According to Dr. Donna Spector at halopets.com, keeping pets' ears clean contribute to their health and wellness by preventing irritation and infection that can be painful and potentially lead to hearing loss. Ear disease is one of the most common conditions in pets. The medical name for inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal is otitis externa. Otitis externa is estimated to affect 20% of dogs in the United States. In 2007, Veterinary Pet Insurance reported that treatment for ear infections ranked as the number one medical claim made for dogs.
Why do pets get so many ear infections?
Pets are prone to otitis externa due to the long length and L-shape of their ear canals. Debris and bacteria love to collect at the corner of the L and with the naturally warm and sometimes moist environment of the ears, it becomes the perfect environment for infection.
Dogs that are most prone to ear infection include floppy or long-eared breeds (Cocker Spaniels, retrievers, basset hounds, etc.) because the long ears hang over the ear canal entrance and prevent the canals from drying out. Dogs that swim and get water into their ears and pets with over-production of wax or hair growth deep in their ear canals are also at increased risk. Ear infection can also result from underlying conditions such as skin allergies and hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism.
Other conditions that can affect pets' ears and mimic infection include ear mites, foreign bodies (especially plant material) and ear tumors.
What are signs that your pet may have an ear infection?
Signs of ear problems include:
Scratching or rubbing of the ears and/or head
Head shaking or tilting the head to one side
Pain around the ears — your pet may shy away from you petting his or her head
Odor or discharge from the ears
Redness or swelling of the ear flap or the ear canal
Changes in behavior — ear infections are painful and many pets will become snappy or irritable
If you witness any of these signs in your pet, see your veterinarian for a thorough ear examination to determine the cause of the problem. If infections are left untreated, they can lead to hearing loss or extend into the inner ear and become life threatening.