Ear, allergies, infections, cancer, ear flap, bad ear smell, infection, rubbing, scratching, antibiotics, inflamed, hearing
Basically, dogs and cats are very well designed. Cat bodies can curl into compact balls that fit perfectly into our laps as we watch TV. Dog tails excel at clearing a coffee table of anything on the surface. I do however take exception with their ear design.
Humans have ear canals that extend in a straight line from the outside in towards their ear drums. Dogs and cats have canals that track along the side of their faces and then take an almost right angled turn into their skulls. Add to this arrangement floppy down ears like those seen in Scottish fold cats or cocker spaniels and you have an ear problem just waiting to happen.
Pets can have otitis externa, a condition affecting the outer structures of the ear, for myriad reasons: allergies, infections due to bacteria or fungus, genetic predisposition for an over production of oily debris, abnormal turnover rate of the tissue lining the canals or even cancer. It is also important to remember that ears are fundamentally just skin. Whenever the skin on the body is afflicted with a problem; the ears usually follow suit
How would you know if your pet is having an ear problem? I strongly recommend that all owners give their cats and dogs a quick once over on a weekly basis. Get to know what is normal for your pet. Examine it from nose to tail, ears to paws. For the ears, lift of the pinnae, ear flap, and take a look. The skin on the inside of the flap should be flat, usually pink in color, not thickened, red or inflamed. Next look into the canal, it should be open and possess little to no debris. Touching the flap or canal should not be painful. Now if you are really brave, take a sniff. It shouldn't have any smell. If it has the pungent odor of a pair of tennis shoes you should have thrown out a week ago, your pet probably has an ear infection. If you see your cat or dog repeatedly shaking its head, rubbing its ears on the carpet, scratching at its ears or wincing when you attempt to reach for its head, it needs to be seen by your veterinarian, now.
In order to determine the cause of the ear problem your veterinarian will first want to look into the ears with an otoscope. Even for a pet without a tender ear, this procedure can be a bit uncomfortable. A highly sensitive pet or one with very painful ears may need to be sedated. Samples of the debris are examined under a microscope. This allows a doctor to determine if the malady is due to bacteria or fungus. He or she may need to culture this material in order to most accurately assess which medication to prescribe.
Medical intervention for otitis externa may include oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, topical medications as well as ear cleaners. It is imperative that you follow your veterinarian's instructions. Give all medications for the entire length of time prescribed. Stopping treatment too soon, even if the ear looks markedly improved can set your pet up for a chronic, low grade infection that can lead to permanent hearing loss or possibly a brain infection.
How can you prevent your pet from having ear issues? Bathe your pet from the neck down. Don't get water into its ears. Check the ears weekly for evidence of infections, especially if you have a breed that is prone to them. If your pet likes to swim, cleanse the ears with a specific ear cleansing solution that you can purchase from your veterinarian.
Our pets don't always listen to what we say. Ignoring us because they want to is one thing, but not hearing us because of an ear infection is another.
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