Canine Ear and Hearing Problems

February 5, 2013 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs · 1 Comment 
Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.

Sometimes Whistle’s shakes his head and scratches his ears. This makes me wonder if his ears are bothering him.

Cornell University Hospital for Animals sees lots of dogs with serious ear disorders.  While most ear infections can be remedied easily, some are only treatable with complex surgeries. In a recent issue of their newsletter “Dog Watch,” they discussed canine ear disease.

One condition treated by an operation when it is in its advanced stages is a chronic infection called otitis externa, a painful condition that can lead to partial deafness if left untreated.

Just like our ears, dogs’ ears are delicate equipment. Deafness can be congenital or acquired. Noise trauma, or certain antibiotics or anesthetics can sometimes cause deafness. Just like us, canines can also gradually have their hearing affected by aging, particularly if they are eight years or older.

How can you recognize the early signs or ear problems?

An affected dog might:

  • Shake its head persistently and
  • Scratch at one or both ears.
  • Fail to react to voice commands
  • React as if ears are painful when touched

Upon inspection you might notice:

  • Inflamed or swollen skin on the underside of the ears
  • Foul-smelling discharge in outer ear canal.

A trip to your veterinarian, where he or she can use an otoscope to look inside the dog’s ears, might be necessary to diagnosis the condition.  A microscopic examination of what is in the ear canal might also be needed to pin down the type of infection and medication needed.

I took Whistle to see to his veterinarian for a check-up. Luckily in his case, the ear scratching and head shaking were not indications of anything serious. My vet suggested that I used a mild ear cleanser specifically designed for dogs and a cloth to keep his ears clean.

Cancer and Early Detection – Conducting Routine Exams at Home

September 26, 2011 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare · 2 Comments 

I don’t know about you, but I am acutely aware of the sobering statistics related to large breed dogs and cancer. I try to examine Whistle on a daily basis just to make sure that he has no undetected lumps or bumps. And, if I do find something, I make sure to make an appointment right away with Whistle’s veterinarian for his professional opinion and assessment.

I came across a helpful article in a recent issue of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DOG Watch that I wanted to share with you regarding the importance of early detection of canine cancer.

Did you know that “it has been estimated that cancer is the cause of death in 50% of dogs over the age of 10 and that 25 to 30% of all dogs will be stricken with the disease at some point during their lives, regardless of their age”?

I don’t want to be an alarmist but I think we can definitely take some proactive steps to protect our assistance dogs. As we all know, the sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the better our dog’s chances that the cancer can be stopped and an assistance dog’s life can be saved or extended.

The folks at DOG Watch stress the importance of owner awareness to such physical symptoms as: “an open sore that won’t heal; an unusual lump or swollen area that doesn’t go away; mysterious bleeding from the mouth or anus; troubled breathing; difficulty in urinating or defecating; uncharacteristic lethargy; reluctance to exercise; sudden weight loss”. They also recommend that young dogs receive a yearly physical but dogs older than eight should have a physical at least twice a year.

Whistle is my third assistance dog. I have noticed that each of my assistance dogs’ health changed between the age of 5-6. After age 5, I began monitoring their health a little closer and regularly scheduling a physical exam with our vet every six months. The cost has been relatively low because he is just conducting a physical assessment in his office however it gives us a base line to monitor Whistle’s health as he becomes a senior working dog.

I routinely groom my assistance dog by brushing their fur at either the beginning or end of the day. Not only is this a good bonding exercise but it also gives me a chance to physically scan Whistle’s body for any lumps or bumps, changes in his skin or other physical signs of potential health concerns.

Dealing with health issues is never easy but I feel it is my responsibility to be vigilante with Whistle’s health care maintenance and overall wellness. Conducting routine exams at home with your assistance dog can be just what the doctor ordered!

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (October 2011) “Early Detection of Canine Cancer”. DOG Watch. 15(10): 1.

A Research Study to Help Golden Retrievers

April 28, 2011 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare · Comment 

Golden Retrievers are commonly used as working dogs. My beloved assistance dog, Morgan, was a Golden Retriever and he suffered from many illnesses as he aged. That’s why I was so excited to read about a research study to help Golden Retrievers in the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DOG Watch publication, Volume 15, No. 5 May 2011.

They reported that the start of a major study of cancer in Golden Retrievers was announced at the North American Veterinary Conference earlier in 2011 in Orlando, FL

The Canine Lifetime Health Project is a 13-year study that’s intended to analyze cancer in Golden Retrievers. The Morris Animal Foundation created the project to learn how to prevent cancer and other canine diseases by determining genetic, nutritional, and environmental risk factors.

They want to enroll 2,500 Golden Retrievers between the ages of two and seven. The project has already received support from animal health companies like Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Pfizer Animal Health and Merial.

If you’d like more information, please visit and click on the “Major Health Campaigns” link under the “Our Research” tab. I can’t wait to hear the outcomes of this study.

Fourth Annual AVCO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam

April 8, 2011 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare · Comment 

Don’t forget that the Fourth Annual AVCO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam event is coming soon! Registration started April 1 and qualified service animals throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico can receive free eye checks throughout the entire month of May.

Eligible animals must be actively working and certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in one. The certifying organization can be national, regional, or local. Other service animals such as horses, cats, etc., can participate as long as they meet the qualifications. For more information visit:

The registration form is to be available online starting April 1.

The AVCO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam event is a philanthropic effort generously provided to the Service Dog public by the board certified veterinary ophthalmologists of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

The ACVO has teamed up with Merial the last several years to put on this event. They report that in 2010 the number of service dogs seen had more than doubled, with more than 3,200 dogs examined. Additionally the program saw an increase in the number of service horses examined. Not only were police horses examined in Louisville KY but the famous Golden Gate horse patrol benefited from ocular examinations. The event was featured on Good Morning America last year as well.

Have a story about your assistance dog and this event? The ACVO is asking you email your story to and include photos under 5MB if you have them.

I learned the importance of eye examinations several years ago when my retired service dog, Morgan, developed a degenerative eye condition and almost lost his eyes. Dr. Kennard, a veterinary ophthalmologist with Eye Care for Animals in Albuquerque, literally saved his eyes and his eyesight.

I called my veterinary ophthalmologist to register Whistle and to schedule his eye examination. I hope you will too!

Of course I want to go look at the snake! I’m a dog!

August 5, 2010 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs · Comment 

NOTE: This is Whistle’s first blog post. Who knew he could write? Look for more posts from Whistle in the future. – Marcie Davis

My mom freaked out when she saw the big snake in the backyard this summer. I wasn’t even allowed to go outside to check it out! Bummer. I think it was just a bull snake, and they’re good guys who eat pests in the garden.

Just because she’s afraid of snakes, I’m not allowed to investigate! But I did hear her talking to my vet, Dr. Murt, at Eldorado Animal Clinic, and I guess it’s for my own good. Around the country, thousands of dogs get bitten by snakes every year. Out here in New Mexico, like many western states, we have rattlesnakes, plus other kinds of snakes around.

And well, yeah, I’ll admit it; even we working dogs aren’t always the smartest in our dealings with the slithery creatures. We just can’t help it! We’re curious, and just end up sticking our snout right into them sometimes, or poking at them with a paw. So I guess we can’t blame the snakes for being surprised and biting us.

The problem is, if you get bitten by a rattler or other poisonous snake, it is definitely an emergency situation. No ifs, ands or buts about it. You’ve got to get in to the vet, pronto. Even a non-venomous snake bite requires a vet visit, and fast!

So if you and your human partner might want to look into getting you the rattlesnake vaccine. Yeah, they have that now. It’s not on the main list like the distemper shot or anything, but you can get one. It doesn’t even cost that much. Just of fraction of the cost of the antivenom you’ll need if a rattler gets you. Man, that stuff is expensive!

Of course like any vaccination, there are some risks involved, but you have to weigh that against the risk of getting bitten without having been vaccinated. You need to look at your lifestyle. Are you often out in places where snakes live? Like hiking or camping in the desert or mountains, or brushy areas? Even golf courses (think roughs) are full of snakes.

Once you’re bitten, it’s hard to know how much venom was injected. And OK, this is gross, but snake venom can make it so your blood can’t coagulate. And then you can go into shock, and even die!

The rattlesnake vaccine was developed for the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. What we have here in Santa Fe is the Prairie rattler, similar enough that it seems to work. The vaccine stimulates your immune system so even if you’re bitten, the reaction won’t be as severe. You’ll still need to go to the vet right away, but your condition shouldn’t be nearly as bad.

At my vet’s office they said they’ve seen a lot of dogs get bitten and even seen a few die. They say that healing can be a long arduous process, depending on where you’re bitten and how much venom was injected. And, that rattlesnake bites can be very painful. Yikes!

You can get more info at Red Rock Biologics. I’m not the spokesdog for this company or anything, but just saying there’s some good info here, so check it out.

Big takeaway points here for you and your human partner: Try not to get bitten by a rattlesnake, but if you’re at risk, consider the rattler vaccine. Talk to your vet to help decide what you should do. If you do get bitten by any snake, get to the vet as fast as you can. Even if you think the snake was non-venomous, it’s an emergency. Well, I’d better get off the computer before my mom calls me. OK, bueno bye.

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