TROUBLESOME?Ear infections are very common and very distressing for pets.
Have you checked your pet’s ears?
Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen
A lot of pets suffer from ear infections. This is because of the way the ear canal is built. In humans, the ear canal goes straight in, but in dogs and cats there is a horizontal and a vertical part of the ear canal (a bit like a J shape) making it easier for debris and earwax to get trapped and ultimately create a lovely breeding ground for bacteria or fungi.
Some dogs are also more susceptible to ear infections because, like bichon frises and poodles, they have particularly hairy ears or, like spaniels, they have very long and heavy, floppy ears.
But bacteria and fungi are not the only things that can cause a bad ear infection. There are also ear mites – little bugs that look a bit like little spiders. They crawl around in the ear, causing an awful itch. That’s why dogs and cats that suffer from ear mites often shake their head or try to scratch their ears.
When a pet has an ear infection it is impossible to say what is causing it without having a look inside. Your vet will need to have a close look into the ear to find out the cause of the infection.
When the reason for the infection is established it is important that the vet cleans the ear really well and then administers ear drops. If the ears are very dirty inside or very painful, I recommend that this is done under sedation. After the ears have been cleaned professionally, the owner will then have to clean the ears every day and put in the drops. It is very important that the drops are applied good and deep into the ear (that the nozzle of the applicator is inserted completely into the vertical ear canal). Cleaning the ears before putting in the drops is vital, because otherwise the drops won’t be able to reach the infection.
If all goes well, the infection will be resolved in one to two weeks. I always ask clients to come back for a check up in about ten to 14 days to see if the infection is completely gone. In some cases, the infection is not completely gone or it comes back in a few weeks or months. If this happens, we need to look for the reason. Sometimes it is because the ears were not cleaned properly or the ear drops were not applied regularly, but there can also be an underlying cause like an allergy or another reason for extra irritation of the ear.
As you can see, ear problems in pets need to be taken seriously; they are not as straightforward as they seem.
Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.