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Type Of Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

Type Of Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

Ear infections are extremely common in cats and dogs, and recur often. In fact, paw-rents can get so frustrated with repeated ear infections in their pets that they may just decide to let the ear infections be.

Are you one of these frustrated paw-rents? This article describes what can happen if ear infections are left untreated. This article will also talk about what ear infections are, types of ear infections, signs of ear infections, potential causes of ear infections and the types of treatments prescribed by veterinarians.

What are ear infections?

This part is self-explanatory. An ear infection refers to the invasion of the ear by an infectious organism.

Types of ear infections

Ear infections can be bacterial, fungal or mixed.

Ear infections can also be divided into the location of the infection (i.e. outer ear infections, middle ear infections and inner ear infections. The outer ear refers to the external ear canal aka the tube connecting the ear’s opening and the eardrum. The middle ear refers to the “tympanic cavity” (an air-filled cavity) and three “ossicles” (tiny bones) that help to conduct sound waves. The inner ear connects to the brain and contains many important structures that serve important functions such as balance and hearing. More than one location within the ear can be infected.

What happens if ear infections are left untreated?

If left untreated, outer ear infections will progress into the middle ear, and middle ear infections will progress into the inner ear. You may ask, is it that bad if this occurs? Learn more about the signs of each type of infection below.

Signs of ear infections

Signs of outer ear infections include (but are not limited to):

-Itching/scratching at the ears
-Redness of ear canal
-Increased smell
-Increased dirt/discharge from ears

Signs of middle ear infections include the signs of outer ear infection, and some additional signs including (but not limited to):

-Head tilting
-Inability to eat/drink
-A condition called “Horner’s syndrome”, due to nerve damage. Signs of Horner’s Syndrome include a constricted pupil /drooping eyelid/shrunken eye on the side of the affected ear.

Signs of inner ear infections include the signs of outer and middle ear infections. Signs of inner ear infections also include (but are not limited to):

-Walking in circles
-Seizures (a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate attention!)

As you read through the signs, you would have realised that if an ear infection worsens and progresses deeper into the ear, the clinical signs get more and more severe. No one would want their pet to stop eating or develop seizures because of an untreated ear infection! That’s why it’s important to treat ear infections and keep them from coming back. Ear infections are not harmless if left alone!

Potential causes of ear infections

Causes of ear infections include (but are not limited to):

-Ear mites
-Underlying allergies (e.g food allergies, environmental allergies)
-Foreign objects stuck in the ear
-Lumps in the ear

And so on.

Your veterinarian is the best person to determine the root cause of the ear infection. This will be done by using an “otoscope” (a specialised instrument) to examine the pet’s ear. An ear swab will also be done to check if the infection is bacterial, fungal or mixed. Some ear infections are resistant to first-line therapy. If your veterinarian suspects this, they will take ear cultures and send them to the lab for testing. Other diagnostics may be done if necessary.

Treatment/Management of Ear infections

A variety of antimicrobial ear drops exist - such as Dermotic Ear & Skin Suspension, Ilium Ear Drops, Topigen Ear Drops, Oticon Ear Drops, Ciloxan Eye and Ear Drops and so on. These medicated ear drops should only be prescribed by a veterinarian. Some medicated ear drops are best for predominantly fungal ear infections, some medicated ear drops are best for predominantly bacterial ear infections, and some ear drops are best for mixed infections. Prescribing the wrong ear medication for the wrong type of infection may lead to the condition not getting better. At worst, a resistant ear infection (i.e. infections that are “used” to certain antibiotic ear drops) may develop. That’s why these ear drops should not be purchased over-the-counter. A veterinarian should test a sample of the ear infection debris and prescribe medicated ear drops according to the test results.

Ear cleansers (e.g. Virbac EpiOtic ear cleanser, Zymox ear cleanser, Klearotic Ear Cleanser, Dermoscent Essential Oto®Physiological Ear Cleanser ) are often prescribed to break down the dirt in the ears and increase absorption of medicated ear drops. Caution: some ear cleansers cannot be used for middle and inner ear infections, so check with your vet before introducing an ear cleanser to your pet.

Oral medications are often prescribed for middle and inner ear infections. For instance, Cerenia tablets are prescribed for vomiting pets. Oral antibiotics (e.g. Amoxicillin clauvulanate, Baytril Enrofloxacin) may also be prescribed for middle ear infections.

We hope that this article has shed more light on ear infection in cats and dogs. For further advice, consult your usual veterinarian!
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