The Norman Transcript

November 15, 2012

Ear mite infection calls for medication

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: Do you have a remedy for curing/eliminating ear mites? Does witch hazel work? Is it safe for dogs?

— P.R., Duluth, Minn.

Dear P.R.: This mite, otodectes cynotis, is passed from animal to animal by direct contact. Often there is a cat in the home with no evident symptoms, and a dog in the same home gets the mites in the ears and scratches and shakes in obvious distress. These mites can infest the face and other parts of the body, but are most often confined to the external ear canals. They cause a dark brown or black tarry secretion.

The best treatment is with an insecticide such as ivermectin drops or pyrethrin. I would not use herbal products because effectiveness may not be as good as with insecticidal drugs, especially when there is much suffering to the infested dog. For best results, the ears must be thoroughly cleaned before applying medication. Repeated treatment after seven to 10 days is advisable. Witch hazel is a soothing herb for many skin and ear issues, but it will have no significant impact on the offending mites.

Driving safely with your dog or cat

New Jersey dogs and cats will have to be buckled up for safety just like humans if legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) is passed. I fully endorse this kind of initiative, with punitive consequences for violators, for every state to adopt.

Pickup truck drivers with loose dogs in the back are my personal abomination, along with drivers whose use of cellphones and other hand-held electronic devices put us all at risk.

Unsecured dogs in the back of pickup trucks, or tied so that they could fall out and hang themselves, are part and parcel of our blighted rural landscape that should, along with puppy mills and dog and cock fighting, be outlawed, with punitive consequences for those who flout the law. Mitt Romney, who tied his dog in a crate to the roof of his car, should be no exception.

A barrier between driver and the animal, who is free to move around in the rear section of the vehicle, is acceptable, provided the animal wears a collar with ID in case of accident. Police officers often shoot larger dogs defending the vehicle after an accident if they are not easily restrained or contained. Few cats and dogs will take to restraining straps and tethers, so I advise crates or cages, even for short journeys.

In Arizona and Connecticut, drivers may be cited for distracted driving if an unleashed pet interferes, and pets are banned from operators’ laps in Hawaii. But if Spencer’s bill passes, New Jersey will be the first state to mandate pet restraints, according to the American Automobile Association.

Opposing New Jersey Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber has introduced his own bill that says failure to restrain an animal isn’t inhumane. That is not the issue, and as a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, I can affirm that restraining an animal can be inhumane. Some form of humane containment/restraint for dogs and cats, for their safety and for the safety of other passengers, is called for when they are being transported by road, air or sea.

Just like children, many dogs will initially fight and chew on safety harnesses in the car, but with patience and reward treats, they will soon habituate and enjoy the ride. Failure to properly restrain any animal during transportation should be regarded as a gross misdemeanor, certainly not as an inhumane, deliberate act of abuse/cruelty, but as an act of ignorance or indifference, for which there is no defense because of the legitimate potential for possibly harmful consequences to the animals and to the people in the vehicle with them.

I also urge drivers to be mindful in hot weather — leaving a dog in the car for even a few minutes could be fatal. Never drive with your dog’s head out the window because of potential eye and head injury and even death when windows are accidentally closed, crushing the neck, or opened so the dog falls out.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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