Ear infections are always a serious condition. The causes vary and treatment is very specific based on external appearance and microscopic discoveries.
Unlike humans who often have middle or inner ear infections, almost all ear infections in dogs and cats are outer ear canal events. The dog / cat ear canal is radically different from a human’s. The opening starts at the inside flap of the ear and curves and wrinkles create a twisty canal with lots of grooves to hide wax, hair and debris. Human ear canals are straight across and the ear drum can be seen by looking directly into the opening of the ear.
Diagnosis of an ear infection includes the patient’s recent history of activity exposure and a cursory look down in the canal using a special scope to see the lining of the ear canal as well as to see the ear drum. Often the debris, material, and/or wax found in the ear will reveal the cause of any infection.
A sample of the wax is rolled onto a glass slide, stained and examined microscopically. The most common causes of ear disease are ear mites, bacteria, and yeast. Often a combination of these elements can occur together.
It is very important to identify the cause of every ear problem in order to select the proper treatment. Once cured, routine ear care must then be instituted to return the ear canal back to a normal condition. Diligent ear care is part of good pet health.
Submitted by Dr. Melissa Burton