Ear infections

Ear infections in dog

You’re a bit alarmed: your pet is scratching at their head… a lot… and shaking it more than usual. If you take a closer look at their ear, are they red? Do you see any secretions? Do you smell an unpleasant, even sickening odour when you get closer to their face? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, chances are they have otitis, an ear infection.

A healthy dog or cat doesn’t have visible or heavy secretions on the auricle part of the ear. In doubt, you shouldn’t wait too long before consulting a veterinarian and find out what causes the secretions, even if your pet is not scratching. An undiagnosed ear infection can lead to significant pain and get worse. In some cases, the infection can reach the internal structure and lead to serious signs like a loss of balance, a tilted head or even a hard time chewing on food.

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Causes of otitis

In children (humans), otitis is often caused by a virus or a cold. In dogs and cats, it is a whole different story. It can be caused by a fungus (yeast), bacteria, allergies (environment or food), or even parasites (mites). In cats, about half of the ear infection are due to ear mites (Otodectes cynotis), as in dogs, the mite causes 5 to 10% of the infections. Another interesting fact: in humans, otitis is typically deep in the inner ear as in dogs and cats, it affects mostly the outer ear, in the ear canal or on the auricle.

To get the right diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment, your veterinary should look at your pet’s ear. Using an otoscope, he can see the ear drum and make sure that it is intact. Also, it is recommended to swab secretions and identify what is causing the infection with a microscope. As you know, treatment will vary depending on if the infection is caused by yeast, if it is located in the inner ear, if the ear drum if ruptured or if mites are causing it. Please note that if your pet as other ear infections, it may not be caused by the same pathogen and that it will require the same treatment.

If your veterinarian diagnoses an ear infection, it will prescribe an ear cleanser for you pet as well as medicated drops to apply directly in the ear. In some rare cases of severe otitis, an oral medication may be required. It is very recommended to see
the vet again about ten days later to make sure the infection has cleared up. If the condition is not fully cured, some treatment can be maintained. We don’t want the infection to remain and then come back even stronger because we ceased treatment too soon.

Beware of cotton swabs!

Now, you might be asking yourself how to ensure ear hygiene in your pet. Not with a cotton swab! If you do that, you’ll only push the secretions further into the ear and maybe even block the canal Did you know that ear canal in dogs and cats is in L-shape? This explains why it is so easy to push secretion deeper. And why it is so hard to remove, which makes the use of cotton swab a factor in ear infections.

Instead, use an approved cleanser that you can pour directly in the ear, which will get rid of the wax. We let the cleanser work a little, then we massage the base of the ear. We let the animal shake his head to evacuate the excess of cleanser and secretion. After that, simply wipe the ear with cotton gauze or a cloth, without penetrating the canal.

Every time your dog goes swimming, it is recommended to dry his ears. Humidity being a breeding ground for otitis to develop, it is better to dry the ears and prevent infections. Your veterinary team can suggest products available over the counter that dries up your pet’s ears.

You want to take good care of your pet’s ear, but you don’t know how often to clean them?
It is best to discuss it with your veterinary team as the frequency varies with the animal, the lifestyle and the medical history. A weekly preventive cleaning for dogs at risk (a lot of outdoor activities, often in the water, etc.) or monthly for those not at risk (sedentary, live in apartments), is recommended and effective.

Have more questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic near you.