Ear infections, also referred to as Otitis Externa are a common problem seen amongst our furry friends, especially those with long ears. Ear infections can cause extreme discomfort and further health problems if left untreated.

There are several types of infectious bacteria, fungi, parasites and foreign material which might cause inflammation and infection in the outer, middle or inner ears.

Dogs’ and cats’ ear canals are long “L” shaped, funnel-like tubes. They are great for hearing but this shape predisposes them to collecting debris and moisture. The most common causes of ear infections include allergies, heat, trapped moisture, and excessive earwax. It can also be caused by ear mites, foreign material like a grass seed or an unknown growth.

Causes of Ear Infections:

Some breeds, particularly those with large floppy or hairy ears such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles or Golden Retrievers, can be more prone to ear infections, but they can occur in any breed.

Healthy ears are generally pink, clean, and have an unobtrusive smell. A pet suffering from an ear infection can show just one or multiple symptoms.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection:

  • Ears can look red and inflamed; and a black/brown or yellowish discharge may be seen
  • Has a strong ‘doggy’ odour
  • Constant ear scratching, shaking of the head
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Whimpering due to discomfort
  • A loss of balance
  • Hearing loss
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles or head tilting

Ears are very sensitive, if you feel there is a problem please contact your local Greencross Vet. Having your pet’s ear examined by a veterinarian will allow them to determine whether the eardrum is intact, if there are any foreign materials in the ear canal, and to get a swab sample for diagnostics. Your local vet will diagnose the cause of the problem and provide the very best treatment and home care plan with the appropriate medication or ear cleaner if needed.

How are Ear Infections Diagnosed?

A thorough clinical examination including examining the pets skin will allow your veterinarian to determine the cause of the infection and whether the eardrum is intact and if there are any foreign materials in the canal. When a pet is in extreme pain and refuses to allow the examination, it may be necessary to sedate or anesthetize the pet for a thorough examination and diagnosis.

How are Ear Infections Treated?

In many cases, ear drops can be applied to the affected ear. If there is foreign matter or excess discharge in the ear canal, the pet may need to be sedated or anaesthetized so that it can be removed prior to the ear drops being administered. Cytological study of debris from the ear canal dictates which treatment method or medication to use. Sometimes, it reveals the presence of more than one type of infection and this may require the use of multiple medications. Your veterinarian will recommend a tailored treatment plan based on the diagnosis.

Aftercare at Home:

Follow the medication directions that have been advised by your veterinarian. Never use ear cleaner or drops not prescribed for your pet. They may be inappropriate and even harmful to the ear.
Avoid the ears getting wet – no swimming and only wash the head with a damp cloth.

Preventing a Recurrence of an Ear Problem:

Please follow all veterinary home care instructions to the end of its course
Check your pet’s ears regularly
Should you notice any recurring symptoms, please make a revisit appointment
Remember, all breeds of dogs are susceptible to ear infections. Carefully watch for signs of tenderness, discharge, redness or odour from your pet’s ears.