Of all the reasons a cat or dog requires a visit to the Veterinary Surgery, an ear problem is among the most common. Their deep, curved ear canals make it difficult for air to get in and moisture to get out and moisture retained in ear after swimming or bathing can often lead to infections.
Spring and summer when it is hot and particularly when it is humid is the worst time of the year for ear infections. Not only are ear infections likely to occur but quite often they are difficult to cure. Bacterial infections, fungal infections, ear mites and foreign bodies such as grass seeds are the most common causes of ear infections.
Ten Important signs
It is important to know what early signs might indicate an infection so treatment can be started.
- Odour – bad odour coming from the ears
- Scratching at the ears
- Excessive discharge (usually yellow, brown or black)
- Inflammation – redness of the ear flap or canal
- Shaking the head or ears
- Obvious pain when touched around the head or ears
- Head tilted to one side or held down
- Stumbling or circling to one side
- Lethargy or depression
- Marked swelling of the ear flaps
If your dog or cat is showing any of these signs then a visit to the veterinarian is necessary, as there is a high likelihood an ear problem is present.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
The best way to prevent ear problems is to establish a regular ear care program aimed at preventing such problems from developing.
- Keep ears dry. Ears should be dried thoroughly after bathing or swimming.
- Cleaning. A regular ear clean following your dogs bath using an alcohol based ear cleaning solution such as Epi Otic or Bayer Ear Cleaning solution will remove any dirt or wax build up that may encourage infections. All of these cleaners are readily available over the counter at the surgery without consultation.
- Clipping/Plucking. It is important to clip or pluck the hair from around the ear canal. Dogs that do not shed hair such as Poodles, Schnauzers, Bichons, Labradoodles, Spoodles etc. often need to have hair plucked from the canals. This allows better air flow into the canal and prevents wax from being trapped thus reducing the chance an infection will develop.
- Controlling skin disease. Many ear infections are simply a continuation of a generalized skin condition such as bacterial or fungal infection. When this happens it is impossible to treat the ear infection without controlling the skin disease.