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Now Hear This! Common Ear Conditions in Dogs and Cats

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Most of us know just how acute our companion animal’s sense of hearing is. Our pets can hear sounds at a much greater frequency than we can. Ears are essential for hearing and balance, and as a result, an ear problem can greatly affect their quality of life and cause pain and infection. Fortunately, pet ear care is relatively simple, when you know and understand the most common problems that pets experience with their ears.

In each of these situations, a veterinary exam and treatment are required. The goal is not only to relieve pet ear problems but to prevent damage to the ear canal and potential hearing loss.

  • Ear infections One of the most common ear problems we treat is a bacterial infection of the ear, also known as otitis externa. Inflammation and infection may be caused by allergies or foreign body irritations (such as foxtail awn), which can lead to yeast and bacterial overgrowth. You may notice a foul odor from the ears, as well as pain, visible redness or swelling, head shaking or scratching, or holding the head in an unusual position.
  • Ear mites There are several types of ear mites that affect dogs and cats. These tiny pests live inside the ear canal, multiply quickly, and cause intense itching. They are extremely contagious, so if one pet is affected, it is likely all the pets in a household are affected as well. Mites are barely visible to the naked eye, and signs include head rubbing or scratching, head shaking, dark grains that look like coffee grounds on the insides of the ears, a dark, waxy build-up, and inflammation or redness. Left untreated, ear mites can lead to ear infections.
  • Allergies Unlike in humans, seasonal allergies in pets usually manifest as skin problems, not as respiratory symptoms like sneezing or coughing. Itchy ears, eyes, skin, paws, and mouth can be the result of allergies to fleas, food, or the environment. Diagnosing allergies in pets is a complex process, so we recommend contacting us to schedule an appointment.
  • Foreign objects At times an ear infection or condition can be caused by a foreign body (object) making its way into the ear. These can be grass seeds or foxtails, or any other object that gets lodged in the inner or outer ear canal. A foreign body in the ear causes quite a bit of discomfort for your pet and must be removed right away. Your pet may need sedation or general anesthesia. Foreign bodies in the ear are one of the most common reasons we see pets in our urgent care, and if you suspect a foreign object in the ear of your pet, don’t hesitate to give us a call right away.
  • Aural hematoma A hematoma is a collection of blood that can form on the inner flap of the ear (the pinna). Aural hematomas are typically caused by aggressive head shaking, usually as a result of discomfort from one of the other conditions mentioned here. Hematomas require veterinary treatment, and the underlying condition will be diagnosed and treated as well.

Along with staying on top of annual wellness exams, which include an assessment of the ears, you can also practice these healthy tips at home:

  • Regularly check your pet’s ears and make note of any changes, including any discharge, redness, odor, swelling, etc.
  • Clean your pet’s ears weekly with a gentle, pet-friendly ear cleanser, using a cotton ball or gauze. Never use Q-tips or swabs, which can damage the ear canal.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed and ear hair trimmed.
  • Follow up with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of ear mites, infection, allergies, or other problems.

No matter the cause of your pet’s ear condition, the team at Westfield Veterinary Group is ready to help. If you have concerns about your pet’s ear health, please give us a call.

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