After seeing at least one dog an hour with an ear infection this summer (or so it seems), I thought this would be a great blog topic. Most people are under the false assumption that ear infections in dog and cats are caused by ear mites. It seems like a lot of pet parents will even go to the pet superstore and pick up ear mite medicine for the ears and treat first before coming into the vet clinic. In 11 years, I probably have only seen 1 or 2 dogs with ear mites, and most of these guys lived with cats who had gotten ear mites. Cats definitely can get ear mites, however it seems to mainly be a concern in outdoor cats and usually in younger kittens.
Now for the meat and potatoes….ear infections are usually a sign of an underlying allergy, especially if they are recurrent. Think about it, if you treat an ear infection and it comes right back, either one….we didn’t completely clear the ear infection (which is why you should always come back for your ear recheck ) or two….it is being caused by an allergy that is still present. So, it is important to deal with both, the primary allergy and the secondary infection.
Ear infections are caused by bacteria and/ or yeast. The allergy creates an irritated and itchy ear and then bacteria and yeast from our environment jump on board and create an infection. Performing an ear cytology or an ear smear, is helpful for veterinarians to see exactly what is causing the infection and prescribe the best medication. Many clients cannot treat the ears one or two times a day for two weeks, and for that reason there are some really neat products that can be left in the ear for that period of time to help treat.
Ear infections can be quite serious if not addressed. Of course, animals can go deaf, but also they can be in serious pain and the ear canals can actually mineralize and close completely. One way to know if your animal could be getting ear infection is to clean the ears weekly and always at bath time. There are many great over the counter ear cleansers. If you are removing large amounts of brown or black debris from your dogs ears weekly, this is NOT normal. These are not just dirty ears!! Schedule a time to come in and have the talk about allergies and ear infections!