DEAR DR. FOX: I have a beautiful, healthy 14-year-old wheaten. She recently had an ear infection, and I cleaned her ears and then used MalOtic medicine to treat the infection. I noticed a few hours later that she was deaf.
When I contacted my vet, I discovered that this is a possible side effect from the gentamicin in the medicine. While they said it could be reversible, sometimes, especially in geriatric dogs, it is permanent.
It has been a week now, and I believe her personality has changed. She sleeps a lot, pants and has been having accidents in the house, which is not her normal behavior. Is there anything I can do to restore her hearing? Can you tell me more about this side effect and why these medicines are still on the market? -- J.R.C., Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
DEAR J.R.C.: I am sorry to hear about your dog’s adverse reaction to the medication, from which a recovery may or may not be in the offing. There is no remedy to reverse the damage to the inner ear.
Of potential concern in veterinary practice are the antibiotics known as antibacterial aminoglycosides -- gentamicin and amikacin -- as well as “loop diuretics,” like furosemide. Some ototoxic (hearing- and balance-damaging) potential might also be associated with the antibiotic erythromycin. Some of these substances also exhibit renal toxicity, as has been documented for aminoglycosides as well as some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
Ear inflammation and infection should not be neglected. Seek immediate veterinary examination and treatment when a dog is showing signs of ear trouble: head-shaking and scratching one or both ears. Some may not show significant discomfort, even when the infection (caused by bacteria, often combined with a fungus) has become well-established.
Many factors can lead to external and deeper ear infection and inflammation, with loss of hearing and/or balance. Acute episodes may call for opiate analgesia, anti-anxiety medication and anti-inflammatory prednisolone treatment. The selection of antibiotic may be refined by taking a sample of the ear exudate and testing for bacterial antibiotic sensitivity. Less toxic polymyxin B and silver sulfadiazine, after a thorough cleaning of the ear, can help many patients.
Underlying factors -- from ear mites and genetic anomalies (as with pendulous ears and hairy ear canals), to food allergy, nutritional deficiency and complications associated with hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease -- all play a role in ear conditions affecting dogs and cats.
Old remedies such as diluted, organic apple-cider vinegar, organic cold-pressed olive oil, various essential oils and dietary omega-3 fatty acids can provide considerable relief and healing in many instances.
Your dog may benefit from a few drops daily of Nordic Naturals cod liver oil or fish oil for dogs. For older dogs, I also recommend a daily tablespoon (1 tablespoon per 50 pounds body weight) of coconut oil mixed in with the regular food, plus a half-teaspoon each of powdered ginger, brewer’s yeast and turmeric.
It is some consolation that dogs do generally adapt quickly to losing their hearing, and learn to attend and depend more on our hand signals and body language to communicate.
DEAR DR. FOX: My “baby” dog (a spitz) is now 13 years old. She’s very active; at 6, we got her spayed.
Now she has developed two lumps in her breasts. One was very fast developing, so on advice, we got her operated on in September. The biopsy report said cancer. The wound healed up, but in December, it again started growing and leaking pus. Now it looks like a volcano, and the outer rim started bleeding. On the vet’s advice, I clean it with betadine on cotton, then sprinkle with Cipladine powder. In the X-ray, there is one small patch in her lungs.
She’s still very active, looks good and has lovely fur; still no problems with passing stool and urine. Please advise any treatments or natural remedies. I will be very grateful. I can’t imagine my life without her. -- S.D., Faridabad, India
DEAR S.D.: Your dog should see a veterinarian about the infected lesion. Breast cancer often spreads to the lungs, as well as sometimes the spleen and other organs.
I recommend you do not opt for any major surgery. Your beloved dog is old, and her quality of life is not likely to be improved. Just make your dog comfortable; feed her a grain-free, good-quality protein diet, as per my recipe on my website, drfoxvet.net (delete the grain ingredient).
S.D. REPLIES: Yes, I am trying to switch her food to an only-protein diet. Yesterday again, we had taken her to the vet, and also got an X-ray done. Latest developments: many small tumors under her armpit, and a patch in the lungs has grown bigger. Thank you for responding to my concerns. -- S.D., Faridabad, India
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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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