The term given to ear infections in pets is termed Otitis Externa. What this term basically means is inflammation of the external ear canal. A pet’s ear is made up of three areas. The internal ear, the middle ear, and the external ear. The most common issue affecting pets is primarily in the external ear. This condition usually results from either parasites, such as mites, bacteria or yeast organisms.

When a pet is affected with this condition they often will shake their head and scratch at their ears. A combination of both the trauma that the pets inflict as well as the inflammation and infection itself, results in the ear becoming red, moist with a lot of waxy discharge. Overtime and with reoccurrences, the ear canal will actually swell and begin to close. This leads to the pet being further predisposed to the condition in the future.

Why do some dogs always seem to get ear infections? There are many predisposing factors in pets. Breeding with a certain look has led to poor ear conformation in many breeds, therefore making them more prone to this condition. Those that are affected tend to have more narrow ear canals, allowing for an increase in material build up. Dogs with floppy ears can also be at high risk, as the decrease in airflow allows for bacteria and yeast to grow in a warm, dark, moist place.

While poor conformation plays a large role, the most common reason for external ear infections is allergies, whether they are environmental, food, or contact allergies. Other less common causes of ear infections include parasites, tumors, and certain metabolic diseases.

It is important to identify the underlying cause of the infection in order to adequately treat the pet. The examination begins with a look over for conformation defects, tumors, ticks or other causes. It is then important to take a good look inside the ears in order to assess the extent of the infection, and if there is any damage at the tympanic membrane or the junction between external and middle ear canal. Another important step is to take a cytology sample of the waxy material and look at it under the microscope. This will allow us to classify whether the infection is bacterial or fungal in origin. Once the infection is classified it is important to remove the excess material and wax with a cleaner. This is usually followed up with an ear medication that is appropriate for the given infection. If inflammation of the ear is moderate to severe an anti-inflammatory medication may be required.

It is important that your pet is seen when clinical signs of an ear are an infection present. The concerns are when ear infections go unchecked for too long they may extend further into the ear canal leading to a middle ear infection. These extensions of infections have added difficulty and the best way is to stay on top of external ear infections. The dogs which are prone to infections have some benefit when allergies are under control or using a cleaner as needed to prevent infections from reoccurring.