Don’t play it by ear

catdogitchingProblems with our pets’ ears are very common. Signs of these ear problems include scratching or rubbing at the ears or head, odour, discharge, redness or swelling, shaking their head or tilting it to one side, holding the ears down, pain around the ears or resentment to being touched, and even just a change in behaviour, such as depression or irritability.

Ear problems may be localised to the outside part of the ear (the pinna, or ear flap), inside the ear canal, or further into the middle or inner ear. In some cases, all parts of the ear may become affected, especially if treatment is delayed.

Allergies, parasites, infection from bacteria or yeast, foreign bodies such as grass seeds, trauma, excessive heat and moisture, the conformation of the ear, immune diseases, hereditary conditions and tumours can all cause ear conditions.

Because there are many potential causes and many different signs, in the majority of cases your veterinarian will need to investigate in order to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. They may need to look down into the ear and take a sample with a cotton bud, to look at under the microscope. If your pet won’t allow this examination due to fear or pain, sedation or anaesthesia may be required.

No single treatment can treat all causes, and different conditions require varied treatment times, with some requiring frequent revisits to monitor progress. Some conditions are chronic in nature or reoccur.

While not all ear conditions can be prevented, the vast majority of them can. Check your pets’ ears weekly, clean them when necessary, and keep their parasite treatment up-to-date. If your veterinarian has prescribed treatment, make sure you are administering it effectively and as directed.

If you notice any of the signs indicating a problem with your pets’ ears, or any sign of pain or discomfort, don’t see how it goes – the sooner your pet sees the vet, the better.