Pet Ear Infections

Ear infections in dogs and cats are very common. In fact, it’s one of the most common conditions that I’ve seen in veterinary medicine. Ear infections cause redness, 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 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 tend to have certain characteristic signs in our dogs and cats. Redness, pain, and discharge are common. As mentioned above, rubbing their ears on the carpet, shaking their heads, or scratching at the ears is a common sign of an ear infection. In addition, pets can have a bad odor coming from one or both ears.

Ear infections are very common. They are never normal. There is always an underlying cause or predisposing condition that results in an ear infection. There are many primary causes, secondary causes, and perpetuating factors. Some of these include allergies which may be from environmental factors or food (atopy), hypothyroid or other endocrine disorders, ear mites, foreign bodies in the ear canal, excess wax or debris in the ears, 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 state 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 important 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 can lead to more resistant bacteria which are more difficult to eliminate.

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