If you have a pet – chances are he or she will get an ear infection at some point. Education is key – learn more about ear infecitons in this post.

Ear infections in pets are a common concern among client in the veterinary practice today. Many pets at some point in their life will experience some degree of this condition.

Ear infections, also known as “Otitis” can cause a great deal of frustration for pets and owners. Common signs of an ear infection in cats and dogs may include head shaking, frequent scratching of the ears, foul odors, discharge, redness of the inside of the ears, and pain. The ear is a complex organ that can become infected and irritated because of a whole host of primary and secondary contributing factors.

In cats and dogs, the external part of the ear consists of the pinna, the ear canal, and the eardrum. The ear canal consists of a vertical part (the part you can see when you look inside the ear) and a horizontal part, which extends deeper to the eardrum or “tympanic membrane”. The whole ear canal resembles the shape of the letter “L”. The abrupt angle where the vertical and horizontal ear canals meet is approximately 90 degrees. This normal anatomical feature makes cleaning the ear thoroughly a challenging process and can help trap various debris and wax inside the ear.

Many factors may contribute to the increased likelihood of an ear infection. Increased moisture and humidity, decrease ventilation, pets that swim frequently, those pets that have naturally narrow ear canals and excessive hair growth within the ear canal are at an increased risk for ear infections. Pets that have floppy or droopy ears tend to have increased moisture within the ear canal and ventilation of the ear itself is usually compromised. Other causes for ear infections include foreign objects that become lodged in the ear, ear mites, polyps or tumors within the ear canal.

The most common underlying cause of ear problems in pets is due to allergies. There are many types of allergies that both cats and dogs suffer from. Pollens, molds dust mites are just a few examples that may cause both skin and ear disease in pets. Pets may also become allergic to certain ingredients in their food, even after they have been eating that food for years.

Successful management of ear infections and ear disease requires proper diagnosis of the primary cause. This is usually accomplished thorough examination of the entire pet and of the ear canal. Diagnostics such as cytology (microscopic evaluation of the debris within the ear canal) and cultures of the contents of the ear canal can often lead to an accurate diagnosis. Underlying diseases such as allergies need to be carefully considered as this is one of the most common causes of recurrent ear infections.

If your pet’s ear infection has been treated multiple times with limited improvement, it may be time to investigate more thoroughly to find the underlying cause of the problem.

If you suspect that your pet has an ear infection, please contact your veterinarian for assistance in finding an accurate diagnosis and course of treatment to eliminate the problem.