Ear disease is one of the most common problems seen in our pets. Both dogs and cats can suffer from various types of ear problems.
Symptoms of Ear Disease
The signs that your dog or cat may be suffering from ear problems include:
- scratching at the ears, head and/or neck
- shaking the head excessively
- a foul odor from the ears
- discharge from the ears
- painful ears
- hair loss and scabs around the ears or neck
Causes of Ear Disease in Pets
The most common cause of ear disease in cats is ear mites. Though dogs can get ear mites also, they are less frequently diagnosed with them than cats.
Other potential causes of ear disease include:
- infections, which may or may not be secondary to other causes
- foreign bodies
Ear disease may be acute or chronic. In some cases, chronic disease may result in proliferation of the lining of the ear canal, resulting in a narrow ear canal.
A visit to your veterinarian will be necessary to diagnose your pet’s ear problem. Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s ear with an otoscope (a device that allows your veterinarian to examine the inside of your pet’s ear canal.)
Your veterinarian will need to know your pet’s history also. Be prepared to answer questions about how long your pet has been experiencing problems with his ears and about whether he is itchy elsewhere on his body. Mention any other symptoms you may have noticed that are abnormal for your pet as well.
Your veterinarian may also need to take samples from your dog or cat’s ear to examine under the microscope. These samples can be used to look for parasites such as ear mites, to look for evidence of infection with either bacteria or yeast, or to more closely examine the cells present in the discharge from the ear. This is known as ear cytology.
Proper treatment of your pet’s ear problem depends on locating the cause of the disease. For instance, if the disease is caused by a foreign object, removing the object will likely be curative.
In some cases, your veterinarian may advise cleaning and/or flushing the ear regularly and may dispense a special cleaning solution to help you do so. This is likely if your pet suffers from an ear infection or from other conditions such as allergies that cause inflammation in the ear. Ointments and drops may also be recommended to soothe the ear. Follow the directions for any medications your veterinarian prescribes carefully.
Tumors and polyps may need to be removed surgically.
In the case of a severe chronic ear infection that does not respond well to treatment, surgery to ablate the ear canal may be necessary.