Ear infections, medically known as otitis externa, are one of the most common medical conditions seen in pets. An ear infection involves the inflammation of the outer or inner ear canal. An ear infection may cause various symptoms including inflammation, pain, or behavioral changes in a pet. Left untreated, an ear infection may lead to hearing problems, permanent damage to the inner or middle ear, or other health problems. Fortunately, most pet ear infections can be successfully treated.
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections in pets can occur because of many different reasons. Dogs and cats normally have bacteria and yeast that grow in the ears, however, infections may occur when there is an imbalance of yeast and bacteria growth. Additional causes of ear infections in pets may include:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Foreign objects lodged in the ear
- Genetics (In dogs)
- Mites (In cats)
Symptoms of Ear Infections
The symptoms of ear infections may not be immediately noticed. However, the first indication of an ear infection may be a pet that seems irritated or scratches at its ears. Additional symptoms may include:
- Offensive odor
- Redness within the ear
- Ear discharge
- Rubbing head on the ground or against things
- Wincing in pain
- Vertigo or loss of balance
Treatment for Ear Infections
Treatment for an ear infection depends on the cause of the infection. If a foreign object is the cause of the infection, the animal may be sedated and the object will be removed. Most treatments include antibiotics or anti-fungal medications. A veterinarian may also prescribe an ear cleaning solution to be used on the pet at home.
Proper hygiene and keeping a pet's ears clean is most important in both treating and preventing ear problems.