that she loves you for trying so hard to make her life here, a wonderful one. Good Luck!!
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Old 11-04-2010, 10:44 PM
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Jen, thank you SO MUCH for your response! I really, really appreciate your taking the time to offer advice. I will definitely look into your recommendations.
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:13 AM
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I don't have experience with any of these so I can't help but just wanted to chime in and say that your dog is so and I wish her the best and hope that you'll be able to find something to relieve her soon
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Old 11-05-2010, 02:13 AM
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sounds like a fungal infection. try monistat in the ear canal every two weeks or so in order to prevent recurrence.

cyclosporine is a serious drug.
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:23 PM
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^Thanks Vik. The microbiologist in me wants to swab her ear and figure out what's causing it myself, but I don't think my PI would approve of this side experiment. It does smell like yeast though, at the very least. So you think just OTC cream would be okay even inside her ears? Or were you thinking the cream women use for vaginal yeast infections? Either way, I guess I'm a little skeptical of putting it in her ear canal, but I'm so desperate and tired of watching her suffer that I'll try just about anything I can afford right now.

I did start adding a few drops of a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water once daily to help clear some of the gunk, and it seems to be helping some. Inflammation hasn't gone down much, but her ear canal looks drier and smells slightly less bad. I wondered if the acidity helped some, but I'm pretty sure Candida actually thrives at lower than neutral pH, so I'm confused.

The immunosuppressant probably would do wonders for her, but you're right, it is a serious treatment.

Thanks for everyone's support and advice.
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Old 11-05-2010, 11:03 PM
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Awwww poor baby!! Between my 3 dogs we have the same problems as your baby

One of my dogs has bad ear infections and we have some kind of ear spray...I'll check what it is in the morning. I have to say that whatever you put in her ears, "natural" or not, you risk building resistance to. A "natural" antibiotic is not any different in that regard. However, if you eliminate the bacteria/yeast/fungus that's causing the infection, in theory you shouldn't need to worry about it coming back unless there is another source (like getting water in her ears from frequent bathing). The trick is to get rid of it completely. Also, if you are giving your baby steroids to treat the skin issues without simultaneous antibiotics, the immunosuppression may make her more vulnerable to whatever is growing in her ears I wonder if you can use ciprodex ear drops on dogs? It's ciprofloxacin (antibiotic) and dexamethasone (steroid). Also I see nothing wrong with culturing her ear...it's not gonna hurt her and then you'll know what you're fighting against rather than guessing. Plus they can grow the bacteria/fungus/whatever and test it to see which antibiotics it's sensitive to. Just a thought regarding topical treatment...i'm not sure that garlic or omega 3s are bacteriocidal (i could be wrong). I think before putting funky stuff down there it might be a good idea to do a little literature review.

I'll look at the ear spray business in the morning and let you know what it is Roxy I hope your baby gets better!

PS...this is an expensive option...but there are doggie ENTs and dermatologists if you are desperate
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roxy View Post
Jen, thank you SO MUCH for your response! I really, really appreciate your taking the time to offer advice. I will definitely look into your recommendations.
You are very welcome sweetheart! Talk to your vet, like I said, Atopica may not work for everyone and it is a serious drug. We were very lucky that it has worked for us. I feel your pain! PM me if you ever have any questions!
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:09 AM
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Thanks again Jen and Shannon.
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by shannonrae View Post
Awwww poor baby!! Between my 3 dogs we have the same problems as your baby

One of my dogs has bad ear infections and we have some kind of ear spray...I'll check what it is in the morning. I have to say that whatever you put in her ears, "natural" or not, you risk building resistance to. A "natural" antibiotic is not any different in that regard. However, if you eliminate the bacteria/yeast/fungus that's causing the infection, in theory you shouldn't need to worry about it coming back unless there is another source (like getting water in her ears from frequent bathing). The trick is to get rid of it completely. Also, if you are giving your baby steroids to treat the skin issues without simultaneous antibiotics, the immunosuppression may make her more vulnerable to whatever is growing in her ears I wonder if you can use ciprodex ear drops on dogs? It's ciprofloxacin (antibiotic) and dexamethasone (steroid). Also I see nothing wrong with culturing her ear...it's not gonna hurt her and then you'll know what you're fighting against rather than guessing. Plus they can grow the bacteria/fungus/whatever and test it to see which antibiotics it's sensitive to. Just a thought regarding topical treatment...i'm not sure that garlic or omega 3s are bacteriocidal (i could be wrong). I think before putting funky stuff down there it might be a good idea to do a little literature review.

I'll look at the ear spray business in the morning and let you know what it is Roxy I hope your baby gets better!

PS...this is an expensive option...but there are doggie ENTs and dermatologists if you are desperate
Roxy instead of using white vinegar with try apple cider vinegar with mother to clean her ears. I get this at a help food store and its helps my pug a great deal with her allergies and skin conditions. I even add about 1/4 of a teaspoon to her and our cats water daily. I give her baths with this stuff and it clears up her skin irritations, and she doesnt get as much gunk in her eyes since she's been getting in her water. Sometimes I put it in a spray bottle and spritz her on her itchy spots too. She rarely gets hot spots anymore and I'm so glad. You should at least try it to see if it will get your dog and relief before shelling out tons of money on injections.
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Old 11-18-2010, 01:55 PM
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Thank you Charla

Quick question though - apple cider vinegar with "mother"? Maybe this is a typo, but I'm entirely clueless as to what this is.
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Old 11-18-2010, 03:12 PM
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My Kali has the same problems. Her ear infections aren't too bad but her allergies are quite sever. Luckily bf's sister is a vet so she's been able to help us a lot. We've figured out that she has a combo of food and environmental allergies.

I know you don't think food allergies are to blame but the best advice I can give you is to try an elimination diet to find out if her food is causing or adding to her problems. If you can get the allergies under control the ear infections may improve as the two are often linked.

We did a 6 week trial on a very restricted diet we made ourselves. The diet T's sis recommended was of a 2 to 1 mixture of a novel starch and protein (something they have never eaten before). We used sweet potato and elk that we sourced from a natural pet food store. She doesn't like raw diets (to put it mildly ) so we cooked the food at home. The diet made a huge improvement in Kali's itchiness and we were able to take her off her meds while she was on it. Since it wasn't a balanced diet we weren't able to keep feeding it but we switched her to a similar commercial diet (Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Venison & Sweet Potato) and she has been quite a bit better.

We've tried Atopica (T's sis gave us samples) but it didn't work for Kali. I have to say we were a little relieved since it is so expensive but at the same time it was disappointing that it didn't help. What's worked for us is a combo of benadryl and prednisone. Now that her food is sorted out we've been able to cut back her pred to a very low dose but we expect she'll need it for the rest of her life
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