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Posted on 03-17-2017

Have you noticed your pet shaking their head lately? Have you noticed that your pet has an unusual odor coming out of the ears? Did you take your pet to the groomer for their “spring cleanup” and get the call that the ears are red and inflamed? All of these symptoms point to a potential ear infection!

Spring is here, and with the warm weather , the flowers are beginning to bloom, grasses are growing, pollen will soon be in the air, and the rivers and ponds have thawed. This is such an exciting time of year for us and our furry companions, as we can now become more active, after a long, cold winter. With activity, come a lot of swims in water, hikes thru the grasses and trees, and exposure to all that the warm weather has to offer us. So we ask ourselves, why NOW does my pet have to develop an ear infection?

Ear infections are fairly common in dogs, and most dogs will suffer from this condition at some point in their life. The most common signs of an ear infection as mentioned above are shaking their head, an unusual odor coming out of the ears, as well as scratching at the ears, or redness and swelling of the ears. Your pet also may be holding the head down on the affected side, or rubbing that ear on the carpet.

If you see any of these signs in your pet, it is important to have your veterinarian do an examination. During the veterinary examination, your doctor will do an otoscopic exam which can magnify the ear canal, and evaluate the ear all the way down to the ear drum. As part of your pet’s ear exam, your veterinarian will also do an “ear cytology” where they take a small swab with a q-tip and look at it under the microscope. The two most common organisms found in the ear during an active infection are yeast and bacteria, although ear mites are often identified, especially in young puppies.

After identifying the organism which should be treated, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medication.

Commonly in the summer months, we can also see foreign bodies in pet’s ears, such as fox tails, and ear ticks, which if not treated, can perforate your pet’s ear drum and cause life long problems for your pet’s hearing. So, again, don’t hesitate to get your pet to the vet should you notice any of the clinical signs which we have mentioned.

How can you prevent ear infections you ask?

Prevention of continued ear infections certainly depends on the underlying cause.

In cases where “moisture” is the cause, swimming, bathing and grooming without taking preventative measures, can allow excessive growth of the microorganisms in the ear canal. Simply cleaning with an ear cleaner and appropriate drying agent can help significantly. Do not use water, peroxide or straight alcohol in your pet’s ears. Be sure to use the recommended ear agents as prescribed by your veterinarian.

In many cases, we cannot identify what the underlying cause of the ear infections are, but many dogs do suffer from allergies, such as environmental allergies (grasses, flowers, weeds and trees), molds, dust mites, or food( beef, chicken, fish, grains, etc). Allergies result in inflammation in the skin of the ears, with allows overgrowth of both bacteria and yeast. So allergy testing for your pet can certainly help minimize the number of ear infections.

We hope this article helps you understand what to look for if your pet could have an ear infection and how to prevent them! Just remember, awareness of the causes and preventative measures will help keep you and your pet out of the veterinarian’s office and back on the trails!

Happy Spring!

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