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Does My Pet Have an Ear Infection?

A veterinarian closely examines inside a dog's ear.A veterinarian closely examines inside a dog's ear.
A veterinarian closely examines inside a dog's ear.A veterinarian closely examines inside a dog's ear.

Ear infections in pets can be difficult to pick up on in the early stages. Symptoms that can be seen with ear infections can include: scratching at the ears, shaking of the head, discharge from the ear canal, and redness/swelling in the ear. If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, your next step should be visiting your veterinarian.

Diagnosis of an Ear Infection

A veterinarian commonly diagnoses an ear infection through a physical exam and an otoscopic exam. An otoscopic exam is done with an ear cone and a light source to look down into the ear and uncover any masses/growths or foreign material and evaluate the eardrum. A sample of the discharge will be taken to look for bacteria or yeast under a microscope, which helps to guide treatment.

Treatment of an Ear Infection

Treatment for an ear infection includes topical medication that addresses bacteria or yeast that are seen from the discharge. Depending on the level of discomfort your pet is having, pain medication or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. In addition to medication, a cone collar is often needed to prevent further traumatization of the ear and ear canal until medication begins to work.

How to Prevent Infection at Home

What can you do at home? Early identification of an ear infection is necessary to prevent pain and infection from getting worse. If your pet is prone to ear infections, your veterinarian may prescribe ear cleaner and recommend a cleaning routine at home to minimize ear infections, which can also be used early on in treatment of an ear infection. We do not recommend putting any medication in your pets ears unless it is prescribed by your veterinarian. Over the counter medication can cause irritation, chemical burns, eardrum injury, or bacterial resistance that can make treatment harder and more painful for your pet.

To learn more about the factors that lead to ear infections and potential treatment measures, read our guide on Understanding and Preventing Chronic Pet Ear Infections.

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