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Like all parts of a cat or dog’s body, ears normally contain some bacteria and yeast cells. Infection or inflammation, known as otitis, can develop when the bacteria or yeast organisms grow too much. Otitis can also occur when pathogenic, or disease-causing, organisms invade the ear. Otitis commonly occurs in the outer ear because it is prone to exposure to bacteria and yeast, foreign bodies, mites and lake water.
Left untreated, an outer ear infection can travel from the outer ear to the inner ear. Your pet’s eardrum may look intact even while bacteria move freely through it into the inner ear.
The Merck Veterinary Manual names pet allergies as a primary cause of otitis in pets. Other causes include foreign bodies, parasites, fungi and viruses.
Dogs typically develop yeast and bacterial infections. Common yeast infections include Malassezia and common bacterial infections include Staphylococci (Staph) and Pseudomonas.
Pseudomonas is particularly common in dogs that swim, while Malassezia is more common in those with too much earwax. Pups with hypothyroidism are at higher risk for developing Staph ear infections. Other pathogens, such as Corynebacteria, Enterococci, E. Coli, Streptococci, and Proteus, can cause ear infections but they are not as common.
Cats commonly develop Malassezia yeast infections but rarely develop bacterial infections.
The first sign that your dog or cat has an ear infection may be a yeasty smell coming from your pet’s ear. The affected ear may appear red and swollen. You may notice waxy buildup inside the ear.
Your pet may scratch at his ears and shake his head more than usual. He might even scratch at his ears then smell his paw or lick it afterwards.
Over time, as the infection settles into your pet’s inner ear, your dog or cat may become deaf. Infection in the inner ear may damage important nerves, which can cause your pet to become dizzy, walk in a circle or suffer nystagmus, characterized by unusual eye movements.
Our Las Vegas veterinarians use an otoscope to look deep inside your pet’s ear canal. Skin that is deep red in color can indicate an infection. Our veterinarian looks for discharge inside the ear and sometimes removes a small bit of this discharge to send to the lab, where technicians can identify the bacteria and yeast creating the infection.
If our veterinarian determines that your pet has an ear infection, we will immediately prescribe medication to relieve pain and fight infection as we await the lab results. We will then let you know if your pet should continue on the same medication or switch to a different prescription.
In cases of allergy-related ear infections, it is essential to treat the cause of the symptoms in addition to treating the symptoms. This means diagnosing your pet’s allergy. Regular cleaning of the ear with an appropriate ear cleaner and removal of the allergen from the pet’s diet and environment can help treat ear infections caused by allergies and prevent future outbreaks.
If you notice signs of ear infection in your pet, make an appointment with our animal hospital by calling 702-675-8366 for a thorough examination of your pet’s ear canal.
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Dr. Drake and CarolAnn are amazing! They have been caring for my dogs for over 10 years now and I have never had one complaint. They are always so happy to see my dogs and provide them with the most compassionate care. I recommend them to any seeking an honest, caring, loving, empathizing and helpful veterinarian!