Ear Care For Pets: Things to Note
How many of you have had to bring your pet to the vet for ear conditions? I’m sure we have all been there at least once! Today we will be talking about the most common ear problem for pets in Singapore: otitis externa.
Wait, What does otitis externa even mean?
Otitis means that there is an infection (or inflammation) in the ear canal. Externa just tells you which part of the ear canal it is.
A dog’s ear canal is different from a human being, while ours are straight, dog and cat ear canals are actually right angled, with a vertical (external canal) and a horizontal part (medial canal). It is possible to get otitis media in severe infections, but today we will be focusing on the more common of the infections.
Now we know what it means. So what causes it? The key is in the name: otitis. It is an inflammation or infection of the ear canal.
What causes infection?
There are two main culprits: bacteria, and yeast.
In a normal ear, it is natural to have a colony of bacteria and yeast growing in the ear. They are considered good bacteria and help to keep the bad bacteria at bay, by taking up all of the resources (space, food, oxygen) that the bad bacteria needs to grow.
However, when the conditions are not right, and the environment of the ear canal begins to change, it allows overgrowth of the bacteria and yeast, causing all of that yucky brown stuff to discharge into the ear canal.
How do you tell that there is otitis externa?
Common symptoms of the disease include ear shaking or rubbing or scratching. This causes pain when its ears are touched, accumulating large amounts of ear wax (or cerumen).
How to treat Otitis Externa?
A mild to normal case of otitis externa can be treated with a simple ear cleaning and ear drops, available in both vets’ offices and in commercial pet shops. Be careful of the ones you’re buying: some are meant for medical treatment, and others are meant for regular cleanings only!
What happens at the Vet’s office
If it’s a serious case, you’ll have to bring your pet to the vet’s office. The vet will first use an ear swab with a sterile cotton bud, they will swab the ears (one bud for each ear), then smear it onto a glass slide. This slide is then observed with different stains such as the Gram stain or the Diffquick stain under the microscope to identify yeast or bacteria.
What ear care methods can we use to prevent such condition from arising?
The first thing you need to do is keep your pet’s ears dry. A moist environment ear promotes microbial growth.
Another thing you can do is make sure that your pet’s immune system is strong. Some ear and skin conditions can be a result of compromising the immune system, allowing the microbes to overgrow. As a result, the body cannot keep them at bay.
Lastly, regular ear cleaning is key! Make sure that you manually clean your pet’s ears every 2 – 3 weeks, to prevent any wax from building up and causing a good environment for microbes to populate.