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The Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

By Robyn Johnson. September 08, 2012 | See Comments

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The Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

The symptoms of ear infections in dogs and cats are both physical and behavioral. Learn how to recognize common ear ailments here.

Symptoms of ear infections include hearing loss, inflammation, redness, irritation, discharge, and odor. Scabs may be visible near the earflap as well as hair loss, which can be symptomatic of excessive scratching due to ear infection. Behavioral symptoms of ear infections can be indicators that your dog or cat needs veterinarian attention. Some behavioral symptoms are darting eye movement, pushing affected ear on the furniture or floor, walking in circles, and shaking head, as if trying to get water out of ears.

Physical Symptoms of Ear Infections

If you suspect your dog or cat has an ear infection, there are certainly physical signs you can look for to determine the problem. Hearing loss can be an unfortunate result of ear infections. It can be caused by damage to the eardrum itself, or simply by blockage of the ear canal, due to debris build-up or inflammation. Try snapping your fingers next to the pet’s ear to see if there is significant hearing loss. If the loss is minor, it may not be able to be detected by anyone other than a veterinarian.

It is very common for ear infections to be noticed based on inflammation and redness around the ear canal or on the earflaps. Because an animal’s body is designed to respond to infection with inflammation, redness, and irritation, these become visible indicators of ear infections. The immune system sends repair cells to the infected area. They crowd around to fight and flush the infection, causing the area to increase in size (swell,) and more red cells create a redness of the skin.

Infection often produces a milky discharge, which can be very smelly. Bacteria tend to have an odor, and it can get stronger the worse the infection becomes. If the infection is yeast related, the odor can be very sweet smelling, but is strong and obviously not normal. The discharge is a collection of white blood cells that formed to isolate the infection from the healthy skin.

Behavioral Symptoms of Ear Infections

Behavioral symptoms of ear infections may be more noticeable than the physical symptoms, and are usually what first indicates a problem. Nystagmus is unusual darting eye movement, and can be caused by Otitis Interna infections, that affect the balance and coordination of the animal. Some cats and dogs drag the afflicted ear across the furniture or floor, or walk in circles shaking their head. It may seem like the animal is trying to get something out of the ear, as a human might try to remove water.

The sooner you can catch an ear infection, the lower your pet's risk of damage will be. Knowing the symptoms, both physical and behavioral, is the first step in recognizing an ear infection and keeping your pet happy and healthy.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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