Vail Pet Talk column: Look for signs that your pet could have an ear infection
Have you noticed your pet shaking its head lately? Have you noticed that your pet has an unusual odor coming out of its ears? Did you take your pet to the groomer for his or her “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 our furry companions and us, as we can now become more active after a long, cold winter. With activity come a lot of swims in water, hikes through grasses and trees and exposure to all that the warm weather has to offer us. So, we ask ourselves, why 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 lives. The most common signs of an ear infection, as mentioned above, are shaking their head or 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 its head down on the affected side or rubbing that ear on the carpet.
If you see any of these signs in your pet, then 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 eardrum.
All About Ear Mites and other troublemakers
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 that 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 eardrum and cause lifelong problems to your pet’s hearing. So, again, don’t hesitate to get your pet to the vet should you notice any of the clinical signs that we have mentioned.
Prevention is key
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 causes 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, which 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 it. 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.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.