Pet Ear Infections

Ear infections are very common in dogs and cats. In fact, they are some of the most common conditions we see in veterinary medicine. Ear infections cause redness and swelling, and can lead to damage to the ear canal, hearing loss, and other problems. In addition, ear infections hurt! Have you noticed your dog scratching at his ears or shaking his head? Is he or she rubbing his head on the carpet?  These are all common signs your pet has an ear infection. In the following article, I will discuss ear infections in dogs and cats, as well as how they are diagnosed and treated.

Ear infections in our dogs and cats tend to have certain characteristic signs. Redness, pain, and discharge are common. As mentioned above, rubbing their ears on the carpet, shaking their heads, or scratching at the ears are all common signs of an ear infection. In addition, pets may have a bad odor coming from one or both ears.

While ear infections are very common, they are never normal. There is always an underlying issue which causes the ear infection. There are many primary causes, secondary causes, and perpetuating factors. These include allergies, both from environmental factors and food (atopy), hypothyroid or other endocrine disorders, ear mites, foreign bodies in the ear canal, excess wax or debris in the ears, and water or moisture in the ears. There are also certain auto-immune or primary skin diseases which can result in ear infections.

While treating an ear infection may seem fairly straightforward, finding the cause of the ear infection is the key to preventing it from returning. Dogs with allergic skin disease can take medications to help control their allergy, food trials can be performed if an underlying food allergy is suspected, and other testing is recommended when appropriate to help identify any underlying endocrine or other disease which may be contributing to the ear infection. Finally, evaluation with an otoscope will allow your veterinarian to check the eardrum to make sure it is intact, and no evidence of inner ear disease is present.

After obtaining a history and a thorough physical examination, a sample will likely be taken from your pet’s ear and stained before being placed under a microscope.  Your veterinarian will look for bacteria, yeast, and cellularity to help determine what medications are most likely to be successful in treating the infection. In many cases, a liquid flush and an ointment will be dispensed which will help remove excess debris from the ears, eliminate yeast and bacteria, and reduce the pain associated with the infection. Which medications are appropriate depend to a large degree on what your veterinarian sees under the microscope.

It is crucial to completely clear the ear infection, and your Veterinarian may recommend a re-check examination to look at another sample following treatment to make sure the entire infection is resolved. Partially clearing an infection can result in repeated ear infections, which in turn can lead to more resistant, difficult to eliminate bacteria.

Veterinary Hospital For Dog and Cat Ear Infections

Ear infections are painful conditions for your pet. Fortunately, identifying the cause and treating the infection with appropriate medications can usually clear the infection, and help prevent future infections from occurring. If you suspect your pet has an ear infection, I recommend calling one of our offices to schedule an appointment with a member of our Veterinary Hospital. With a little love and some help from your vet, we’ll get those ears clean and clear and keep your pet’s tail wagging for years to come.


Jeffrey Stupine  VMD

Medical Director

World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals