If you’ve ever had an ear ache, you know how painful and distressing it can be. Our pets suffer from this problem a lot, especially in the warmer months. When dogs and cats have sore ears, hey may shake their heads, scratch their ears or hold their heads to one side. Sometimes the ears are so painful that your normally friendly, affectionate pet may snap at you when you touch its head! You may see a discharge from the ears, hear a moist sound when you rub the ears or detect a bad odor from the area. Sometimes your pet may shake or scratch his ears so much that he ruptures a blood vessel in the ear, resulting in a large haematoma (blood blister).
What causes sore ears in pets?
The most common underlying cause of ear disease in our pets is allergy. Most of us are familiar with skin allergies, but pets with skin allergies will almost always have associated ear problems, because the ear canals are lined by skin too. The inflammation caused by the allergy allows infection by fungi and bacteria to set in, making the ear problem much worse. Other things that can allow secondary infections to establish are ear mites, which are very common in pups and kittens, and foreign objects, such as grass seeds in the ear canals. In severe cases, the ear drum may rupture and the infection can spread to the middle ear cavity and even further.
If your pet shows any signs of ear trouble, it is important to have it examined by your vet. Although some “home remedies” are available, they are often not effective, and can actually do severe damage if the eardrum is ruptured. Your vet will take samples to see what type of infection is present, and what sort of treatment will be most effective. If there is a lot of discharge in the ears, they will need to be cleaned as the first step of treatment, as ear drops will not be able to penetrate the discharge. This may have to be done under general anaesthesia. Your pet will then have eardrops and possibly other medication. In severe cases, it may be necessary to have a second cleaning 2-3 weeks later.
If your pet has an allergy, a simple cure is not possible, because your pet will always be predisposed to skin and ear problems. However, with careful management, it is possible to keep both under control. Ear problems caused by ear mites and foreign bodies are easily corrected. Early treatment gives the quickest and best results. Healthy ears mean a happy pet!