Ear disease is a very common in dogs and cats for a variety of reasons. First, the ear canal of pets is directed downward and inwards towards the skull. This increases the chances that dirt and debris will accumulate in the ear canal which can lead to infection.

Second, the ear canal in some “floppy eared” breeds, such as the Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel have heavy ears that close over the ear canal and make it more difficult for air to circulate in the canal.

Finally, the ear canal has a large number of wax glands that contribute to clogging the canal.

What Causes Ear Inflamation (Otitis Externa)?

Most often, there is an underlying cause that starts the pet scratching the ear. This can be due to the ear mites, allergies to weeds and pollens, allergies to something in the diet, or the presence of a foreign object in the ear, such as a foxtail. The scratching damages the delicate lining of the ear canal which gives the bacteria and yeast normally present in the canal the opportunity to develop into a full blown infection.

How can I tell if my pet has an infection?

Pets with otitis will often times shake their heads excessively, scratch or rub the affected ear(s) and/or tilt their heads towards the affected side. Many times the ear may be painful to the touch. Most of the time, the odor from the ear will be foul smelling.

How do our veterinarians diagnose ear infections?

Your veterinarian will look in the ear of your pet with an otoscope to begin the evaluation. Often times this may require sedation of the pet due to the pain in the ear already present. Samples from the ear canal can be examined under the microscope to further determine the cause of the problem. In many cases, the ears become so full of pus, wax and debris, that the ear will need to be flushed out under anesthesia in order to fully diagnose and begin treating the problem.

How does our veterinary clinic treat Otitis?

Treatment for otitis must be directed against the specific cause of the problem. For example, ear mites would be treated with drugs to eliminate the mites, while yeast based infections would require anti fungal medicine and bacterial problems require antibiotics.

Regardless of the source of the problem, we must clean the ear in order to allow the medications to work properly. Mild problems can be cleaned with the pet awake if they are co-operative, but more severe problems will probably require anesthesia and ear flushing.

Once the ear is clean, we will dispense medication to go in the ear to treat the infection as well as cleaning solution to be used at home to keep the ear clean.

Sometimes additional drugs may be used such as oral antibiotics, and/or steroids to help clear up the problem. If allergies are suspected as the cause of the problem, special diet trials may be recommended as well as allergy testing.

How do I clean my pet’s ears.

Cleaning the ear is very important in helping cure an active infection and is equally important in trying to prevent future infections. We recommend Malaseb ear wash to clean the ears with. This solution is made specifically for this purpose, it has no alcohol or peroxide that can injure the lining of the ear. It’s active ingredients will help kill yeast and bacteria which will help prevent infections. When cleaning the ear, we want to let the solution do the work for us. The goal is to loosen all the debris in the ear and let the solution bring it out of the ear for us.

It is important that you not use q-tips to help clean the ear. They may force debris further into the ear, and occasionally may break off in the ear canal.

Instead, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Fill the entire ear canal with Vet Solutions Ear wash or Malaseb Wash
  2. Massage the base of the ear (see picture below) for about a minute to loosen the debris
  3. Using cotton balls, remove the dirty fluid. You can gently squeeze the ear canal to bring the dirty fluid up to the cotton ball.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the fluid is pretty clean.

Most pets should have their ears cleaned once weekly for prevention.