By LuAnn McLain
It is important for us to help our companion animals maintain healthy ears because cats and dogs have a very sharp sense of hearing upon which they rely heavily. Lets look at some common ear problems, their cause and prevention.
The correct diagnosis is vital to proper treatment of ear ailments. If your pet exhibits any of the symptoms related to ear problems, have a veterinarian check the ears. At that time you can also be shown the proper way to clean your pets ears. Improper cleaning and/or treatment can cause more damage to the pets ears, so be sure to get professional attention.
Long-eared dogs are especially susceptible to ear infections because of the shape of their ears. The ears may not drain properly. Also, long ears cause a lack of air circulation that is necessary to help the ears remain dry.
Among the problems which our four-footed companions might experience are infections caused by bacteria, infections caused by fungus or yeast, and ear mites.
An outer ear infection, called otitis externa, is an infection affecting the external ear canal. The pet will have tenderness in the ear that is affected. There can be redness, discharge, and a bad odor. If it is not treated, it can progress to affect the middle ear.
There are a variety of things that can cause the outer ear infection including matted hair, buildup of earwax, and bacteria. An infection in another part of the body can also be related to an ear infection. Ear infections are often associated with allergies, too.
If an infection is a middle ear infection, called otitis media, hearing and even balance can be affected. It is most often a result of an untreated outer ear infection. More severe cases can involve the pet staggering, falling, repeated circling to one side or even jerking eye motions. One reader reported having experienced this with a dog. Once the infection was treated, the dog was fine.
Both types of ear infections have similar symptoms. Frequent scratching of the ear, holding the head sideways, shaking the head often, and possibly a discharge and odor are all signs of ear infections.
Ear mites are another common ear problem. They are actually tiny parasites. The parasites take up residence in the ear canal of a dog or cat. A lot of scratching of the ears is common with ear mite infections. The pets will also shake their heads. Ear mites are often described as looking as if the ear has coffee grounds in it.
Getting moisture in a pets ears and not getting the ears dried is one common way for an infection to start. When bathing your pet, the ears can be protected with cotton balls. After bathing a pet is a good time to inspect the ears and make sure they appear clean and dry.
For pets with ear problems that seem to repeat, an ear wash may help prevent problems. There are commercial ear washes that can be purchased from a variety of sources. Some are more medicated while others are herbal.
A solution of 7 parts water to 1 part vinegar can be made up at home and used to gently cleanse ears. A breeder from another state told me that Fleet brand enema can be used while bathing a dog. Gently squeeze some of the liquid into the ear and hold it for a minute or so, then let the dog shake it out. We have found it to be very effective.
I remind you to consult with your veterinarian to get more information about your pets ears and the care of them. You need to know what you are treating in order to help your pet. The information here came in part from COMPANIONS which is a newsletter put out by a veterinarian in Cupertino, California.
If you would like to write to Pawsitively Pets, send your letter to P.O. Box 1731, Havre, MT 59501.