Do your dog’s ears prick up moments before your doorbell rings? Does your cat seem to know when another animal is in your yard before you do? These are common occurrences thanks to the fact that animals have hearing that is far superior to our own. This exemplary hearing is largely due to an evolved need for exceptional senses to survive as both predator and prey. However, not only are your pet’s ears essential for her hearing, they also help her to maintain her balance – something which is particularly important for cats who are well known for their unique ability to climb and jump.
As such a crucial part of your pet’s anatomy requires special care and attention to ensure that it remains healthy and functioning as it should. Ear problems can occur for a range of different reasons from mild allergies and ear mites to infections, wounds and unusual growths. The sooner you can recognize a problem with your pet’s ears and get the advice of our veterinarian, the more successful the outcome from treatment is likely to be.
One of the most challenging aspects of pet ownership is identifying when something might be wrong with your pet. It is in the nature of animals, even those which are domesticated, to hide any vulnerabilities that they may have. Even if your pet wanted to tell you she feels unwell, her inability to verbalize her concerns make it very difficult for her to do so.
Therefore, it is down to us as conscientious owners to spot any changes in behavior or other signs and symptoms that could suggest our pet is suffering in some way. Common symptoms of an ear problem to look out for include:
- Persistent shaking of the head
- Scratching or rubbing her ears
- Actively avoiding having her ears touched
- Inflammation and redness of the ear flap/outer ear canal
- Excessive ear wax
- Crusty deposits on the ear flaps or just inside the ear canal
- Foul-smelling odor emanating from the ears
- Discharge from the ear canal
- Obvious pain
Ear mites are a parasite problem that will affect most pets at some point during their lifetime although they are more common in dogs than cats. They are virtually impossible to spot with the naked eye but live on the skin of your pet’s ear canal and feed off of her wax and oils in the skin.
Ear mite infestations cause intense itching, and your pet’s ears may look red and inflamed. Typically, they also cause a dry, black ear discharge. If you suspect that your pet might have ear mites, you will need to visit our vet for an accurate diagnosis and to start treatment, which usually involves a spot-on treatment and/or ear drops.
Caring for your pet’s ears by cleaning them on a regular basis is the most important thing you can do to keep both them and your furbaby healthy. However, cleaning this delicate part of her body must be undertaken with due care and attention.
Firstly, NEVER put cotton buds or anything else inside your pet’s ear canal. Just like with human ears, doing so can actually make any problems worse and push wax or debris further into the ear. Instead, when you clean your pet’s ears you should use cotton pads or a soft cloth or specialist veterinary ear wipes. You can also purchase pet ear cleaner from most pet stores or our veterinary office.
1. Lift up the ear flap and squeeze a few drops of cleaner into the ear canal. Do not allow your pet to shake her head and shake it out.
2. Gently massage the base of the ear canal for up to a minute. You will hear some squelching, wet noises as the cleaner sloshes around inside the ear canal.
3. Using your cloth or wipe, wipe away any wax or debris from the parts of the ear you can see. You may need to moisten the cloth with cleaner to be effective.
4. Once you are happy that the visible part of her ear is clean, allow her to shake out any excess cleaner fluid. Be warned – further ear wax and debris may fly out too!
5. Reward your furbaby and begin the other ear.
If you need further advice on the best way to care for your pet’s ears, contact us and arrange an appointment with our veterinarian.