An ear is simply skin on cartilage. So if your dog or cat has itchy skin, then it is more than likely it will have an itchy ears as well. Ear problems in dogs and cats usually present as head shaking, scratching or crying in pain when the ear is touched. Secondary infections with bacteria and yeast are common due to the semi-closed environment of the ear.
Dr Anne Fawcett - Allergies relating to Itchy Ears
What are some other common symptoms?
We call an inflamed ear “otitis”. Many patients present with brown wax or purulent discharge in the ear canal. The ear itself is often inflamed and bleeding. In some instances the ear will present with a bubble like appearance near the end where the skin has come away from the cartilage. We call these aural hematomas.
Ear disease is commonly characterised by:
- Head shaking
- Persistent scratching
- Inflammation of the skin and pain when touched
However sometimes head shaking and ear scratching aren’t very obvious. If you think your pet may have an infection look for the four signs of inflammation:
- Heat - if the ear is hot to touch
- Pain - be careful when handling your pet’s ears as they could be very sensitive
It is important to seek veterinary attention early if your pet show signs of ear disease. The progression to secondary infections can occur quickly.
What causes itchy ear disease?
Itchy ears can occur for a number of reasons:
- Allergens - can enter the body through ingestion, absorption or inhalation. They cause the ear to produce excess wax or pussy secretions
- Ear mites - are microscopic parasites that live and breed inside the ear canal
Other sources are usually secondary bacterial or fungal infections. The enclosed, damp environment of the ear makes it a good location for microbial growth - especially yeast.
Excess wax or abrasions to the skin from scratching often lead to secondary infections and if left untreated itchy ears can become a chronic disease.
What is our treatment process?
During examination our vets will determine whether the problem is just with the ear itself, or part of a broader skin problem. We will examine the ear canals to assess the vertical canal, the horizontal canal and the ear drum. If there is any discharge we will perform cytology to check for secondary infections.
We will then formulate a treatment plan best suited to your pet. This may include topical and/or oral medications as well as regular ear cleaners for you to use at home.
If left untreated, ear problems can become chronic and difficult to control. Speak to one of our veterinary staff for further information or to arrange a consultation for your pet.