Oh, yum, everyone’s favorite subject: Ear infections! Dogs and cats can easily get ear infections, and acute infections may become chronic if not treated correctly. Monitoring pets’ aural health is very important to overall wellness. Ear infections left untreated can result in a ruptured eardrum, or in rare cases may even allow the infection to spread to other areas and result in life-threatening illness.
Signs of an Ear Infection
Watch out for the following signs of an ear infection:
- Excessive head-shaking or scratching
- A foul odor coming from the ears
- Discharge in one or both ears
- Redness and swelling of the ear flap or ear canal
- Pain in the ears
Treating Ear Infections in Pets
An ear infection always requires a vet visit, even if you have medication left over from a prior infection. Ear infections can have many causes, from bacteria to a hormonal imbalance to a foreign object in the ear canal, and sometimes medication that cures one type of ear infection can damage an ear infected for a different reason.
Try to schedule your veterinary appointment as quickly as possible after you notice symptoms of an ear infection. Cats in particular tend to hide illness well, so by the time you’ve noticed, there’s likely a pretty nasty infection raging inside the ear.
Chronic Ear Infections
If your pet has chronic ear infections, there may be an underlying issue that is not being treated.
I knew a groomer who made a fair income on the side by betting her clients that she could tell them what grade of food they fed their dogs (grocery, premium, super-premium, or raw) just by looking in the dogs’ ears. I never saw her guess wrong. She confided in me that her secret was, “The healthier the food, the healthier the ear.” Red, inflamed ears with a scaly buildup under the ear flap usually belonged to dogs eating a grain-heavy grocery brand food, while healthy, pale pink ears with minimal wax were the norm for dogs on a raw diet, according to my friend.
If your dog has chronic ear infections, try switching to a super-premium food or a raw diet. Like my groomer friend observed, nutrition affects ear health in many ways. If your dog eats like a king and still gets ear infections, have him tested for allergies. It may be that, despite your effort to give him great food, your dog is allergic to one or more ingredients in your brand.
Another possible underlying cause of chronic ear infection is yeast. If you suspect this may be causing your pet’s ear infections, ask your vet about using a solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water in your pet’s ears. Use 2-3 drops daily into the ear canal. Massage the outside of the ear to make sure the solution spreads around. Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with your cat or dog’s water can also help to halt chronic ear infections. However, if you’d like to try this, be sure to add only a couple of drops at first, and monitor your pet’s water consumption. Cats may simply refuse to drink if ACV is mixed with their water, and dehydration is much more dangerous than an ear infection.