Both dogs and cats are susceptible to acute and chronic ear infections, and, like humans, the consequences of allowing them to go untreated can be significant. Identifying the cause and formulating an effective treatment plan can be complicated.
Often owners fail to recognize the early warning signs of an ear infection:
– Scratching near the ear and side of the head
– Head shaking
– Rubbing the side of the head along furniture and the floor
– Redness inside the ear with possible warmth to the touch
If untreated, the symptoms increase as the infection becomes more serious:
– Pain to the touch
– Fur loss from excessive scratching
– Balance issues
– Head tilt
– Wounds around the face and ears from clawing
– Discharge from the ears
– Foul odor from the ears
– Ear hematomas from vigorous head shaking
– Crying and/or moaning from pain and unrelenting itch
By the time these symptoms present themselves, your pet is in pain!
In short, ear infections leave our pets feeling miserable, and place them at risk for chronic problems. There are multiple reasons why a cat or dog experiences ear infections. Sometimes it’s as simple as dirt, or excessive moisture in the ear. For cats, the culprit is often ear mites – microscopic parasites that are more common in outdoor cats, but can find their way into our homes. These mites can be passed between animals, but are generally not a concern for humans. When a cat has mites, you’ll see increased scratching, head shaking, and possibly some fur loss around the ear. Another indicator of their presence is dark, crusty debris in the ear canal. To confirm an ear mite infestation, your veterinarian will take an ear swab, and look at it under the microscope.
Infections caused by bacteria or yeast are more complicated to diagnose and treat. These infections require analysis of a sterile swab to identify the specific organism, and a sensitivity culture to determine what treatment will be most effective. Treatment can include an antibiotic, an anti-fungal, and potentially an anti- inflammatory to relieve pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.
When ear infections appear chronic in nature, testing for food allergies with dietary adjustments, allergy injections, and in some cases, thyroid testing may be warranted.
Once the source of ear infections has been identified, it is important to treat to resolution, because chronic inflammation within the ear canal can result in development of scar tissue that narrows the canal and prevents medication from reaching the diseased area. It can also cause the ear drum to rupture resulting in significant pain, and ultimately, in the worst case, your pet can sustain permanent hearing loss.
Attempting to treat a suspected ear infection on your own is never a good idea. If your dog or cat exhibits any behaviors indicative of an ear infection, call your veterinarian and have them evaluated. It’s also important to talk with your Veterinarian about ear hygiene techniques, and get their input on any products you might consider using to clean the ears.
Ear infections won’t go away on their own. Call us today at (732) 671-3110.