Our pets generally have impeccable hearing, the car door, the food container, that pesky mouse! Nothing gets by them, but with great power, comes great responsibility. For them to continue being our mousers, doorbells and alarm systems we need to ensure we take great care of their ears. A healthy ear will be clean, odour-free, pale pink in colour and with a minimal accumulation of wax. Regular checks at home and a clean thrown in here or there will help to keep your pets ears in tip top condition. It’s also a good idea to regularly fondle or pat your pets ears so they get used to the experience, should the need ever arise for medications this habit will certainly play in your favour!
SIGNS OF EAR DISEASE
Some breeds are at a higher risk of ear disease than others, this can include pets with pendulous (hanging) ears or dogs with hairy inner ears. Pets prone to allergies are also at risk. For these pets regular cleaning of the ears is highly recommended, this should decrease the need for frequent vet visits. Ask your vet how often you should clean the ears, as this will often differ from pet to pet. General ear cleaning products can be purchased from your local vet or some pet stores.
During a regular clean, or whilst patting or observing your pet you notice any of the following symptoms, you should get your pet checked out by your vet.
- Unpleasant odour emanating from your pet’s ears
- Excessive scratching and pawing of the ears and head
- Heightened sensitivity in the area, with a touch often resulting in a pain response
- Constant shaking of the head or tilting to one side
- Black or yellowish discharge
- Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
- Accumulation of dark brown wax
- Loss of balance or hearing, disorientation
- Bleeding or discharge closely resembling coffee grinds
- Changes in behaviour, such as listlessness, depression or irritability
Should any of these symptoms present themselves your pet might be suffering from one or more of the following diseases.
Otitis Externa refers to an infection of the external ear canal, where as Otitis Media is an infection of the middle ear. Both of these conditions are most commonly caused by bacteria and/or yeast, they can also be brought on by the accumulation of wax, matted hair or debris, allergies, even a foreign object lodged in your pets ear canal. Ear infections are extremely uncomfortable, and haste in seeking treatment is often advised, this is not only beneficial in helping make your pet happy again but can also reduce the severity and long lasting effect of symptoms. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics while anti-fungals are administered for yeast infections, infections brought on by allergies or foreign objects can often need extra treatment or considerations, a consultation with your vet will ensure the right steps are taken.
Ear mites are unfortunately a common parasite, which are highly contagious! Excessive itching of the ears is the most common sign, however ear mites also create dark, crumbly debris that closely resembles coffee grinds.
An aural haematoma occurs when blood has accumulated in the pinna (ear flap). In many cases the exact cause of this condition is unknown, however it’s occurrence has sometimes been attributed to vigorous head shaking and scratching or trauma to the ear area which results in damage to the blood vessels, this trauma can often be set off by infection, mites, fleas or debris.
Deafness is a condition often brought on by age, trauma, sometimes even a loud noise of infection, it can also be a hereditary or congenital condition. Once diagnosed as being clinically deaf, your pet will remain as such for the remainder of their lives. Most dogs and cats soon adapt to losing their hearing and with special considerations on your part, being deaf need not impact the quality of their lives.
ADMINISTERING EAR DROPS
Whether antibiotic, anti-fungal or generic cleaning products, the same process should be used to administer ear drops. An extra set of hands may also need to be employed to help stop your pet from wriggling.
1. Position your pet on your lap, on a surface at a desirable height or directly in front of you. Make sure they are sitting secure and comfortably.
2. Use one hand to pull the ear flap up at a direct angle from the head, this opens the ear canal. Use your other hand to hold the drops. It’s often easiest to wrap the arm that’s holding the drops around your dogs head, and for cats using the same hand to pull the ear back and support under the head.
3. Insert the nozzle into the ear canal and squeeze out the required amount. Demonstrated in image 1
4. Still holding the ear flap up, gently massage the area directly below the ear canal and towards the jaw, this helps work the medication deeper into the ear canal. Demonstrated in image 2