Dog Ear Infection: The canine ear has three parts: the external or outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Any of these distinctive parts of the ear can become irritated, inflamed, or infected, sometimes causing severe pain. Ear trouble is one of the foremost reasons owners take their dogs to the veterinary practice.
Cat Ear Infection: Ear infections are rare in felines. When they do occur in the cat’s outer or middle ear, they can be extremely painful and can result in deafness or facial paralysis if they become chronic.
Two types of ear infection are most commonly seen:
Otitis externa–infection of the external ear canal
Otitis media–infection of the middle ear
Dog Ear Infection: Outer ear infections in dogs are most often caused by bacteria or yeast. An accumulation of wax, thick or matted hair in the ear canal, debris, a foreign body, tumor or impaired drainage of the ear can also precipitate an ear infection.
Although any dog or cat can get an ear infection, breeds that have pendulous ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds or those with hairy inner ear flaps, like Miniature Poodles and Schnauzers, have more frequent ear infections. In cats, the Persian breed is more prone to ear infections.
Cat Ear Infection: Mites are the most common cause of ear infections in cats. However, other causes can include allergies or underlying illness such as diabetes, feline leukemia, tumors or a damaged eardrum.
•Shaking of the head
•Red and inflamed ears
•Offensive ear odor
•Black or yellowish discharge
•Constant tilting head may signal middle ear infection
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because a number of problems can cause an ear infection, it is important that your dog or cat see the veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms. Your veterinarian will prescribe proper medication and treatment. The veterinarian will also make sure the eardrum is intact before prescribing medication because some medications have been known to result in hearing loss if administered to a pet with a ruptured eardrum.
Examining the ear –Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look inside your pet’s ear for debris and to check on the condition of the eardrum. If this is painful, your pet may need to be sedated or anesthetized for the exam. Your veterinarian will take a sample of the material in the ear canal and examine it under a microscope (cytology) to determine if an organism caused the infection. If more than one organism is involved, then multiple medications will be necessary.
If the ear examination reveals a foreign body, tick or heavy debris buildup, sedation may also be required in order for the veterinarian to remove the irritant or allow thorough cleansing.
Middle ear infection–These can be the most difficult to clear up. Diagnosis and treatment will likely require lab tests, x-rays, and perhaps even surgery. During the recovery, you will likely have to restrict your pet’s activity. Recovery from the infection may take four to six weeks and will likely require multiple follow-up appointments. Both outer and middle ear infections require you to keep your pet’s ears dry.
Important warning–The longer an ear infection goes untreated, the harder it is to get rid of. Your animal will be in pain until you start treatment. Heavy head shaking, a sign of infection, can result in broken blood vessels that require surgery (this is commonly called an aural hemotoma). Frequent ear infections can damage the eardrum and close the ear canal, in which case surgical reconstruction may be necessary.
Medication treatment–Medication treatment is typically prescribed along with daily ear cleaning that continues for one to two weeks. This can be painful for your pet, so be gentle.
Dog recovery: Recovery from ear infections is good with proper, prompt diagnosis and treatment. If an underlying problem such as allergies or thyroid disease is present, this may bring about a chronic or recurrent ear infection.
Cat recovery: Since cats are normally resistant to ear infections, your veterinarian should explore potential other problems as well. Your cat may have an unusually shaped ear canal or its immune system may be suppressed. Have your veterinarian test your cat for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), both of which affect the immune system. All diabetic cats also tend to be susceptible to ear infections, so test for diabetes too.
Dogs: Weekly ear cleaning with a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution can minimize or prevent infections. This is especially important for dogs with pendulous ears, hairy inner ears, allergies or other medical problems that make them prone to infections. Dogs with hairy ear flaps should have hairs plucked periodically by the groomer.
Cats: Routinely check your cat’s ears for redness, odor or residue. Healthy pale pink ears have only a minimal amount of wax. Clean your cat’s ears twice a week with a veterinarian-recommended cleaning solution to help avoid problems. Otherwise, keep ear canals dry.
Q. What is the best way to prevent canine ear infections?
A. Maintain a weekly cleaning schedule with a vet-approved cleaning solution. Be vigilant in checking the ears. An added benefit of weekly checking is that your pet will become used to having its ears handled, so treatment, when necessary, will be easier.
Q. What is the best way to keep my dog’s ears dry?
A. Cotton balls are an excellent way to dry your dog’s ears if he is regularly exposed to water. Always be gentle and careful not to force build-up down into the ear, which can contribute to an ear infection.
Q. How soon should I take my pet to the veterinarian’s office if I think it has an ear infection?
A. Call and make an appointment immediately. Your pet is in pain. Your vet needs to determine the source of the problem and prescribe a course of treatment as soon as possible.
Q. Are there cats that are more likely to develop ear infections?
A. Cats that have allergies, have excessive moisture in their ears, or ear tumors are often more likely to develop an ear infection. An ear infection can occasionally be a sign of a hormonal abnormality or a hereditary disease.