Tavares Animal Hospital

418 East Alfred Street, Tavares, FL 32778
Monday thru Friday 8:00am - 5:30pm

Office: (352) 343-7793 Emergency: (407) 644-4449

Pet Ear Infections 101

cocker spaniels are prone to ear infections

What Causes an Ear Infection

Most pet ear infections are actually caused by environmental allergies. Other possible causes are food allergies, swimming or lack of routine cleaning. You may have a good cleaning routine and your dog doesn’t swim but you still battle ear infections. If this is the case, talk to your veterinarian about finding the underlying problem.

dog with ear infection red ear

Symptoms of Ear Infection

Odor – Some ear infections have a very foul odor.

Discharge – Any type of discharge from the ear is abnormal.

Itching – Some pets will scratch at their ears or rub them on the carpet and furniture. Some will be more interested than normal when you rub them behind their ears.

Head shaking – Shaking the head can be a sign that something is bothering your pet’s ears. Also, excessive head shaking can cause a secondary problem called an ear hematoma. Ear hematomas are pockets of fluid in between the layers of tissue in the ear flap. So, surgical repair is usually necessary. Don’t let it get that far!

Pain – Crying, whining, or yelping when the ear is touched are signs that the infection has progressed to the point of pain. A pet ear infection that has gone untreated can become extremely painful. It can even result in permanent hearing loss.

veterinarian examining dog ear looking for ear infection

Diagnosing an Ear Infection

Luckily most ear infections in pets are easy to diagnose. When you make your appointment, you probably already know your pet has one. Your veterinarian will begin with an exam of the ear flap, the canal and the ear drum. Even though you already know your pet has an infection, the exam is very important.

Examining the ear will give your doctor a lot of information. What does the ear flap look like? What does the skin in the canal look like? How much discharge is present? What does it look like? Is the ear drum present? Has it ruptured? If it’s present, what does it look like? All of this information will influence your doctor’s choice of treatment.

The second thing your veterinarian will do is a cytology. A cotton swab is used to collect some of the discharge from the ear and is then put onto a slide. Special stains are used and the slide is then looked at under a microscope. Then this will tell your doctor what kind of infection your pet has. Cytologies are important because different types of infection are treated by different medications.

To get the most out of your doctor appointment, read these tips.

dog ear cytology slide rods and cocci
Rods and Cocci
dog ear cytology slide yeast

Kinds of Ear Infections

Typical ear infections are caused by yeast and/or bacteria. Looking at the slide under the microscope helps your veterinarian determine what is growing in your pet’s ears.

Yeast – Yeast are very itchy and have a very distinct smell. Yeast can also be easier to get rid of than bacteria.

Cocci – Cocci are a kind of bacteria. It is typically the easiest bacteria to get rid of.

Bacilli (rods) – Bacilli is the most difficult bacteria to get rid of. It also can have a very distinctive smell. If you see or smell puss in your pet’s ears, it’s probably bacilli.

Treating an Infection

Treating an ear infection as early as possible is very important. It will be much quicker, easier, and cheaper to treat in the beginning. The further an infection progresses, the more difficult it is to treat. A mild ear infection that is caught early can usually be treated by topical medications only. A more serious infection may also require systemic medications to get the infection, inflammation and pain under control. Recurrent infections sometimes require further diagnostics to choose appropriate medications. Therefore, follow up exams are very important. Ear infection symptoms will go away before the infection is completely gone. You don’t want to get your pet’s ear infection almost clear and then stop treatment.

dog with ear standing up

Preventing Ear Infections

Routine cleaning is important for preventing pet ear infections. Most dogs need their ears cleaned about once a week. Your dog’s ears should at least be cleaned after baths and swimming. One of the main cause of ear infections in dogs is getting the ears wet. Yeast and bacteria love to grow in warm, moist environments. So, ear cleaners are designed to dry up any left over water in your pet’s ears. Many cleaners also help the PH of the ears to inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

If your pet has recurrent ear infections, ask your veterinarian about finding the underlying cause. Once the cause is found, be sure to stick with your doctor’s recommendations. Your pet will thank you.

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