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Dr. Michael Fox, Published April 25 2014

Pet care: Use savings instead of pet insurance

Dear Dr. Fox: Hello. How do I get information about pet insurance? We have a dog that is almost 4 years old. We would like to get another, but would like to have some sort of way to offset the cost of vet bills for a new puppy.

Do you have any recommendations? – C.B.

Dear C.B.: I have no recommendations since I feel it best to set up a savings account for each animal in the household – for instance, you can set aside the $10 to $20 a week you might spend at the local coffeehouse if you switch to brewing at home.

Discuss your concerns with your veterinarian, who may help you identify the exclusions and conditions, some of which may mandate over-vaccination and questionable annual tests.

It would be good to have a reserve fund of at least $2,000 for each cat and dog in case of some health emergency so that you are not cut short and have to pay interest on your credit card. Some veterinary hospitals will arrange for fees to be paid by installment, but having some funds at hand can save a lot of uncertainty and anguish.

Dear Dr. Fox: We recently adopted an adorable old cocker spaniel, whose estimated age is around 8 or 9. The veterinarian has tried various ear ointments to clear up her smelly and uncomfortable external otitis. Do you have any suggestions we may try? – L.B., Arlington, Va.

Dear L.B.: Good for you for taking in an old dog and for helping make her life more comfortable for whatever time she has left.

As you know, chronic ear problems are the bane of this breed. There may be an underlying food allergy, but most often the issue is one of poor aeration of the external ear canal with the development of bacterial and yeast infection and inflammation.

The inflammation may be reduced by giving her a teaspoon daily of good-quality fish oil in her food, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Cocker spaniels may need additional vitamin A supplementation when they have an oily, smelly coat, which Nordic Naturals cod liver oil for dogs contains.

This skin condition is often associated with hypothyroidism. Up to a tablespoon daily of coconut oil may also help her coat and improve her brain function as well!

Get her used to having her ears tied up with a ribbon for part of the day so they can get a good airing.

Flushing and irrigating her ear canal with equal parts warm water and apple cider vinegar every day for seven to 10 days is the first step to healing. Be sure to do it outdoors since she will shake her head, and have someone hold her as you administer it.

Use a large syringe. Never poke around with a Q-tip. After this treatment, dry her ear well with a soft cotton pad or cloth, and keep her ears tied up over her head afterwards since thorough dryness is advisable. If her infected ear is generally more dry than moist, work a few drops of olive oil into the ear canal after drying it following the flushing.

The ear treatment for this condition of external chronic otitis, called Zymox, can be very effective. Also, try PetzLife’s Bath-Eaze (petzlife.com), a soothing and refreshing spray shampoo and conditioner you can mist her coat with, then gently rub into her fur – no bath required.

Old dogs tend to get stinky, and this kind of product can certainly make them and those around them feel better, especially when a full shampoo is too stressful.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com 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.