Answers from Experts

they change the medication – in this case


Ear Infections
I have a seven month old Labrador Retriever who has been suffering with a bad yeast infection in his left ear for at least three months now. The vet has tried several medications and has sent a sample to the lab to verify that in fact it is just yeast. The infection will go away but then returns. Can you suggest any natural remedies for prevention?

-Pat Alvarez

West Palm Beach, FL

WDJ asked homeopathic veterinarian William Falconer of Austin, Texas, to answer this question. Dr. Falconer has practiced veterinary medicine for 18 years, the last 12 with an exclusively holistic practice.

Remember, if you ask a homeopath about how to treat a given condition, you won’t get simple answer. I practice veterinary homeopathy, so my first answer is always, “It is a constitutional problem in the dog.” In this particular case, I would add that this is not a disease caused by yeast. If yeast is present, it is because the environment of this dog’s ear is calling out for it: “OK, you can move in now!” The problem lies with the dog’s lack of resistance to the yeast.

As the dog’s owner has seen, conventional medicine doesn’t have a lot to offer in this situation. Conventional medicine palliates the symptoms, but doesn’t do anything for the dog’s constitutional health. In other words, while the dog is treated, the thing goes away, but it returns shortly after treatment stops.

Unfortunately, most conventional practitioners fail to see it quite this way. Instead, they change the medication – in this case, the yeast-killing medication – or increase the dosage. In my experience, if you keep doing that, the disease only grows worse. If the problem has only been in one ear, it will move to the second ear, and the dog will start to exhibit other symptoms, like itchy feet or skin eruptions. And if his veterinarians keep palliating these symptoms – and they will, because conventional medicine sees those as new diseases, and treats them with more drugs – the end result will be something far more serious.

As I said before, the real problem is that the dog has a problem at the level of his basic vital life force. A dog who is not healthy tells you so with symptoms: itchiness, body odor, excessive shedding, bad breath, frequent eye discharges, etc. These are all signs of chronic disease.

In homeopathy, the first step is to conduct a thorough health intake. I would ask a lot of questions about the dog’s obvious symptoms, as well as his appetite, thirst, stools, behaviors, when his symptoms are better or worse, past illnesses, temperature preferences, etc.

Armed with all this information, a homeopath selects a specific remedy for that individual that reflects their health status and the pattern of symptoms they are and have been displaying. I would prescribe one or a series of remedies until I’ve gotten this unwound and the dog is truly cured.

In the case of this particular dog, I don’t think it would take that long, because he is so young; the disease hasn’t yet had time to get deeply lodged. If this dog started with ear problems when it was four months, and didn’t come to a homeopath until it was two years old, and the disease had progressed into skin problems and itchy feet and so on, it would be much harder to treat. But the young are very responsive; we typically give one high-potency remedy, watch them over a span of a few weeks, have a follow-up and another dose of something if it is needed, and we often have the animal well in short order.

Once the dog is treated and is well again, thought should be given as to how to prevent future onslaughts of this or other disease states. Because this dog is so young, I would suspect the problem was either an inherited weakness, or, more likely, that the early puppyhood vaccines really stirred up chronic disease in this dog. Why do holistic practitioners always point a finger at vaccinations? Dramatic allergic reactions are the result of an immune system run amok.

What do we do to young puppies that addresses their immune systems? Vaccination! And we do it so often, and with so many viruses in combination! I’ll bet if the dog’s owner looks at the dog’s records, she will see that the problem with the dog’s ears began within a month of one of the vaccination visits. I would suggest supporting the dog’s health by discontinuing the vaccinations and feeding the dog a wholesome diet.

Let me caution you about the very commonly prescribed practice of using ear cleaners. Most ear cleaners on the market (with the exception of Halo’s earwash) contain drying agents, usually acids like salicylic acid and malic acid. Conventional veterinarians almost always prescribe these drying earwashes in addition to antibiotics and steroids. But drying a discharge is, once again, palliating or suppressing a symptom. That ear has a discharge because that dog is trying to get well. And if you go in and suppress, in essence, saying, “No, you may not have a discharge,” the disease will come out somewhere else – typically, in a more and more serious form.

You have to look beyond the symptom, which is an attempt at healing. When it repeats, it is a sign that the dog can’t heal it alone, so we give help with a carefully chosen course of remedies.

What about natural ear cleaners? My caution stands. Even natural products like tea tree oil or grapefruit extract-based products work on the germ-killing theory. But it’s palliation all over again: you’ll kill the yeast for a while, but when you stop using the drops, lo and behold the yeast will come back. There is no use in substituting a natural palliative agent for a non-natural one! the disease that needs to be cured is not at the level of the ear – it’s at the level of the vital force.

I might add that homeopathic medicine may palliate as well! This is common with the “combination” remedies, but could even happen with a single remedy that’s not accurately assessed. The key is, if repeating the remedy improves the symptoms, but just until the remedy is discontinued, you are palliating. A cure means the symptoms go away permanently and the overall health is improved long-term.

That said, I can add that if the dog swims a lot, you can use a little dilute vinegar (a tablespoon of white vinegar to one cup of water) to flush out the dog’s ears after a swim. (Let him shake his head afterward and blot the excess moisture out with a towel or tissue.) The vinegar solution changes the pH in the ears, making them less hospitable to yeast and bacteria. This is not something I would do for all swimming dogs, only if the dog was having trouble with his ears.


Old Dog’s Heart Trouble
What do your holistic veterinarians have to say about dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs? I feel I can’t trust my veterinarian; he gave my dog a death sentence.

-Walter Klink
Johnstown, PA

Holistic veterinarian Carolyn Blakey, of Westside Animal Clinic in Richmond, Indiana, answers this question.

Unless your dog is in a really advanced state of disease, I wouldn’t accept the “death sentence.” Some dogs live a long time with this condition. You do have to recognize the heart is enlarged and it is not operating as efficiently as it used to. But there are a number of drugs and natural treatments that can improve the situation dramatically.

This disease is usually seen in older dogs; essentially, it’s caused by an old heart wearing out. The heart can no longer work efficiently, so the blood pressure drops. Lower blood pressure makes the dog retain fluids; very often these dogs will cough, because there is fluid in their lungs, or they may develop a pot belly, because their abdomens are full of fluids. Of course, the dog will act tired, because his heart cannot supply all his muscles with an adequate supply of blood.

If the disease is very advanced, the dog may also have a bluish tongue, because of the lack of oxygen in the blood. When the dog has reached that point, he’s in trouble. Pneumonia may not be far behind.

There are two types of drugs that are commonly used to treat this condition. First, a diuretic is given to help the body get rid of the excess fluid. The most commonly prescribed diuretic is Furosemide. The second type of drug is given to help the heart beat stronger. These drugs include Lanoxin, Digitalis, and Enacard. Both of these types of drugs are helpful; most heart patients benefit from them.

There are a few dietary changes you can try. First, I would feed this dog fresh food. At a minimum, get away from the grocery-store foods, which are very salty. A good quality, low-salt diet will help a lot.

I would also supplement the dog with Coenzyme Q10. This nutritional enzyme is expensive, but readily available in many dosage levels at health food or drug stores. CoQ10 is a very, very safe enzyme that dogs (and humans) have in our systems, and it seems to particularly help the cardiovascular system. It will help your dog’s heart and blood vessels. (It is also a nice antioxidant, said to be very helpful with gingivitis. It also has an anti-cancer reputation.)

I would give the dog about 10 mg. once or twice a day if he is very small, like a Chihuahua, up to a 100-200 mg. once or twice a day for a very big dog. All the heart patients I have put on CoQ10 do better; it’s the best treatment I can recommend.

Some dogs respond well to natural diuretics, such as the herb burdock. You can feed it dried; dose it according to your dog’s weight, adjusted from the recommended human dosage. Be conservative when using the tincture form; a little goes a long way. But Furosemide is OK, it’s been around a long time and it does a good job.

Your dog may also benefit from homeopathy. It might be worth it to try a low-potency, multi-symptom homeopathic remedy, the kind that is available over the counter. Or talk to a homeopath and get some in-depth support for the animal.