An ear infection is inflammation or infection of the ear due to bacteria, yeast, or mites.
- Symptoms of an ear infection include dark debris in the ear canal, redness in or around the ear, inflammation in or around the ear, itching the ear, head shaking, pawing at the ears, pain around the ears or an unpleasant odor.
- Ear infections are more common in pets that have floppy ears that do not receive adequate ventilation.
- More common in dogs who do a lot of swimming, get water in their ears during bathing or have their ears licked by another pet
- Mites are more common in cats than dogs
- Dogs ear canals are L shaped, meaning simply cleaning the outer portion is not enough to get deep inside.
The successful treatment of most ear infections depends upon determining the underlying cause of the ear infection. The following conditions can all cause recurring ear infections:
Allergies: the most common cause of recurring ear infections, food or environmental allergies can predispose your pet to recurrent and chronic ear infections. A hypoallergenic food trial or testing for environmental allergies is necessary for diagnosis.
Hormonal disease: diseases such as hypothyroidism can make your pet more prone to ear infections. Other hormonal diseases can suppress the immune system and make your pet more susceptible to infection. Blood work is necessary to diagnose these diseases.
Foreign objects: objects lodged in the ear canal, such as dried wax or grass can act as a focus of infection
Middle ear infection: when an infection is chronic it can penetrate through the eardrum into the middle ear. Sedation and sometimes ear radiographs are necessary to identify this problem. Oral antibiotics, flushing under general anesthesia, and surgery may be necessary to treat middle ear infections.
Abnormal ear conformation/hair: narrow ear canals, long ear flaps, or hair growing in the ear canal can cause moisture and wax to accumulate in the ear canal leading to infection. Appropriate grooming and use of a drying agent in the ear can help.
Tumors/polyps: masses in the ear can block the canal, leading to infection and preventing the medication from penetrating well. Surgery may be needed to remove growths.
If an ear infection is not treated or not treated properly it is important to remember that it is an uncomfortable, itchy, and often painful condition for your pet. Left untreated, ear infections can lead to a permanent thickening of the ear pinna and canal, ruptured eardrums leading to hearing loss, and ear hematomas (where the ear pinna becomes filled with blood, often caused by head shaking). If severe enough, surgery may be required to fix the ear called a Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA).
Treating for the indicated amount of time and then having a veterinarian recheck your pet’s ears is essential to ensure complete resolution of the disease. All ear infections should be rechecked before discontinuing treatment. Treatment should always be performed exactly as prescribed. The recheck allows us to determine if the medication has worked fully and if further treatment is necessary. Chronic ear infections can often take weeks to completely eradicate. Incomplete treatment can lead to resistance which results in stronger medications and longer duration of treatments, both of which can mean more expense to you and more stress for your pet. If for some reason you are having trouble applying the medication or any issues arise please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 to discuss tips, tricks or alternative treatments before stopping medications. Please check out our helpful hints section from our website https://meadowlandsvethospital.com/faqs/ for written instructions and videos on how to clean ears and apply medicine.