It’s our favorite time of the year-flowers, sunshine, longer days, warm weather and ….allergy season! And along with allergy season we start to see many ear infections. Not fun for us, not fun for the owners, and definitely not fun for the dogs and cats! Ear infections can be very painful, make their ears so itchy, and smelly. What causes ear infections and what can you do about it?
Often there is an underlying cause that makes the ears itchy. Then when scratching/shaking their heads, the pets cause trauma that sets them up for an infection. And what causes the ears to be itchy? In this area, the most common thing we see is allergies. It can be food allergies, seasonal allergies (who ever heard of allergies in NC in the spring?!), environmental allergies, and secondary to parasites. While we do see ear mites, and it is important to treat/prevent them, most often in adult dogs, ears mites are not the cause of the infection. Like us, our pets can suffer from allergies.
Other things that can cause ear infections is a long list, but can include moisture in the ear (swimming), hair packed in the ear not allowing it to breath, chronic scarring in the ear, polyps, other skin diseases, trauma, and more.
If your pet is scratching their ears, shaking their head, whines/seems painful when you touch their ears, it is time to have their ears checked. Sometimes, we can clear the infection with regular flushing, but sometimes they need stronger medications. We have several options for treatment.
Many pets that have had chronic ear issues are very sensitive to having their ears handled. And with good reason-their ears hurt and then we shove medication down there! Thankfully, we have more options for treatment now, including long acting medications that only need to be put in every 2-4 weeks. And using bribery when you do need to medicate your pet’s ears can go a long way. Pull out their favorite treats (peanut butter, spray cheese, etc) and distract them with this when your medicate their ears.
Treating ear infections can be frustrating, as some pets are prone to infections and get them chronically. Unfortunately in these cases, we often do not cure the problem, but find the way to best management it. Whether it’s through diet change, allergy testing/injections, regular ear flushing/medications, or other ways. And pets that swim a lot can be more prone to infections, so make sure you clean and dry your pets’s ears well after they go swimming.
Let’s hope your pet does not have issues with their ears or allergies, but let us know if you need help managing this!
Boo Donoho, DVM