Q: I just made an appointment with my vet for my 13-year-old goldendoodle, who once again has what smells like an ear infection and crusty scabs on his underside and hindquarters within a few days of coming back from the groomer. For now, I have some left over antibiotic ointment that I was given previously for the same thing and which I am applying to his skin until he is seen. Why does this keep happening? He does have a heart condition for which he is being treated but I suspect this has nothing to do with the repeated skin and ear infections, which seem to be far more frequent now. Could it be age-related? When adding in the recent heat wave, he seems a bit uncomfortable and wonder if there is anything else we can do or what needs to be done to get to the bottom of this.
A: There are several plausible explanations for the repeated ear and skin issues that your old dog is experiencing. The hot weather may or may not be a factor depending on whether the dog was swimming outdoors, exposed to any irritants, or just not kept in cool areas, which might have allowed the issues to fester and get worse. There may be some underlying health issues that need to be addressed and, as you suggest, the heart is not the likely cause. A low thyroid level could be contributory, your dog’s immune system may be slowing down with age, or there is always the possibility that your dog has a sensitivity to whatever shampoos or products your current groomer is using since you mention it happens more now.
You should definitely convey the findings to the groomer and ask them to consider using something different on your dog and see if that works. Has your dog been exposed to any ectoparasites such as fleas or ticks and are you using adequate preventatives for that? Having bugs crawling on skin can cause a dog to itch and create the kinds of problems you have noticed. You are wise to schedule your dog to be seen by your veterinarian because the obvious may not be obvious. They may prescribe different medications such as ear drops or antibiotics. In the meanwhile, you might want to consider cleaning your dog’s ears if there is any irritation or discharge building up. For now, I also think it can be safe to use what you have at home on the affected areas but if things worsen then stop the use of the ointment until your dog is seen.
Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.