My Pet is Shaking Their Head. Could it be Ear Problems or an Infection?

Many pets come in daily because they are shaking their head, scratching their ears, or having gooey waxy stuff coming out of their red, painful, ears. Pet owners always ask, “What could be wrong?” “Could it be infection?” “Is there something down in there?” “Do they have ear mites?”

Red itchy, gunky, ears are a very common medical problem in both dogs and cats. However, it is a bigger problem in dogs, and especially common in Labradors. Ear problems can be mild. You may only notice an occasional scratch or shake, and the ear won’t look that much different. Moderate to severe ear problems can cause a really red ear filled with gunky wax.

The ear canals should always be checked for mites, ticks, and foxtails. This often takes a bit of cleaning and a look down in the ear canal with an otoscope. Dipping a Q-tip in the black waxy stuff in a cat’s ear and spreading the wax on a slide may show ear mites, a common cause of ear problems in cats. If ear mites or other critters aren’t found, and there isn’t a foxtail or tumor down in the canal, and the ear is red, gunky, and painful…then infection and irritation is the culprit.

The hairy, small canals of toy breeds and other individual pets can cause moisture and wax to build up. Once this wax builds up and becomes soupy, lots of bugs can grow and cause the painful signs we see. Bacteria and yeast will over-grow in a warm, moist, soupy ear and they will cause redness, swelling, and pain. Trimming or pulling the hair from inside the ears and bi-weekly ear cleaning solutions may be necessary to keep the wax from building up, and providing a great home for the bacteria and yeast to grow. Removing hair to allow more air to circulate and dry the ear and cleaning out built up wax may help prevent ear infections.

Allergies are the largest cause of ear infections. Reactions to pollens and molds and food ingredients are the most common cause of red, itchy, goopy ears that never seem to clear up despite repeated treatments with antibiotics and ear cleaners. If your dog scratches their ears and chews at their feet, then they are suffering from hay fever. When the pollen count rises, their ears and feet will itch. Itchy ears produce more wax and can become infected with the bugs we talked about before. Weekly shampoo and conditioner, a daily rinse, or moist wipe of the feet, body, and ears may help remove irritating pollens. During the times the pollen count causes itching, an antihistamine like Benadryl, or a prescription of anti-inflammatory from your vet may help.

One of the most common causes of allergic ear infections are food allergies. Dogs are affected much more than cats, but I’ve seen a few cats with itchy ears that responded to a change of food ingredients. Both ear and skin problems can result from allergies to wheat, beef, or chicken in the food. The best hypoallergenic ingredients are duck or fish, and potato combinations. If you are going to try a limited ingredient food trial to see if food allergies are the cause of ear infections, you have to feed a hypoallergenic diet and avoid wheat in all treats, biscuits, or chews. It usually takes at least a couple months to see if a limited ingredient diet will help those red, itchy ears. The diet usually will really help in at least half of all chronic ear issues. (A hypoallergenic diet may also help with skin, bowel, anal gland, and seizure problems!). If a pet produces lots of wax, regardless of the cause (small or hairy ear canals, allergies to pollens or food ingredients) then ear washes once to twice weekly may be needed to prevent chronic ear infections.

A food trial takes about 2 months to see if it will make a difference with ear or skin problems. That same hypoallergenic, limited ingredient diet is discussed in Dog Dish Diet, and if you want to home cook for your pet, Feed Your Pet to Avoid the Vet. Feeding your pet better ingredients may help with all allergies, seizures, bladder issues, and other medical problems. Click this link for more info:

If your dog have really painful ears and needs temporary relief, you can use dawn detergent to wash the ears with a vinegar rinse. You can also use aspirin (dogs only) and Benadryl for pain and itching. This is only a temporary treatment until you can see your vet. But these painful episodes always seem to happen night, weekends, and holidays when treatment can be more expensive! You can also download a free PDF, Dr Greg’s 11 Practical Home Remedies, for temporary treatment of common medical issues. You can google it, or find it at

Here’s a video on what makes dogs itch!

Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet

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Grumpy Vet is not amused

I was debating going to SXSW this week, but as it didn’t come to fruition I needed to rely on my husband’s reporting back to let me know all the stuff going on and if it was really worth the four figure ticket price.

“They have animal stuff here,” he said. “You can get your picture taken with Grumpy Cat.”

Really? I asked him.

“Yes,” he said. “There were lines out the door last year. She’s here again.”

“The cat is at a tech conference?” I asked again, trying to get my brain around it.

“Yep,” he said. “They swear she is fine with it, though.” Oh, OK then. Have you ever been to a show like this? I’m a primate and I barely escape without an anxiety attack.

Now look, I try to remind myself not to be the hand wavy finger shaking vet, and those of you who know me, know I tend to give a lot of passes to people when it comes to doing things with your pets. Dress up your dog here and there, OK. Have a pet who likes to show off and skateboard or whatnot and clearly enjoys the bonding time? Go for it. And I would even try, within reason, to understand an occasional appearance here and there for a specific purpose. Within reason.

She’s Fine With It

At what point does ‘occasional’ become too much? I guess it’s an individual thing. My definition of within reason is different than other people’s, sure, but I suppose that is why the internet is such an interesting place to hold discourse. I’ve found a line I would not cross.

Let’s take a look at Grumpy Cat’s Wikipedia, “According to the Bundesens, Tardar Sauce is a normal cat “99% of the time”. Photo sessions are only once a week, and handling by strangers is limited.  At SXSW (2013) Tardar Sauce made limited two-hour appearances each day as Grumpy Cat.

Aaaaand she’s back again.

People tell me all the time their pet is happy when their ears are plastered against their head and they are 2 seconds from snapping. Just because you say it, just because you believe it, doesn’t make it so. The absence of actively trying to escape doesn’t mean you’re fine with it; I once saw a rabbit sitting on a red carpet surrounded by cameras and dogs sitting stock still while it waited to get eaten. I wasn’t thrilled that time, either.

If you’re going to exploit your cat’s genetic defect for millions of dollars, I’m not going to stop you, but at least be honest enough to say yes, this is what I’m doing. Because you can swear this is to the cat’s benefit all you want, but truth of the matter is I can’t think of a single feline I’ve met in my lifetime who would enjoy getting passed around to strangers while on a boat ride. Come on. This does not require an advanced degree to know. It simply involves having met any cat.

I know I’m not the only one who is a little skeeved out by this, and it’s not just people in the animal profession going “ummm…”. It’s too bad that every time someone tries to say, “Hey, you know…?” they’ll get drowned out by people calling them crazy animal activists or whatever similar marginalizing thing they can come up with, but I’m OK with that. When tech guys are telling PETA, hey, I think you got this one wrong, you know something very Carroll-esque is going on. We’re all mad here.

Not Neglect, But Not Exactly Altruistic Either

Let me be clear: I do not think the owners are abusive, or neglectful, or horrible people. I do not think the cat is being pushed to death’s door and needs to be removed by animal control. Compared to all the real and horrible animal abuse going on out there, this cat has it made. But let’s not kid ourselves and say this is the life she would have chosen or even that this is not stressing her out.

Thanks to reddit, we’ve seen all sorts of strange-looking animals launched into internet stardom, from shepherds with 2 noses to cats with no faces. Strange sells. Sure, altruism abounds and people’s hearts are in the right places generally speaking, but let’s not pretend this is anything other than what it really is:


Our generation’s circus sideshow.

So go enjoy the show, I told my husband, but I don’t need a picture of you with Tardar Sauce. One less person she has to ‘meet’.

Pawcurious: With Pet Lifestyle Expert and Veterinarian Dr. V.

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Dr. Bowes discusses skin mites as a cause of a frequent facial condition similar to Rosacea.

June 28, 2010, Channel 10 South Florida: Dr. Bowes discusses skin mites as a cause of a frequent facial condition similar to Rosacea. For more information on…

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After the dog show is over…

So, you’re a Doberman Pinscher who has walked away from the Garden without a prize at the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Show. Do you hang your head in shame? Of course not! You simply fall back on your other accomplishment in life…saving lives. One night when Troy was lying in bed with his owner, Diane […] Dog Blog

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guinea pig might have mites?

Question by Hayley: guinea pig might have mites?
Answers from my last question regarding some abnormal amounts of itching have suggested it might be mites, could this be why my guinea pig has also been unhappy being picked up recently? He finally started to sit still on his shelf and let me pick him up but a little before I noticed the itching, he started to avoid being picked up again. He still loves floor time though so have I been irritating him? Is it another indicator of mites?

Best answer:

Answer by Emily
Mites could definitely explain the changes in behavior you’re describing. They burrow into a guinea pig’s skin, which makes being touched uncomfortable/painful. This could make a guinea pig avoid getting touched or even bite. Until you get him treated, don’t bathe him. This can cause the mites to burrow deeper and cause further pain.

Untreated mite infestations can get advanced enough to cause fatal seizures. Luckily mites are pretty easy to treat if you use a safe and effective medication. There are two medications used to treat mites in guinea pigs: ivermectin and Revolution (by prescription only).

Here’s some info about mites and how to treat them:

Give your answer to this question below!

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Before It Got Cold Again

 The other day was gorgeous! I was actually out in just a sweatshirt.  I had to leave my jacket on the ground because I was dying of heat stroke!

We went to the beach – although I couldn’t tell what was sand and what was ice. And neither could the dogs. :)  Lacey had a blast and I aimed my camera at her for the most part as I haven’t seemed to have taken many photos of her lately!  Coulee and Amy have been stealing the show.

Not surprisingly we were out there all by ourselves. :)

It’s now back in the -1,000′s but at least we had a few days of “decent” weather.

On a complete subject change….  I’ve been trying to get a photo like the one below for a while. It makes me think of all those dogs that people just dump in the country and then drive away from. I’m not really sure what they expect their dogs to do… live of the land? find a friendly farmer? starve and die out of sight?  Anyway,  I have always imagined a sad dog walking down an empty road with the car driving off, dust billowing up behind it.  There is no dust, but it’s probably as close as I’m ever going to get!  

Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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THE RIPPLE: A Tale of Two Towns Part 2

Malvern PA

Last week I posted a blog about Malvern AR  as a study in contrasts between two places on my path. 

This past weekend I was filming and interviewing the oncologists and staff and patients at Hope Veterinary Specialists, (from left to right; Tara, Dr. Craig Clifford, Tom, Katelyn & Claus von Shitz, the German Shepherd).  

This Our Story

It was enlightening, educational, inspirational, heartwarming and, in a few cases, heartbreaking.  I gotta say, it’s a totally different experience being behind the lens instead of in front of it like I’m most used to.  But that’s the reason that we have been filming hundreds of hours of footage since the Summer of Murphy tour.  This isn’t just my story, it’s all of ours.

One of the stories I filmed Monday stands out and perfectly captures the experience.  And it’s got a little of everything; firemen, dog rescues, British royalty, three different types of cancers, and the marvel of modern veterinary medicine. 


Meet Cammie

In 2008, she was found by firemen in the freezing cold with an inoperable Epulis, or oral tumor.  One of the volunteers at the rescue made helping and healing her, her mission, and that’s Stacy, her mum.  

Once it was deemed that resection wasn’t a treatment option, Cammie’s tumor underwent radiation under the care of Dr. Siobhan Haney.  And while successful in stopping its growth, within a couple of months Cammie collapsed from a Stage 2 hemangiosarcoma.  

Following a splenectomy and a course of chemo, Cammie responded well although a complication from the Epulis occurred. Radiation had killed the tumor but the necrotic tissue frequently became infected and had to be removed resulting in the loss of part of her lower jaw.  

In the ensuing months a soft tissue sarcoma was discovered on her flank and a she underwent a second course of chemo.  Three cancers and six years later, Cammie is happy, healthy, and a beauty to boot!


Happy Endings

During the course of my interview with Stacy and Drs. Clifford and Siobhan I asked Cammie’s mum what message she had for pet parents who adopt dogs with costly, preexisting medical conditions and those going through cancer treatment for the first time.  

Her response: “You need to believe in happy endings.”  Indeed.  We all do.  


YBD’s Notes 1:  I like being behind the lens.  The Canon camera was generously donated by Thunder for us to record Murphy’s battle with nasal cancer back in 2010 but as it became unbeatable, I had to turn the camera off.  Maybe we weren’t meant to tell our own story unless it’s through that of others.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  Many thanks to Dennis, Craig, Kate, Siobhan and all of the rest of the crew at Hope VS for being both generous and accommodating with their time.  

YBD’s Notes 3: I even got to interview my first feline cancer patient, Shadow.  Me thinks we have to change the name of our organization to 2 Million Dogs and 1 cat.  

YBD’s Notes 4: Oh, and Cammie got her name from Princess Camilla 

2 Dogs 2,000 Miles

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Holistic flea topical treatment or spray for cats?

Flea Topical
by DDFic

Question by .: Holistic flea topical treatment or spray for cats?
I’m seeking a natural remedy to apply to my cat to keep off fleas. So far, in my research I’ve come upon websites only suggesting how to rid of fleas that are ALREADY infesting, and spraying the yard with a chemical isn’t a change at all, it’s still a chemical. Garlic is TOXIC for cats, so nobody recommend garlic as I’ve read some misinformed people telling cat owners to do so. My only other source is a good diet, as fleas only invade animals of poor health. I’m hesitant to believe this, however… parasites are parasites I do doubt they discriminate unless a cat owner of 20 years in holistic care can tell me otherwise.

Best answer:

Answer by bloomorningglory
Holistic vet in my area recommends the usual – Frontline or Sentinel. I personally keep the cat inside and skip the flea prevention. :)

Give your answer to this question below!

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Shelter Sunday: Home For Friendless Animals, Inc. / Waynetown, IN

Meet Cooper! This lab mix is living in Waynetown, Indiana, courtesy of Home for Friendless Animals, Inc. Here’s what their website has to say about this handsome fella. Cooper had a home & knows his name. He knows “sit” & “come”. He is very affectionate & misses having companionship. He is about 75 lbs & […] Dog Blog

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Cool Tick images

Some cool Tick images:

Tick on the job

Image by John Tann
Tick, a species of Ixodidae, burrowing into a tee shirt. Jarrahdale State Forest, Western Australia, November 2011.

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