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Listen Up: Common Pet Ear Problems and Prevention

Although pet ears are adorable – from floppy basset ears to the fuzzy twitching ears of a new kitten – ear health often remains a mystery until infection occurs. When it comes to pet ear problems such as mite infestations, inflammation, or other uncomfortable conditions, many pets suffer needlessly.

Causes of Pet Ear Problems

There are several issues that could be at the root of chronic ear itchiness or infection. Below are some of the most commonly diagnosed ear problems among cats and dogs. We also provide tips on how to keep your pet’s ears perky and healthy.

  1. Allergies – Seasonal allergies plague many of us, and our pets are no exception. Airborne allergens are all around and susceptible cats or dogs will amp up the scratching – which may also include those sensitive ears. Fleas, certain foods, and environmental chemicals can also cause an allergic reaction that affects the ears, eyes, nasal cavities, and skin.

Please contact us to have your pet tested for allergies. Seasonal allergies (especially during the spring) are the most frequently diagnosed cause of chronic ear itchiness and inflammation.

  1. Ear mites – These miniscule, spider-like creatures live on the skin and in the ears, laying eggs and reproducing until they are destroyed. Mites can cause extreme itchiness and can lead to ear damage over time. Unfortunately, if one pet is diagnosed with mites, it’s likely that all pets in the household are infected.

Signs of ear mites include chronic scratching, redness, black or brown waxy residue, or a coffee ground type substance in the ear canal.

  1. Foreign objects or moisture – These issues are likely to be more of a concern with dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors. Objects can and do find their way into the ear canal. Plant awns, foxtails, twigs, and other outdoor debris are also common culprits that can lead to infection, inflammation, and discomfort.

Moisture in the ear can create problems as well, paving the way for bacterial and fungal infections. That’s why it’s important to clean and dry your pet’s ears following every swim or bath.

Other causes of pet ear problems include disorders such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Treatment Options

The treatment of pet ear problems depends on the underlying condition. For example, allergies can be treated with medications, diet, and lifestyle changes, while ear mites can be treated with prescribed medication.

Considering how varied the causes of ear problems can be, it’s best to have your pet checked out if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Head shaking
  • Persistent scratching on or around the ear
  • Discharge
  • Foul odor coming from the ear
  • Head tilt to the affected side
  • Behavioral changes
  • Decreased appetite

Now Hear This: Prevention is Possible

Many of the conditions that cause pet ear problems are preventable. Practicing healthy ear hygiene and scheduling regular wellness appointments go a long way to keeping those cute, floppy ears at their best.

Here are some other essential ear care tips to incorporate into your regular pet care routine:

  • Clean your pet’s ears often with a pet-appropriate ear cleaning solution.
  • Keep fur around the ears trimmed or make monthly grooming appointments.
  • Maintain annual wellness exams and recommended lab tests to detect issues that can lead to ear infections or other problems.
  • Avoid areas with tall weeds and grasses, which might contain dangerous awns.

Schedule an appointment at West Park Animal Hospital to prevent pet ear problems and avoid painful infections.

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