Ear Infections

Information on the causes of chronic canine and feline ear infections.

Select a Topic

  1. What are Ear Infections?
  2. What Causes Ear Infections?
  3. Diagnosing Ear Infections
  4. Help for Ear Infections
  5. More Information on Ear Infections

What are Ear Infections?

Dogs and cats are often prone to ear infections. We all know that dogs and cats have an amazing sense of hearing, and when they have an ear infection extreme discomfort and pain is experienced. Because the ears are shaped intricately, earwax, debris and parasites can easily become trapped and as a result lead to an ear infection.

The most common ear infections that are seen in pets include otitis externa (infection of the external ear canal) and otitis media (infection of the middle ear). Ear infections tend to affect certain dog breeds more than others.

Dog breeds such as Basset hounds, Cocker spaniels, Schnauzers and Miniature poodles develop ear infections frequently while in cats, Persian breeds are also more susceptible to these infections. Infections in the ear can lead to more serious problems such as loss of hearing and neurological difficulties. However, with the proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, ear infections can be treated successfully.

The common symptoms and signs of an ear infection include:
  • Shaking the head or holding it one side
  • Scratching or pawing at the ears
  • Pain in the ear
  • Rubbing ears against furniture or carpet
  • Yellow, brown or black discharge in the ears
  • Ears are red, inflamed or tender
  • Foul odor from the ears


In addition, if a middle ear infection develops, symptoms of facial paralysis may occur. Your pet’s eyelids may droop with facial muscles and third eyelid moving up and covering the eye, difficulty swallowing as well as loss of balance.

What Causes Ear Infections?

Most ear infections are caused by bacterial or yeast infections. Other factors that may also contribute to ear infections include the accumulation of wax, debris, thick, matted hair trapped in the ear canal or other foreign bodies. Allergies, ear mites, ulceration, tumors, improper cleaning of the ear or impaired drainage of the ear can also cause ear infection.

Diagnosing Ear Infections

The diagnosis of a middle or inner ear infection is based on the symptoms as well as a thorough examination of the ear. Your veterinarian will perform an otoscopic exam to view the ear canal and determine whether the eardrum is intact.

If the eardrum is ruptured or filled with fluid, this is usually a sign of a middle and inner ear infection. Anesthesia or sedation may also be used if the pet finds the otoscopy too painful. X-rays as well as a sample of the material in the ear canal is taken and examined under a microscope to determine the cause of the infection.

Help for Ear Infections

The treatment for ear infections depends on the underlying cause and severity of the infection. Very often underlying conditions such as allergies, tumors or polyps may bring about ear infections, but if treated immediately can greatly reduce the infection. Medications to treat the symptoms of ear infection include antibiotics or antifungal drugs.

Cleaning your pet’s ears daily for the next week will also be recommended, and your vet will demonstrate how to do this properly without hurting your furry friend. In more severe cases, surgical procedures which involve an incision of the eardrum, the removal of the ear canal or bony covering of the ear may be required.

More Information on Ear Infections

There are certain preventative measures that can be taken to avoid ear infections in pets and these include:
  • Clean your pet’s ears regularly with a cleaning solution to remove dirt and prevent ear wax build up
  • Avoid using cleaning solutions that contain fragrances and dyes as these can be an irritating – use an alcohol-free and non-toxic solution which can be obtained from your vet
  • Avoid using Q-tips to clean your pet’s ears rather use cotton wool or soft gauze
  • If your pet has a lot of hair inside the ear flap, ensure that you have those hairs plucked by their vet or groomer
  • Keep your pet free of fleas, ear mites and control allergies
  • If an infection is caused by ear mites, add a few drops of olive oil or almond oil to stop the mites. Continue this treatment everyday for next few weeks.
  • Start cleaning dogs and cats ears at an early age and make it a pleasant experience so that they will get used to being handled
  • Ensure that your pet is fed a healthy, all natural diet that is free of preservatives and colorants
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