Q: What are ear mites, how would I know if my dog or cat has them, and what should I do about it?

A: There are several types of ear mites but the most common mite found in cat and dog ears is Otodectes cynotis. This little parasite is highly contagious between cats and dogs and the most common transmission is between outdoor cats.

The parasite likes to live in the ear canal eating the ear wax and debris which leads to inflammation and irritation in the ear canal. If left untreated, the ear canal can become clogged with debris and black material and the skin around the base of the ear can become affected.

Common signs of an ear infestation of mites is head shaking, ear scratching, inflammation and facial scratching near the ear. It is important to have the ear checked by a veterinarian as ear mite infestation and basic ear infections can look the same in cats and dogs and are treated very differently.

It is not recommended to start treatment for ear mites unless it is determined that the ear issues can be directly linked to ear mites.

When you take your pet to your veterinarian, they will take a look at the ear and then take a sample of the debris in the ear. That material will then be placed under the microscope to look for mites, debris, yeast and bacteria. Once the cause of the ear inflammation can be identified then appropriate therapy can be applied.

There are a couple of options for ear mite infestations including topical ear medications as well as topical skin therapies. If you have a cat that goes outside and is constantly getting ear mites, then a monthly application of a preventative can be helpful.

All the therapies and treatments need to be prescribed by a veterinarian so taking your pet to be evaluated and correctly diagnosed is one of the most important aspects of ear mite treatment. Luckily, for the most part, humans are resistant to ear mite infestations!

Q: My dog gets diarrhea occasionally for no apparent reason. What could be causing this?

A: Diarrhea is a one of the most common reasons for a dog to be seen by a veterinarian.

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The list of causes of diarrhea in dogs is so long that it is vital to get a full history to understand the dog’s environment, diet, behavior, weight loss or gain, and exercise regime. Your veterinarian will also ask about any travel history as well as take into account the dog’s age and vaccine history.

Getting a sample of the stool is also very important to try to determine if there are any parasites, blood or other inciting issues for the diarrhea.

The most common cause for intermittent diarrhea in dogs in Flagstaff is “dietary indiscretion.” This means that the dog licks or eats something off the ground, gets into the trash or is fed human food that disrupts the GI flora and causes colitis – or large bowel diarrhea.

In general, if your dog is having diarrhea but is still eating and drinking and acting normally then you can feed a bland diet of boiled chicken breast and white rice and see if the diarrhea resolves on its own.

If the diarrhea does not resolve in 2-3 days, starts to get bloody, or your dog stops eating or starts to vomit then it is time to take your dog to your veterinarian. Sometimes, we just need to treat the diarrhea with oral medications and that will resolve the issue. Other times, the cause is more complicated and we need to perform more diagnostics to determine the underlying cause of the diarrhea.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com.

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