Hearing is one of the most important senses your pet depends on in his daily life. Ear infections are a relatively common problem in dogs and cats. The condition is medically referred to as otitis externa, and it is estimated that up to 20 percent of the dog population is affected. If left untreated, the infection is not only painful for the animal, but it can worsen by spreading to the middle or inner ear causing more serious concerns. These include damage to vital nerve structures and the equilibrium balance center, which are located in the middle and inner ear, respectively.
Regular cleansing of your pet’s ears can prevent many potential ear problems before they start and can enhance his or her quality of life. The frequency of cleansing is based on your pet’s needs and should be determined by your primary care veterinarian. Cleaning ears and allowing adequate air circulation is especially important for dogs with long or floppy ears.
Routine ear care
It’s easy to clean your pet’s ears. Here are the steps:
1. Gently pull the earflap upward to straighten the ear canal. Squirt an approved ear cleansing solution into your pet’s ear and massage the base of the ear between your thumb and forefinger for 20 to 25 seconds. This ensures the cleansing solution gets a bit deeper into the ear.
2. Allow your pet to shake out the extra solution. The shaking will aid in loosening excess ear debris. This can be messy; therefore, outdoor application is recommended.
3. Use a soft cloth or a cotton ball to remove excess wax and debris that remain on the inside ear flap. DO NOT USE A Q-TIP. Avoid inserting anything down the ear canal.
4. Finally, take a good look at your dog’s ears. If you notice anything abnormal, consult your primary care veterinarian.
Signs of infection
Knowing what to watch for and steps to take to avoid problems will aid in reducing potential long-term conditions.
- Odor – This is usually the first sign pet owners notice when their pet’s ear canal is infected.
- Discharge – An infected ear can have a brown or yellow waxy discharge in addition to the foul odor.
- Shaking and scratching of the head – The animal will likely try to communicate its discomfort by shaking its head or rubbing its head against a hard surface.
- Non-symmetrical face or eyes – Puffiness around the face or eyes is a tell-tale sign something is going on, often an ear infection. The animal may also be squinting in one eye, which is another sign that may indicate an ear infection.
If you notice any of the above signs, schedule a visit with your primary care veterinarian to ensure your pet has a lifetime of hearing you call his name.