Rubbing our pet’s ears is one of the most enjoyable activities for pets and pet parents. Showing our pets this love feels good to them and us. But what if that special attention doesn’t feel good to them? If your pet pulls away from a gentle ear rub, they may be experiencing ear pain, possibly from an infection or an injury. In that case, it’s essential to take a closer look.

Common Causes of Ear Infections

Ear infections of the outer ear, or otitis externa, are common in dogs and occur more rarely in cats. Although they can be caused and complicated by different reasons, the most common causes of ear infection are:

  • Moisture
  • Mites
  • Allergies
  • Trauma to the ear canal
  • Foreign body in the ear
  • Excessive cleaning

If you notice your pet shaking their head, scratching their ears, whining, or rubbing their head, face, or ears on the carpet or furniture, call us to schedule an appointment so we can check for an ear infection.

Because of their ear anatomy, certain breeds are more susceptible to ear infections. For example, floppy-earred breeds and those with very furry ears tend to have more problems because moisture is more easily trapped, and owners are less likely to see inside their dog’s ears regularly and may not notice ear issues.

These breeds include:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Basset Hounds
  • Labradoodles
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Border Collies

Preventing Ear Infections

As in all veterinary care, prevention is the best medicine. Since excess moisture is a primary cause of ear infections, be sure to dry your dog’s ears after swimming and bathing. In addition, if your dog is prone to ear infections, managing any underlying causes such as allergies will help prevent reoccurring ear infections.

Cleaning your dog’s ears at home can also help prevent ear infections. Your veterinarian can recommend a pet-specific ear cleanser, and we can show you how to clean your dog’s ears in the office. The steps include filling your dog’s ears with the cleanser, gently massaging the cleanser into the ears from the outside, allowing your dog to shake some of it out, and gently wiping the ears dry with absorbent gauze. Avoid using cotton balls or swabs as these can leave residue behind, causing further ear irritation.

Treating Ear Infections

If you notice redness, swelling, debris, foul odor, or signs your pet’s ear is painful, it’s essential to seek veterinary care right away. Ear infections won’t resolve on their own, and if left untreated, mild infections can progress, leading to increased pain, eardrum rupture, and hearing loss.

Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet’s ears, clean them using a medicated cleanser, and perform diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your pet’s infection. They will then prescribe a cleaning and treatment regimen specific to your pet.

Chronic Ear Infections

Most ear infections resolve with treatment in one to two weeks. However, if your pet has a more complicated disease or underlying conditions (such as allergies), these may take months to resolve and become chronic. In every case, it is vitally important that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions, finish the complete course of treatment (even if your pet seems better), and return your pet for any recommended progress exams.

In some situations, particularly if your dog’s ear infections remain chronic despite treatment, your veterinarian may recommend a referral to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. In these cases, we will work closely with you and you pet’s veterinary specialist to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.

Please call our team if you have any questions about ear infections or keeping your dog’s ears clean and healthy. If your pet shows signs of an ear infection, schedule an appointment at either our Westfield or Union location immediately to ensure the problem doesn’t become serious.