Your pet can hear a pack of treats being opened a kilometer away. Their ears can recognize your footsteps the minute you enter the house and sometimes they hear the things we never even say to them.
Dogs and cats have a sense of hearing that is 4x more sensitive than ours. So just imagine the impact of a loud noise like a firecracker or a thunderstorm. Apart from that, the anatomical structure of their ears and pests like mites make it extremely important to take proper care of their ears and avoid any infections.
Ear infections in pets are common and often easily curable. However, they can become a problem if they’re left untreated. Let’s understand what ear infections in pets are, the types, symptoms and prevention methods for it. We will also learn about the right steps to clean your cat’s or dog’s ears at home. Ideally, the best way to clean your pet’s ears is to call a professional grooming service as you may hurt the soft tissue of your pet’s ears if you’re not aware and lack practice in cleaning them correctly. The safest way is to learn from the groomer and then try your hand at it.
What is ear infection in dogs and cats?
Ear infection (Otitis) is the most common problem in pets that affects their normal day-to-day routine. According to research, about 10-20% of dogs and cats are affected by ear problems. Irregular grooming, breeds with lovable droopy ears, frequent swimming sessions and anatomical structure of cat’s or dog’s ears make them more susceptible to ear infections. Apart from that, the warm and moist conditions in a pet's ears create an ideal environment for harmful organisms to thrive on.
Dog breeds like Basset Hound, Chinese Shar-Pei, Beagle, Golden Retriever, Poodles, Pugs and Cocker Spaniel are at higher risk of infections. Young cats and kittens are more vulnerable to infection because of their low immunity.
Causes of ear infections in dogs and cats:
Our pet’s ears are more vertical than ours, this shape causes more fluid to accumulate in their ears.
Bacteria, yeast and ear mites are the most common cause of ear infections in pets. Dogs mainly suffer from bacterial ear infections whereas when it comes to cats, ear mites are mostly the culprits.
In dogs, bacteria like Escherichia Coli, Proteus spp., Staphylococcus Aureus, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Moraxella (Branhamella) Catarrhalis, and Haemophilus Influenzae along with Staphylococcus Intermedius, Staphylococcus Hyicus, Corynebacterium spp., and Enterobacter spp., are identified as the major cause of otitis a.k.a. ear infections.
When it comes to cats, Otodectes Cynotis (organisms that pick on the ear), Cheyletiella Blakei (walking dandruff) and Notoedres Cait (face mange) are responsible for ear mites.
Other factors like allergies, autoimmune disorders, foreign bodies, wax buildup, injury in the ear canal or excessive cleaning can also cause infections in your pet’s ears.
Types of ear infections in dogs and cats:
There are three types of ear infections in dogs and cats, formally known as:
- Otitis Externa: External ear infection
- Otitis Media: Middle ear infection
- Otitis Interna: Inner ear infection
Otitis externa is the most common type of ear infection. Here, the inflammation affects the cells on the external part of the ear canal. Otitis media and otitis interna usually occur due to the infection in the external part of the ears. Otitis media and interna are serious problems and can cause deafness, paralysis in the face and vestibular signs if not treated at the right time.
What symptoms of ear infections should you look for?
Ear infections are extremely discomforting and painful for pets. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your pet, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Constant scratching and pawing at the ears
- Redness of the inner ear
- Shaking of the head
- Tilting of the head
- An unusual drop in the ear
- Foul odor
- Discharge from the ear
- Flaky-crust formation on the external part of the ear
Why is it important to clean your cat’s or dog’s ears?
Ear cleaning in dogs and cats is often neglected and this leads to multiple health problems in the future. Accumulated ear wax, dirt and bacteria can lead to infections in your pet’s ear canal and sometimes even cause serious damage like facial paralysis. Hence, cleaning your dog or cat’s ears can help avoid ear infections, keep bacteria at bay and promise happier and healthier lives.
How to treat ear infections in dogs and cats? And which ear drops should you use?
Before resorting to medicines by yourself, speak to a vet about the best treatment option. Your vet will conduct a thorough examination and prescribe medication accordingly.
In case of bacterial infection of the ear, topical antibiotics are the first choice for local application. But for extreme cases, along with topical treatment, oral antibiotics or systemic antimicrobials can also be prescribed.
Ear mites in dogs and cats are quite contagious. They can spread from cat to cat, cat to dogs and vice versa. Both systemic and topical ways need to be adopted to treat the infection caused due to ear mites.
Ear infections in dogs and cats can be treated with many otic parasiticides, steroidal antifungal ear solutions/ear drops, and thiabendazole. Recently, the most common practice that veterinarians adopt is spot on with selamectin and ivermectin injection on a weekly basis.
Natural remedies one can adopt along with the medicinal remedies are cleaning your dog’s or cat’s ear with baby oil or neem oil, almond oil, tea tree oil and spraying apple cider vinegar on the infected areas.
Ear infection in pets is a curable disease but it can be difficult if treatment is not followed meticulously.
Preventive measures to avoid ear infection in pets
Ear infections in pets can be easily prevented by following some simple steps:
- Clean your pet’s ears at regular intervals using a cat or dog ear cleaning solution
- Book a grooming appointment or vet appointment every month for professional and complete grooming of your pet
- Do not use any pointed objects or q-tips to remove the ear wax from your dog or cat’s year, this can worsen the condition and even injure your pet
- Apply regular spot on on your pet’s body as prescribed by the veterinarian
How to clean your dog’s or cat’s ears?
It is not a very difficult task to clean your pet’s ears at home, however, if your pet is uncomfortable and hard to handle when cleaning their ears, you should take a professional’s help.
Here’s how you can clean your dog or cat’s ears at home:
Step 1: Get your supplies
A vet prescribed ear cleaner or eardrop, some cotton balls or cotton pads.
Step 2: Start the process when your pet is calm
Ear cleaning in dogs and cats can be difficult so try to do it when your pet is relaxed. If not relaxed, try to calm them down by petting them.
Step 3: Start cleaning
Once your pet is calm and relaxed, pour the ear cleansing solution on the cotton ball and clean the superficial ear i.e. the external ear. Clean only the part of the ear that you can see. Never go deep inside the pet’s ear as this may cause discomfort to them and even end up hurting them.
Step 4: Massage after cleaning
After cleaning the external area with the ear solution, rub and massage your pet’s ears gently. This helps the ear cleaning solution to move down to the ear canal and clean any debris or dirt. Avoid pouring the ear cleaner into their ears directly as this may irritate them, cause discomfort and they may refuse to let you handle them in the future.
Step 5: Time for rewards!
Once done, reward them for their good behavior with their favorite treats and praises. This will help make the process easier as your pet will anticipate a treat at the end of the process.
Vets recommend massaging your dog’s or cat’s ears regularly by using baby oil or almond oil. This helps to keep the ears clean and eventually kills the mites.
How often should you clean your pet’s ears?
The frequency of intervals at which you should clean a pet’s ears is different for every pet. As some pets have bigger/smaller ears, some are more prone to infections than others, the intervals of ear cleaning in dogs and cats will differ. A general rule of thumb is to check your pet’s ears at least once a week. If there is no odor, not a lot of earwax or debris then a weekly ear cleaning for your dog or cat should suffice. However, do check with your veterinarian about how frequently you should clean your pet’s ears.
How often should you see the vet?
Ideally, you should visit the vet monthly for a thorough cleaning of your pet’s ears. You should also contact your vet if you notice:
- Strong odor coming from your pet’s ears
- Shaking or scratching near the ear area with great intensity
- Swelling or redness or unusual sight near the ears
Remember that regular monitoring, grooming and cleaning can prevent ear infections and mites significantly.
Apart from that our vets and groomers are only a call away. Just call +91 8431620000 if you need any kind of advice for your pet, we will be happy to help!
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*Disclaimer: This blog is vet-approved and includes original content which is compiled after thorough research and authenticity by our in-house team of vets and content experts. It is always advisable to consult a veterinarian before you try any products, pet food or any kind of treatment/medicines on your pets, as each pet is unique and will respond differently.