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Kirkwood Animal Hospital

Medical Article: Ear Infections and Foxtails

Black Cat and Dog sitting next to each other in the park in the fall.  Cat is looking at the Dog.

Otitis externa, or ear infections, are common afflictions in any breed dogs. Cocker spaniels and “floppy” eared dogs have higher tendencies have recurring problems with their ears. Ear infections can be caused by any multitude of predisposing factors; including hygiene, bacterial infections, yeast infections, parasites, allergies, exposure to water, and foreign bodies. Signs of oncoming ear infections can include redness, discharge, swelling and an odor.

Ear cytology is used to microscopically identify common infections agents. Veterinarians can prescribe an appropriate treatment protocol which may include medication, anti-inflammatory/steroids, and ear flushes. If your dog has chronic problems may need cultures and specific systemic drug treatment. Please consult with your veterinarian before using previously prescribed treatments as they may be expired or inappropriate for the type of current infection in your dog. External ear infection can lead to middle and inner ear infections if untreated.

Summer is here! And foxtail season is upon us! Foxtails refer to a number of wild grasses found commonly in the California area that have bushy “spikes.” These grasses include but are not limited to Alopecurus, Bromus madritensis, Hordeum jubatum and Setaria. Foxtails green in the spring and then dry and fall off the plants in the summer months. These spikes have reverse barbs that are great for hanging on to clothes and animal fur and allowing the seed to travel and faunate other areas.

Foxtails provide a huge problem to our domesticated animals. Both dogs and cats alike can have issues with foxtails. They can find their way under the skin; commonly between the toes. Clinical signs are redness, swelling, discharge and licking of the area. Once under the skin they cause reddened, inflamed areas with draining tracts. Foxtails can be very difficult for veterinarians to find once under the skin; even with sedation and through flushing foxtails can be missed. Foxtails can also be inhaled, found in the ears, vulva, prepuce and in the eyes. This can lead to ulcers and infections in these areas. Foxtails have also been known to cause internal abscessation in the abdomen and lungs. Foxtails should be addressed immediately! Remove any visible foxtails from your pet after hiking or exposure to areas with foxtails. If you suspect inhaled foxtails or foxtails in the eyes, please call you veterinarian for immediate attention. Treatment may include removing the foxtail, flushing the draining tract, systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatory.