DEAR DR. FOX: My 1 1/2-year-old female hound mix that I recently rescued from a local animal shelter has a recurring yeast infection in her right ear.
I took her to the vet twice for this, and he put her on medication. Ear drops are out of the question as she panics when I try to put the drops in. The vet told me the problem could be food allergies.
I can't afford these vet visits -- I am retired and on Social Security. Do you have any suggestions regarding curing this problem? -- J.M.P., Springfield, Mass.
DEAR J.M.P.: I am glad that the veterinarian has raised the possibility that your dog might have an underlying food allergy that could be related to your dog's inflamed ear. Such a condition can be extremely distressing for the dog -- scratching and head-shaking can result in additional traumatic injury, including cauliflower ear (hematoma).
Most likely, there is a mixed infection of bacteria and fungus in the ear canal that calls for appropriate medication. Ear mite infestation must also be addressed. You must get someone to help you restrain the dog for daily ear treatment and check the pet store for a basic rice and lamb hypoallergenic dog food.
Your veterinarian may not be familiar with Zymox, an enzymatic ear medication for dogs, which has helped many dogs with ear inflammation and infection.
DEAR DR. FOX: I recently got a 4-year-old bullmastiff mix from the Humane Society. It's taken him a long time to understand simple commands -- at least that's what I thought until I discovered that he understands Spanish and follows Spanish commands!
Should I continue with Spanish commands or stick with English (which he finally learned after 10 weeks)? I believe he is grieving his Latino family, and he was surprised when he heard me speak Spanish, which my husband does not know at all. -- J.S., Olney, Md.
DEAR J.S.: Dogs learn simple one- or two-word commands, ideally reinforced by hand or arm signals and body gestures. The latter are part of universal nonverbal communication, along with tone of voice.
By association, your dog will soon learn English words when coupled first with the Spanish word and signals that you can subsequently drop if you wish. There is one famous dog who has been trained to recognize more than 2,000 different words for different toys, demonstrating the remarkable word comprehension abilities of some good dogs!
DEAR DR. FOX: I read about the cat with a persistent cough. Our cat was diagnosed and treated for asthma. I then learned from a cat rescue group about a wonderful product, Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Litter. I switched our cat to it, and she was cured -- that was 10 years ago. Since then, I have told many people about this product. I wrote to Dr. Elsey, and he was kind enough to send many coupons for the product to the rescue group. We had a cough return just once, when I had to substitute another brand of litter when I couldn't get to the usual store for supply.
This litter made a wonderful difference in our cat's health. -- S.M., Arlington, Va.
DEAR S.M.: I always appreciate hearing from pet owners about the benefits of some products, but I am also wary that this can be a setup by some companies.
I do not believe that this is the case with Elsey's cat litter products, since one of the causes of cat asthma, cystitis and litter box avoidance can be due to the kind of litter in the box.
So keeping in mind that feline asthma can be due to other allergens and from intolerance of certain food ingredients, addressing the kind of litter as a possible cause is an essential part of holistic feline medicine. Many cats enjoy good health once the offending litter -- or box cover -- is removed.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)