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April 23, 2024

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Ear Infections In Pets

Something we commonly see in the clinic are ear infections. Dogs are more commonly affected than cats but both can get infections. When we see ear infections in our pets it is typically an outer ear infection. This means that it affects the ear canal but does not extend past the eardrum or affect the middle ear. This is why our pets often do not have a fever when they have an ear infection. Instead they will have symptoms that can include shaking the head, scratching the ears, red/inflamed ears, discharge from the ear canals and pain when petting/touching around the ears. 

Ear infections can start for many different reasons. Usually there is an inciting cause that disrupts the normal lining (epithelial cells) of the ear canals. For some pets it is due to allergies. These allergies can be environmental or food. Environmental allergies are related to a pet inhaling pollen from grasses, trees, and plants. When a pet is allergic to these pollens, they can get ear infections or become itchy. Another reason dogs can get ear infections is if they get water in their ears. 

Once the lining of the ear canal has become disrupted, it creates an environment where yeast or bacteria can overgrow. Yeast and bacteria can cause discharge in the ears that may be dark brown in color. The yeast and bacteria are also very itchy.

Ear mites are another potential cause of itchy ears, but they are much less common than an infection. They are more common in cats or kittens than dogs or puppies. 

Ear infections are diagnosed by an exam at your veterinarian. The ears will be looked at with an otoscope to check the canals for any additional debris or foreign material. An ear cytology is performed by taking a sample of the ears & looking at it under the microscope. This ensures that proper treatment is started. Ear infections are usually treated using topical medications. Some medications can be applied in the clinic while others are administered at home. Sometimes we will also prescribe oral medications to reduce pain or inflammation.  

Some dogs that get recurrent ear infections may need to have their ears flushed and cleaned periodically at home. Other dogs may need to be on allergy medications to reduce instances of ear infections. 

If your pet is having difficulties with their ears it is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have them examined.