Ear Care for Dogs and Cats

Why is ear care so important for dogs and cats? Think back to when you were a kid and had an ear infection – those suckers hurt! Preventing them is the right thing to do for your pet, and getting ahead of the problem can prevent it from becoming a chronic issue and a source of pain and hearing loss for your pet. In many cases, ear infections can’t be cured because they are part of a larger disease, like allergies. In those cases, we try and keep the pet more comfortable and treat the symptoms as best we can.

What causes ear infections?

Usually caused by allergies to pollen (not allergies to corn – it does happen, but that’s mostly an urban legend), ear infections can take on a life of their own and become very hard to treat, not to mention a stinky, painful mess!

A few other things that can contribute:

  1. Narrow ear canals
  2. Floppy ear shape
  3. Canal obstruction by growths or foreign objects
  4. Irritation caused by improper cleaning, ear mites and moisture build-up

How are ear infections treated?

  • It always starts with a good cleaning, exam of the ear drum and ear canal and, possibly, culture of the organisms growing in the ear (and a check for ear mites). See your veterinarian for this step!
  • In some cases, anesthesia is needed for the best cleaning and exam, especially if the ear is painful.
  • If ear mites are present (mostly in cats, but dogs can get them, too) you’ll see black, crumbly debris and you’ll need medication from your vet for that.
  • For routine cleaning, you can make a mix of 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water and gently flush the ear. Make sure you can do this safely and avoid getting bitten – pay particular care if your dog’s ear is painful and don’t take any chances. Do it outside, as your dog will shake his head to get all the solution out.
  • Chronic and frustrating cases will sometimes require surgery to actually remove the ear canal (a procedure called a total ear canal ablation, or TECA). These dogs can’t hear anyway due to the chronic damage, so this procedure makes them more comfortable (and waaaaay less smelly!).

Seeing your veterinarian is the first step, and there are veterinary dermatologists who can help with the tough cases. Don’t delay in seeking care if you have a dog or cat with ear problems – they’ll thank you for it and be more comfortable in the long run.

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