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Ear Problems for Pets

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Ear Canal "No, No's"

Q Tips are abrasive and pose the danger of being pushed too far and damaging the eardrum. They also push discharge further back into the canal.
Alcohol is irritating to the ear canal lining and will cause severe pain if there are any open lesions. However, some ear cleansers may contain very low concentrations of alcohol. Vinegar is acidic and can also be irritating.
Gauze wrapped around your finger or other similarly rough materials used for exuberant cleaning can damage and further irritate the delicate ear canal lining. 
Expired medications may contain chemicals that have degraded to worthless or that have broken down into another type of chemical that could be dangerous to your pet.
Other pets' medicines should not be used for your pet. There are many different kinds of ear problems and therefore many kinds of treatments.  What is good for one ear problem may be dangerous for another. For example, some drugs appropriate for some ear problems can cause deafness if put into an ear with a ruptured eardrum.

Symptoms of Ear Problems for Pets

Symptoms of ear disease are shaking the head, scratching at the ears, discharge from the ear canal, odor from the ear, or redness of the ear flap or entrance to the ear canal. Your pet may be tilting their head to one side although it's important to point out that there are causes for this other than ear disease. The color and consistency of discharge may vary from yellow liquid to black wax, but the color does not indicate one particular cause.

Causes of Ear Problems for Pets

The causes of ear disorders are due to infection, allergy, foreign bodies, or tumors. Your veterinarian will examine the ear canal with an otoscope which allows the long canal to be inspected along its entire length. The exam will also help your veterinarian determine if the eardrum is intact. This may require sedation or anesthesia if the ear is very painful or if the pet is not cooperative. A sample of the discharge will be examined under a microscope for any organisms. This information will help your veterinarian in developing an appropriate treatment plan.

Infections of the ear can be due to yeast, bacteria, or ear mites. Yeast infections are by far the most common, accounting for an estimated 75% of cases in dogs.  Bacterial infections cause about 20% of ear infections, and ear mites cause about 5% (or less) of cases in dogs. Bacteria resistant to antibiotics are an increasing cause of ear infections. This is diagnosed with a culture and sensitivity by a laboratory. Some bacterial infections can even perforate the eardrum.

Allergies are a very common cause of ear problems, in fact, many of the yeast infections are secondary to an underlying allergy. If there are recurring ear symptoms, allergy is almost certainly the cause. Environmental allergens such as pollen, molds, and house dust mites are frequent causes of allergy. Food allergy is also a common cause of ear problems. A pet is not allergic to a brand of food, but is allergic to one or more food ingredients. A food trial is the only method to determine if a food allergy is an etiology. There is no reliable blood or intradermal skin test for food allergy. Consequently, flea allergy is generally not a cause of ear abnormalities.

Occasionally a foreign body will make its way into the ear canal and cause irritation or even perforate the eardrum. Pieces of plants, especially seedpods called foxtails, are a common foreign body that can cause ear problems. Anesthesia may be needed to remove the object. Tumors, which are even more rare, may develop in the ear canal and cause a blockage. Surgery may be needed to remove the mass and pathology should be performed to determine if it is benign or malignant.

Treatment for Your Pet

Treatment of ear problems will depend on the cause of the disease, for example, a bacterial infection is treated differently than a yeast infection. A foreign body needs removal while ear mites need a parasite treatment. In general, treatment often involves oral medicine, topical medicine, and ear cleansers. It is also important to know whether the eardrum is intact, as many topical medications can't be used if there is a ruptured eardrum. In more advanced cases surgery may be the preferred method of treatment.

Ear problems are a malady your veterinarian sees on a regular basis. Most are healed with routine treatment but some cases can be more challenging. It is important to have a thorough exam, appropriate treatment and a follow-up plan to check on progress and ensure complete recovery. Many "repeat" infections are cases that never truly healed completely. Your veterinarian is your pet's best friend when it comes to ear problems so don't hesitate to call with your questions or make an appointment if you are concerned that your pet may be experiencing ear problems.

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Testimonials

  •           8/29/2017

    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

    Unfortunately, this year I’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. The compassion the staff showed to both my pet and I made these unbearable times tolerable. I am indebted to both Dr. Del Rosso and (the wonderful) Dr. Ravn for their kindness, compassion and dedication.

    If you are new to the area or just looking for a new vet, please give Balboa pet Hospital a call!

  •           6/5/2017

    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

  •           6/5/2017

    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

  •           4/28/2017

    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

  •           5 of 5

    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

  •           5 of 5

    I have been a patron of Balboa Pet Hospital for almost 500 years now (wink). I love Everybody there and feel they are have always been a great resource and the BEST support system for everything pertaining to my pets.

  •          

    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.
     

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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