Getting to know your pet’s ears can help detect and prevent ear problems and infections. Whilst some breeds of pets, particularly breeds of dogs, are prone to ear problems, inflammation (otitis) and infections can occur in others from something as simple as a grass seed.

Getting to know your pet’s ears…..

Get familiar with your pet’s ears so that you know what they should look like. If your pet is prone to ear problems, we suggest daily checks. For others, a weekly check is ideal.

Look out for changes on a regular basis

  • The skin colour inside the ear should be light pink. If the ear is infected or inflamed, the skin in the ear will be red and maybe thicker than normal.
  • Unusual discharge, which may be yellow, dark brown, green or black.
  • Head shaking and scratching
  • Unpleasant odour
  • Pain touching the ears

So what causes ear infections?

There are a number of reasons for ear infections, including:

  • Allergies to food, pollen, dust, etc
  • Foreign bodies such as grass seeds
  • Parasites such as ear mites

There are also a number of things that can predispose your pet to ear infections, including:

  • Ear size and shape – the ear canal of dogs and cats is not designed for adequate drying and drainage. This causes the ear canal to stay warm and moist and, together with poor airflow, provides the perfect environment for natural skin bacteria to live.
  • Environmental temperature and humidity
  • Lifestyle (e.g. swimming)

Recurrent infections can also occur because a problem has not been accurately diagnosed and treated or an underlying problem has not been identified.

Changes in your pet’s ears – what should you do?

The first step is to consult your veterinarian. Your vet will examine the ear with an instrument called an otoscope. If they detect an infection, they will take a swab from the area to conduct cytology (look at a sample under the microscope) to determine the likely cause of the problem, which will assist with accurate treatment choice.

Chronic ear infections can lead to narrowing of the ear canal, which in itself can lead to more frequent infections and less responsiveness to treatment. Therefore if your veterinarian suspects infection it is important that correct diagnosis and treatment take place.

Treating ear problems

Your veterinarian may prescribe any of the following treatments:- antibiotics or anti-inflammatory tablets; ear wash/ flush; drops; ear mite treatment; dietary changes; or injections. It is very important to follow their directions for treatment and visit for a re-check when advised.

Tips on cleaning your pet’s ears

Lift the ear flap

Apply the prescribed ear cleaner liberally in the ear canal.

Distribute the cleanser in the ear canal by gently massaging the canal. This may be felt as a large solid tube lying just under the skin below the entrance of the canal. Massage for 10-20 seconds to ensure good cleansing of the canals.

Gently massage the fluid up the ear canal and remove excess fluid with clean cotton wool at the entrance of the canal. Also, clean the inside of the ear flap. Repeat these steps until the excess fluid no longer looks dirty.

How to apply antibiotic/ antifungal ear drops

  1. If required, shake the drops before use (refer to your instructions).
  2. Tilt your pet’s head so that the ear treated is upright.
  3. Dispense the drops into the ear canal.
  4. Gently massage the ear to ensure complete distribution of the medication (similar to above).
  5. Store the drops as instructed (refrigeration may be required).

Some final tips

  • Do not use cotton buds in your pet’s ears.
  • Be gentle when massaging the car canal, particularly if it is painful.
  • If your cat or dog does not have ear problems, it may still be helpful to clean their ears regularly to remove wax and dirt and prevent inflammation.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact us for help or advice. If your pet requires ear drops or ear washing and you are experiencing problems administering a treatment, one of our healthcare team members will be more than happy to demonstrate the correct technique or assist you with treatment.