Ear infections occur in both dogs and cats although they tend to be more common in dogs.
Dogs with long hanging ears (i.e., Beagles, Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers); and narrow ear canals (i.e., Cocker Spaniels) and hairy inner ear canals (i.e., Bichons, Poodles and Schnauzers) and Shar-Peis (because of their narrow ear canals) are particularly prone to ear infections.
In felines, both the Persian and Himalayan breeds seem to be more prone to ear infections. Chronic ear infections in cats are typically caused by parasites or ear mites.
Resistant ear infections caused by the Pseudomonas bacteria are some of the most challenging cases for veterinarians to treat due to the bacteria’s moderate to high level of resistance to the antibiotics typically used to treat ear infections. Associated with chronic cases of ear infections in both canines and felines; this bacteria tends to cause infections that extend to the middle ear and often become chronic (or recurrent). Even with the best of treatment, these infections can recur for months or even years.
This common bacteria is found in water, dirt, skin and most man-made environments because of its highly resistant ability to thrive on almost any surface. Excessive warmth and moisture in your dog’s ear makes it even more susceptible to infection -- especially if your canine spends a lot of time swimming.
In general, ear infections can be caused by:
» Improper -- or even too much – cleaning;
» Excessive humidity;
» Water in the ear;
» Allergies (from food or inhaled substances);
» Fungus (yeast); or
» Small parasites like ear mites.
SYMPTOMS: The following are some of the common signs that your canine or feline may be suffering from an infected ear:
» Shaking their head;
» Scratching at their ear or under the ear; as well as trying to rub the infected ear on other objects;
» Cocking the head to one side favoring the affected ear on the low side;
» A discharge; and
» A foul smell.
Many animals will cry out when simply touched around the ears or head; others may become aggressive or even try to bite due to the extreme sensitivity or pain from the infection. At this point, the best thing you can do for your canine or feline is to take them to your veterinarian for immediate and appropriate treatment.
Treat all ear infections quickly – they will not get better if left untreated. Possible deafness could also result from prolonged ear infections. Yeast infections in the ear can actually spread to other parts of the animal’s body if left unchecked as well.
The immediate treatment of either occasional or chronic ear infections involves thoroughly cleaning and flushing both ears and administering antibiotic treatment and possibly steroids to reduce the inflammation.
If the ears are badly inflamed and the infection has progressed to the middle ear making it too painful to touch, then cleaning and flushing may need to be delayed until the inflammation is under control or the animal may need to be anesthetized for proper treatment. Once the animal is asleep, all the wax and debris can be safely and painlessly removed by the veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will also look for the underlying cause of the ear infection to prevent a recurrence of the inflammation and pain; especially if there are existing allergic conditions causing the ear to become infected. Until these underlying problems are properly treated, the ear infections will become a chronic condition.
Allergies are the most common cause behind recurring ear infections especially in adult pets. Uncontrolled allergies that are severe make it impossible to resolve ear infections and can cause irreversible damage to the ears. If food allergies are the primary cause behind your animal’s chronic ear infections, you may need to change their diet to one they are not allergic to. You may need to work with your veterinarian to identify the offending food by using limited diets with only one protein source and only one source of starch. You can’t go by the name of the food—many diets contain more than one protein source, even if there is only one in the name. “Fish and Potato” is one example, which sometimes only contains fish and potato and at other times may contain grains, or additional protein sources.
Depending on the type of infection diagnosed and its specific cause, antibiotics, anti-fungal or anti-parasitic drugs may be recommended by your veterinarian. When it comes to using any prescribed ear medications, always use them exactly as directed. If you run out of the medication prematurely, contact your veterinarian immediately for a refill. Using the prescribed medication correctly and consistently is critical in successfully clearing up an ear infection and also in preventing it from reoccurring.
One of the worst things you can do for your pet is to keep applying ear drops and ignore the underlying causes involved. Ear medications are obviously helpful in treating the infection, but improper overuse will ultimately lead to the development of resistant and/or chronic ear infections.
Never use outdated medications from past ear infections. Clean off the tips of medications if they touch your pet’s ear when applying it. Otherwise, some bacteria may remain and reinfect the ear, especially if it is a resistant strain of bacteria.
Those dogs or cats prone to chronic ear infections may require continual and diligent care for their ears to minimize a flare-up. Your veterinarian can help advise you on an effective ear cleaner that is gentle and contains a mild antiseptic that dissolves ear wax and coats the ear canal for long-lasting protection.
If you board your canine or feline, make sure to bring your own medication bottle for them to use for an existing ear infection.
As always, prevention is in the best interest of your beloved canine or feline’s optimal health.
Regular weekly ear cleaning is imperative for healthy ear hygiene and preventing future ear infections. If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with proper ear cleaning techniques for your dog or cat, don’t be embarrassed to ask your veterinarian or vet tech to give you a hands-on demonstration. Knowing how to properly clean your pet’s ears will not only save you money but will also help your cherished canine or feline avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Proper cleaning your pet’s ears can be done with an over-the-counter solution. Make sure to use an adequate amount of the solution – filling up the ear until it almost overflows. Place your thumb and first two fingers at the base of the ear and gently squeeze and massage the ear until you hear a slushy sound in the ear canal. Keep a paper towel or washcloth handy to wipe up the overflow. If the ears are dirty, one rinse may not be, enough – you will have to do this at least twice to remove as much wax and debris as possible from the ear. Do not use cotton swabs (Q-tips) to clean your dog or cat’s ear; doing so may:
» Push the wax further into the ear canal;
» Push an infection deeper into the ear;
» Create a future infection; or
» Cause injury.
Not all animals can use all natural remedies; allergic reactions to oils
and/or herbs and digestive problems are possible.
A natural remedy is not a substitute for veterinary care.
The following nutraceuticals or natural/herbal formulas can also provide effective treatment (and prevention) for your canines and felines living with both intermittent and chronic ear infections.
» Goldenseal and tea tree oil (which contain some antibiotic and fungicidal properties) promote healing. Tea tree oil acts as a highly effective natural disinfectant and can help heal ear infections that are even resistant to some antibiotics.
» Myrrh and chamomile are effective in reducing inflammation and soothe both pain and irritation.
» Pau d’arco (an inner bark natural cure from South America) acts as an organic antibiotic for cat ear infections. Mix equal parts of Pau d’arco Tincture with mineral oil and put several drops in the affected ear. Repeat two to three times a day until the ear infection has fully healed.
» Almond Oil or Olive Oil effectively kills ear mite infections in cats. Place several drops in each ear daily to kill the mites and gradually heal the infection. Continue for three to four weeks using three to seven drops each day in each ear.
» Warm compress helps to ease the pain, irritation and inflammation associated with an ear infection. Apply to the affected area several times a day.
» Cod Liver Oil or Vitamin E Oil helps relieve the pain of a middle and inner ear infection. Use one drop of cod liver oil (or break open a Vitamin E soft gel cap and use one drop) in the affected ear.
» Apple Cider Vinegar can help prevent an ear infection from getting worse. Add two tablespoons to one cup of water. Give this twice a week and make sure your dog finishes the entire solution for best results. You can also use this same solution for routine ear cleaning.
» Macerated garlic is effective for dogs with a mild ear infection. Leave two cloves of garlic soaking in olive oil for two weeks. Strain out the garlic pieces and place two to three drops of the warmed mixture into the dog's ears each day until the infection is gone.
» Herbal flea powder helps reduce and/or prevent ear infections caused by ear mites. For best results, using an herbal flea powder with rosemary, wormwood, rue, eucalyptus and pennyroyal help repel both fleas and mites so infections are less common. Sprinkle on the entire body after bathing.
Chronic and Resistant Ear Infections
– Canine and Feline Products –
(Reference: Veterinarians’ Desk Reference)
1 capsule per 20 lb bid or 1 scoop per 20 lb bid
Clears heat with immune support for ears.
Super EPAVET12 or Omega PlusVET12
Cats: 1 gelcap Omega PlusVET sid
Dogs: 2 gelcaps/25 lb Super EPAVET sid
To help you quickly find the right Integrative Medicine formulas and manufacturers to help treat your dogs, cats and horses, please refer to the Veterinarians’ Desk Reference
(Always consult with your veterinarian to properly diagnose any health problems. Misdiagnosis and/or mistreatment -- including OTC and/or homeopathic products -- can lead to dangerous