Itchy Ears

If your dog or cat is scratching his/her ears it is important to make an appointment with your veterinarian so that he or she can make a correct diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment.

What your veterinarian will do:

  • Perform a full physical exam to ensure that there are no other problems that need to be addressed, or any underlying conditions that may be causing him/her to scratch his ears, like fleas.
  • Examine the ears with and without an otoscope to look down in the canal. The vet will look for signs of inflammation, discharge, foreign bodies (such as grass awns), masses/tumors, anatomical abnormalities, integrity of the ear drum, parasites and any other signs of disease. Based on exam findings he may recommend performing an ear smear. This is when the doctor swabs the inside of the ear canal, applies the sample to a slide, stains it and examines the material under the microscope.

Puppies, dogs and cats with itchy ears more commonly have primary or secondary (caused by an underlying disease) ear infections with yeast, bacteria or both.

Most Common Findings:

  • Yeast infection: At low numbers, Malesseziaspp. (yeast) is a common part of the normal flora of dogs and cats. However, when given the chance this yeast can proliferate and cause an infection.
  • Bacterial infection: Many different types of bacteria are also part of the normal flora of our pets, but overgrowth can occur, and infections are the outcome.

Some animals are more prone to ear infections than others. This may be due to anatomy (i.e. floppy ears), lifestyle (swimming/bathing), underlying conditions (allergies: food or environmental, endocrine disorders), compromised immune system (stress, pregnancy, concurrent illness) among other potential contributing factors.

If your pet has multiple ear infections, your vet may recommend a culture and sensitivity which will identify the bacteria and which antibiotics would be effective. In addition, allergy testing may be recommended as it is one of the most common contributing factors.

Kittens and stray cats with itchy ears more commonly have ear mites. Ear mites are small insects that live in the ear canal, which can sometimes be seen with the naked eye but are more readily diagnosed with an ear smear.

Keeping your cat on Revolution every month, year-round, will prevent ear mites in addition to fleas, heartworms, and most common intestinal parasites.

Do not apply medication to your pet’s ears before seeing a veterinarian; not only because medication may be ineffective, but can actually be harmful such as in the case of a ruptured ear drum.

If your pet is scratching his/her ears schedule a visit with your veterinarian today!