Your Guide to Pet Ear Infections: Prevention, Management and Care

Your Guide to Pet Ear Infections: Prevention, Management and Care

Vanessa LeRoux

As a pet parent, your world revolves around the wagging tails and contented purrs of your furry family members. Their health and wellness are your number one concern.

One common problem on the road to pet wellness is a painful ear infection; it can be more than a real nuisance. You may already be acquainted with acute or chronic ear problems in your dog or cat.

Let's take a closer look together to understand more about this pressing problem your pets may face. You'll be equipping yourself with the knowledge of what to look for so that you can contact your vet immediately when the problem arises. After all, a healthy pet is a happy pet.

A close-up portrait of the face of a bloodhound. Showing long ears.

Stay Vigilant: Addressing Painful Ear Infections

Some initial tell-tale signs your dog or cat has an ear infection include redness, swelling, smelly discharge from the ear, shaking heads or swelling in the ear flap. Further symptoms include the following:

  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear

  • Hair loss around the ear

  • Loss of balance

  • Unusual eye movements

  • Lesions

  • Walking in circles

  • Hearing loss

  • Bleeding of the ear canal

  • Loss of appetite

  • Crying/Whimpering while scratching/rubbing ears2

If you think your furry friend is suffering, always head to your vet. It's a very painful problem that needs prompt treatment. Ear infections in dogs and cats are fairly common but are incredibly uncomfortable and can lead to complications if left untreated. While it may seem odd, owners should know what a healthy, clean dog or cat ear smells like so they can tell when something may be off.1

Black cocker spaniel with rope toy in her mouth.

Be Aware: Certain Breeds More Prone to Ear Infections

Due to their physical characteristics, certain dog breeds are more prone to ear infections. For instance, breeds with floppy ears, like Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Golden Retrievers, have ears that don't get a lot of air circulation, creating a damp environment where bacteria and yeast can thrive. Breeds with hair in their ears, such as Poodles and Schnauzers, can also be more susceptible to ear infections because the hair traps debris and moisture. Here's a list of dogs that are more prone to ear problems:

Dog Breeds with Floppy Ears and Long Ears (aka Pendulous Ears):2

Basset Hound Bull Mastiff
Bloodhound Beagle
Afghan Hound Newfoundland
Springer Spaniel Saint Bernard
Cocker Spaniel Great Dane
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Weimaraner
Daschund Doberman
Shih Tzu Golden Retriever

Dog Breeds with Hairy Inner Ears, Making Them Susceptible to Ear Infections:

  • Poodle

  • Schnauzer

  • Shih Tzu

Reduce the Risk: The Benefits of Regular Ear Cleaning for Pets

For pets predisposed to ear ailments, maintaining ear hygiene is vital. Once your veterinarian has helped get the infection under control, it's your responsibility to keep your pet's ears clean. Regular ear cleaning, either weekly or bi-weekly, can go a long way in preventing future infections.

Vet and volunteer assistance examine a Labradors ears for signs of infection

Recommended Products for Safe, Effective Ear Cleaning

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Safely Clean Your Pet's Ears

Products like Oticlear or Effivet Otic ear cleaning solutions are often recommended for routine ear cleaning. Here's how to use them:

  1. Fill the ear canal with the fluid.

  2. Massage at the base of the ear. This allows the medicated ear cleaners to loosen debris and kill bacteria and fungi.

  3. Allow your pet to shake its head. This helps get rid of the "gunk" loosened by the cleaning solution.

  4. No rinsing is necessary.

  5. Not suitable for broken skin or inner ear infections.4

Oticlear Ear Cleanser Solution: Wax-Free, Pathogen-Free Pet Ears

Oticlear contains salicylic acid, which acts as a solvent to loosen debris. It also contains lactic acid, which changes the pH of the ear, effectively killing fungi and other pathogens. The Cipla Oticlear ear cleanser is a must-have product for all dog and cat owners, especially those with droopy and long ears.

This cleanser effectively removes all accumulated wax from the ear and maintains an optimal level of hygiene. This should be used on a regular basis to avoid the accumulation of wax. It is easy to apply and gives the desired result within minutes. Oticlear ear cleaner for dogs and cats is non-toxic and non-irritant for your pet. There are no side effects for the product, and it is safe to use on all dogs and cats.3

Effivet Otic Ear Cleanser: Destroying Bacteria and Fungi Gently

Effivet Otic ear cleaner has a neutral pH, which means it doesn't cause irritation or burning sensations. It can penetrate biofilms and destroy the DNA and RNA of bacteria and fungi, making it an effective solution for ear cleaning. This pH-neutral, non-irritating topical solution is only for use on intact skin.

Effivet Otic Ear Cleaner:

  • Helps clear wax

  • Relieves scratching

  • Can be licked or ingested by animals

  • Is Non-irritating

  • Cleans and soothes

  • Doesn't sting or burn4

A vet examining a dogs ear.

Partnering with Your Vet: Allergies and Pet Ear Infections

Ear infections in pets, especially dogs and cats, are often linked to allergies. If your pet has been diagnosed with an ear infection, it's crucial to understand that they are predisposed to develop ear conditions in the future. There's no cure for allergies, but with proper management, you can prevent secondary complications.

Working closely with your veterinarian is critical. They can help manage your pet's condition and prevent future ear infections. It's important to note that as many as 20% of dogs have some form of ear disease, and dogs are more prone to ear infections than humans because of the shape of their ear canals. Prevention is key, and learning how to clean your pet's ears safely can make a significant difference.

Feeding Ears: The Role of Diet in Pet Ear Health

Diet can play a significant role in your pet's ear health. Some pets may have food allergies or intolerances that can contribute to inflammation and increase their susceptibility to ear infections. Common food allergens for dogs and cats include beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit and fish.

Unmasking Food Allergies: Is Your Pet's Diet to Blame?

If your pet has recurrent ear infections, it may be worth discussing with your vet whether a food allergy could be a contributing factor. They may recommend an elimination diet, where you feed your pet a limited ingredient diet for a period of time and then gradually reintroduce other foods to see which ones might be causing a reaction.

Novel Proteins, Fewer Allergies: The Benefits of a Hypoallergenic Diet

Or your pet could go on a hypoallergenic dry food diet, which is made with limited ingredients and novel proteins (novel proteins are proteins your pet has not yet been exposed to, like salmon, duck, turkey or game). These diet formulas are beneficial for pets with food allergies or intolerances. The idea is to minimize the chance of an allergic reaction by eliminating common allergens and introducing proteins that the pet's immune system is less likely to recognize as a threat.

From Allergens to Ear Health: Working with Your Vet

Diet allergies can significantly impact the ear health of your pet. Understanding the potential allergens and working closely with your vet can help manage these allergies and reduce the risk of recurrent ear infections, contributing to a happier and healthier life for your pet. It's essential to work with your vet to ensure your pet is still getting the recommended nutritional values while you are going through the process of changing their diet.

An orange cat peaks over a glass table which catches her refection and shows off her ears..<br>

A Closer Look: Understanding Feline Ear Disorders and Infections

Cats have an astoundingly acute sense of hearing, capable of sensing sounds pulsating at 60,000 vibrations per second or greater. However, a variety of conditions—including congenital defects, infections, trauma, and age-related changes—can be extremely painful and may compromise a cat's hearing.

Most feline ear disorders are readily treatable and will not result in permanent hearing loss, but some conditions may render a cat partially or totally deaf, especially if they remain unrecognized and untreated.

Otitis Externa: The Journey of Feline Ear Infections

The most common acquired feline ear condition is otitis externa, an infection of the outer ear canal. This disorder results from an infestation of the ear canal with infectious agents, usually ear mites. If otitis externa is not appropriately treated, the infection can migrate to the middle ear, where it is termed otitis media, and to the inner ear (otitis internal).

In the most severe cases, the ear drum and inner ear can be irreparably damaged, resulting in deafness and an acute disturbance of balance on the affected side or sides. The key is to keep a close eye on your cat's ears. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect any form of infection or infestation.

a Schnauzer with shaved long ears looks down straight into the camera for a close up.

The Anatomy of the Canine Ear: A Gateway to Infections

Dogs have a long ear canal with both vertical and horizontal components. This unique anatomy creates a J or L shape that traps debris more easily, which can lead to ear infections. Dog ear infections are common and can be acute (with a quick onset) or chronic and recurrent. Dogs can also have an infection in one or both ears.

Otitis Externa: The Common Culprit Behind Dog Ear Infections

The most common type of ear infection in dogs is otitis externa, an inflammation of the ear canal. If not appropriately treated, the infection can spread to the middle ear (otitis media) and the inner ear (otitis interna), leading to more severe conditions. In rare circumstances, an ear infection may affect a dog’s appetite if the pet is having system-wide effects.

Under the Microscope: Behind the Scenes of Canine Ear Infections

Many factors can cause ear infections in dogs. Often, an underlying problem leads to the inability of the normal protective barrier of a dog’s ear to work properly. Once the ear environment becomes moist or inflamed, it is easy for bacteria or yeast to overgrow and cause infection.

Some common causes for a dog’s ear becoming infected include foreign bodies that get into the ear, ear mites, excessive moisture from bathing or swimming, food allergies, environmental allergies, endocrine issues such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, and trauma to the ear.

Ear Infections in Dogs: When to Call the Vet

It's important that ear infections and infestations be managed and that you should look to your vet immediately should any symptoms arise. Regular, ongoing cleaning of your pup's ears is also crucial when dealing with acute or recurrent conditions.

Handsome golden standing in the blue water.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy

Remember, a clean ear is a happy ear! Regular ear hygiene can keep your pet comfortable and healthy. It's a small step, but it can make a world of difference in your pet's quality of life. Here are a few simple measures that can substantially reduce the chances that your pet will experience a serious ear disorder:

  • Minimize the amount of time that your pet—especially if they are white or lightly pigmented—is exposed to direct sunlight.

  • Maintain a clean environment that will discourage the proliferation of ear mites and other potentially infectious agents.

  • Routinely examine your pet's ears for such signs of infection as swelling, discharge, discolouration, and the collection of dirt and debris.

  • If you observe your pet persistently scratching at their ears, do not probe into them to find the cause. Instead, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

  • If your dog regularly swims, talk to your veterinarian about additional steps you can take to prevent infections, like using veterinary-approved drying agents or clipping the hair around your dog's ear canal.1

Beautiful Afghan hound with long silken ears poses for the camera

Keeping Those Adorable Ears Healthy: Your Role as a Pet Parent

Our pets often love a good ear rubbin' and scratchin'. We love to pet their ears, whether pointy, stand-up ears or long floppy ears; they're one of our pet's most endearing characteristics. It's no fun for anyone when an ear infection and infestations in our dog and cat's ears crop up. Take heart; whether they are acute or chronic, they are very manageable conditions.

Now that you have a good understanding of the causes, symptoms, and treatments, you can play a vital role in your dog or cat's ongoing ear health. It comes down to regular ear cleaning and check-ups, along with a prompt response to any signs of infection, to help keep your pet's ears healthy.

An ear infection is particularly painful for your cat or dog, and seeking medical attention for them is a must. Please contact your vet's office immediately should you have any concerns whatsoever regarding your pet's ear health and general well-being.


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