How to Spot, Treat, and Prevent Your Pet’s Ear Infection

A veterinarian inspects a dog's ears

Whether they’re pointy or floppy, big or small, our pets’ ears are adorable. Most of our dogs and cats love those perfect ear scratches. But did you know that ear infections are common in our furry friends? Luckily, most infections are easily treatable and you can learn how to spot and prevent them.

Ear infections typically involve bacterial overgrowth within the ear canal. Big ears in particular can create an ideal environment for an infection, especially floppy ears, which tend to block air flow to the ear canal. This creates a moist environment ideal for bacteria. The ear canal also has fuzzy hair inside, which can trap debris and moisture.

Your pet’s external environment also plays a role in contracting ear infections. If you live in a warm and wet climate, the likelihood of your pet developing an infection may be higher.

How Do I Spot the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

If left untreated, infections can lead to permanent damage in the ear canal or even deafness. Severe cases are rare, but it is best to know the signs of an ear infection and to take care of it as early as possible.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Excessive shaking or head-tilting
  • Unusual odor
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of coordination
  • Scratching ears

An easy way to spot an ear infection is by regularly rubbing and scratching your pet’s ears. Many pets love these ear scratches, so if you notice your pet starts pulling away from you, this is a sign an infection may be developing.

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian immediately.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Once your veterinarian identifies the ear infection, they will determine the best treatment plan. Treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including underlying conditions (such as allergies or skin problems), how often the infection occurs, and the severity. Your veterinarian will work with you and your pet to develop the best treatment plan.

Luckily, most ear infections can be treated at home with either medication or regular cleanings. Antibiotic ointments, sprays, or creams are common remedies. In rare severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

How Can I Prevent Ear Infections?

Although most ear infections are easily treated, there are simple precautions you can take to prevent them.

  • If possible, work with your veterinarian to resolve any allergies or skin conditions that your pet may have. This will reduce the chance of these underlying issues leading to an ear infection.
  • Regularly clean your pet’s ears, if advised to do so. Talk to a veterinarian about the best way to do this.
  • After swimming or taking a bath, ensure that you thoroughly dry your pet’s ears. Any excess moisture can lead to infection.

These simple precautions will help decrease the chances of your pet contracting an infection.

Ear infections can be painful for your pet, but knowing what to watch out for and consulting with your veterinarian can help you keep your pet comfortable and infection-free.