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Ear issues for pets

Ear issues for pets

Your dog or cat can’t stop scratching his or her ears. What are you supposed to do?

Ear issues for pets

Thomas F. Dock, Director of Organizational Development at Noah’s Animal Hospitals, shares 11 facts and tips about this common problem among pets: 

1)    About 20% of all cases seen at veterinary offices involve problems with the skin, especially ear infections!  While many owners consider an “ear infection” as a diagnosis, it is really a clinical sign of other issues happening with your pet!

2)    It is important to understand that for both our canine and feline friends, the ear is nothing more than an extension of the rest of the pet’s skin.  The ear flap (called the pinna) and the external ear canal are simply cartilage covered by skin.

3)    Unlike human ears which have a straight (horizontal) canal to the ear drum, our pets have both a vertical canal and a horizontal canal (think “L” shaped) before the ear drum.  This means that there is an area that is dark, often moist and that may not have great air flow…a perfect environment for microorganisms, like yeast and bacteria!

4)    Most ear infections in our pets can be defined by looking at predisposing factors for infection, primary and second causes of the infection and, finally, perpetuating issues that allow the infection to recur.

5)    Predisposing factors for ear infections include things like ear conformation (floppy or hairy ears decrease air flow), excessive hair in the ear canals, stenotic (narrowed) ear canals or a tendency to increased cerumen (ear wax) production.   

a.    Some pets are more prone to ear infections because of increased moisture in the ears due to swimming or bathing
b.    Other pets may develop polyps or tumors that obstruct the normal cleaning flow of the cerumen and still others may develop issues because of aggressive cleaning or even hair plucking.

6)    Primary reasons for developing ear infections might include adverse food reactions, parasites, environmental allergies or even systemic diseases.  To complicate matters, resident bacteria and yeast can overgrow in the ear, continuing or worsening the infection.

7)    Finally, chronic changes to the ear’s anatomy because of on-going infections can actually perpetuate the problem as well as add to the difficulty of treatment.

8)    If your pet deals with chronic ear infections, it is SO important that you communicate with your veterinarian about proper diagnostics.  While ear medications can help resolve the matter in the short term, if you are not finding or treating the underlying condition (such as allergies), the issue will never truly go away.

9)    Beyond the physical exam, otoscopic (ear) exam and history taking, your veterinarian may recommend ear cytology, bacterial culture and sensitivity testing, skin scrapings or even digital imaging, such as a CT scan or MRI in extreme cases.

10)    Ear issues are not only uncomfortable for your pet, they also have the potential for severe long term issues, including hearing loss or the need for costly surgery.  In addition, the strong odor of ear infections as well as the pet’s constant scratching or head-shaking can test the limits of the human-animal bond.

11)    Your veterinarian can outline a diagnostic plan to help discover what the true cause of the ear infections might be.  Don’t rely on Internet fads like coconut oil or apple cider vinegar as treatment options.  Follow your veterinarian’s recommended guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up visits…it’s the BEST way to fix the situation and get your pet back to normal as quickly as possible!

Learn more about how ear infections can really harm your relationship with your pet at Pet Pals TV’s website: 

Go to for more advice from Tom on pet health and safety!