Explanations offered for pets’ ear problems
Why does my dog have smelly ears all the time?
Both dogs and cats are susceptible to ear problems – but dogs usually more so.
Dogs in the valley spend more time outside and are therefore exposed to more potential problems. Dogs in the Vail Valley tend to spend more time on hikes and in the water than city dogs. This can lead to allergic conditions, dryness, foreign bodies and water being introduced into the ear canals. Dry weather, on the other hand, can cause the apocrine glands, which produce wax, to produce excessive wax. Dampness in the canal can cause a favorable environment for yeast to grow and allergic conditions can also alter the normal lining of the ear canal. And any foreign body – such as a foxtail or other plant material – will cause discomfort and further problems in the ear.
Once the normal lining of the ear is affected an infection is likely to occur. If more wax than normal is present, but this has not gone on for a long time, a simple ear cleaning may clear the problem.
If the ears have a nasty smell, then more than likely an infection is present and antibiotics will be needed after the cleaning. Your veterinarian may want to take a sample to examine under the microscope. This will help identify the culprit – yeast, bacteria or even both – and further identify what type of bacteria is present. With this information, the proper treatment can be applied.
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If your pet gets recurring infections, then further diagnostics may be needed. A culture and sensitivity test run on an ear swab can be performed by a laboratory to find the appropriate antibiotic. Sometimes your pet is resistant to the antibiotic used and therefore the infection never completely clears.
Can an ear infection become a severe problem if left untreated for a while?
This all depends on the severity of the condition. Sometimes these ear infections cause the lining of the pinna ‘ or, ear flap – and of the canal to become severely inflamed and even ulcerated.
This can further cause stenosis – or, narrowing or even closure of the canal. And if still left untreated, the chronic inflammation can extend towards the ear drum and cause it to rupture. Once the infection extends that deep into the canal, then the middle ear can eventually become affected, which is a more severe condition.
It is always important to have the ears scoped to see how extensive the ear infection is and check the integrity of the ear drum. If the ear drum is ruptured, then precautions need to be taken and certain drugs cannot be placed in that ear. Once the ear drum is ruptured, or if the inner ear is affected, then oral antibiotics are necessary. And if this has occurred then other symptoms are usually present. These are called vestibular signs and include: head tilt, nystagmus (eye movements), ataxia and sometimes vomiting.
Most of the time, an ear infection is a simple problem and easy to treat. It does require constant care during the treatment regimen and may involve future preventative care.
We can’t stop our dogs from swimming and enjoying life, so we need to take the time to check their ears frequently to prevent such problems from occurring.
Can my pet get ear mites?
Mites usually occur in younger animals, and more commonly in kittens, but may occur at any age. This is a very itchy problem in the affected animals and you’ll definitely see them scratching at the ears and shaking their heads. Mites are an easy parasite to diagnose by taking an ear swab and looking at it on a slide under the microscope.
You can actually see the little creatures moving about and they are not the prettiest parasite around. This condition is easy to treat with an ear cleaning and medication.
Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at 970-949-7972