Love Dogs... Love Nature

Love your pet.. love your vet... Hillside's January health news

Ear disease - is your pet affected?


Do you notice your pets scratching at their ears?  Are there any signs of redness or discharge?  Unlike the condition in people where ‘earaches’ commonly involve the middle and inner ear, most ear problems in pets occur in the outer or external ear canals.

How your pet's ears work!

The ear is protected externally by a pinna (or flap).  Sound is collected by the pinna and then travels down the narrow external ear canal to the ear drum, where it passes onto the middle and inner ear.

In the healthy ear, the opening to the external ear canal is lined with smooth pink (or pigmented) skin, with no evidence of any redness or discharge.

Ear problems

As mentioned above, most ear problems seen in pets occur in the external ear canal ­ a condition called otitis externa (sometimes called canker).  Signs of otitis externa commonly include ear rubbing, head shaking and reddened irritated skin lining the external ear canal.  Additionally, there is often a discharge.


So what causes it?  Virtually all otitis externa is triggered by an underlying cause.  These can include: ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) ­ a tiny spider-like parasitic mite that infect the ears of dogs and cats causing irritation and a crusty brown discharge.  Foreign bodies such as the grass awns of the meadow grasses are a particular problem in the summer months and can easily get stuck right down by the ear drum.  Localised allergies affecting the skin lining the external ear canal are another common cause.  These are often part of a more generalised allergic skin condition also affecting other body areas.

In many instances of ear problems, scratching the affected area leads to opportunistic bacterial and fungal infections colonising the ear canal which can both obscure diagnosis of the underlying cause and complicate treatment of the otitis externa.

Early diagnosis and treatment are the key if you do suspect your pet of any of the above symptoms it’s wise to book them in to see your vet as soon as possible.


Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.  w:

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