The weather has warmed up considerably and with warmer weather comes additional health considerations for pets. Two related warm-weather concerns are allergies and ear infections, which are related. Since The COVE is committed to keeping your pet healthy and comfortable no matter the weather, we’ll outline what you need to know about allergies and ear infections.
Allergies & Ear Infections 101
Although several things can cause ear infections, allergies, and ear infections often go hand in hand. If allergies are unmanaged, ear infections are more likely to become a chronic problem, causing progressive ear pain for your pet.
The most common causes of allergies in pets are environmental – either inhaled or by contact – flea allergies, and food allergies. Environmental allergies tend to begin seasonally and are often triggered by pollen, molds, weeds, grasses, dust, or trees. Although they may be more pronounced in the warmer months, if left untreated, environmental allergies can eventually progress to year-round discomfort for your pet.
Food allergies are a response to a protein in your pet’s food. Signs often include gastrointestinal issues alongside itchiness, but it can be hard to determine the exact cause. Your primary care veterinarian should be able to help you pinpoint the problem.
Flea allergies are caused by flea saliva. Even one flea bite can cause an intense allergic reaction in pets with flea allergy dermatitis.
So where do ear infections come in? Infections of the outer ear (otitis externa) occur secondary to allergies in pets because, unlike in humans, pet allergies manifest as itchiness, redness, and skin infections on pets’ faces, ears, feet, and bodies. In addition, some allergies only manifest as ear infections.
Signs of Allergies and Ear Infections
Signs of allergies include:
- Intense itchiness in one area of the body or generalized all over the body
- Rubbing face or body against furniture or the carpet
- Red or bald patches
- Hair loss
- Constant licking, which is another way pets “scratch”
Your dog may have an ear infection if you notice the following signs:
- Red or inflamed ears
- A foul or yeasty odor from the ears
- An excess of ear wax or discharge
- Excessive head shaking
- Rubbing ears on the carpet, furniture, or you
- Pain/ avoidance when ears are scratched or rubbed
Certain breeds are more prone to ear infections. For example, floppy-eared dogs tend to be more affected by moisture trapped in the ear, which may lead to more frequent ear infections. And, pet owners of floppy-eared dogs are less likely to see the beginning stages of ear infections, allowing disease to take hold more easily.
Breeds that are known to be susceptible to ear infections include:
- Basset Hound
- Labrador Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Border Collie
Preventing Ear Infections
If your dog’s ear infections are due to allergies, the best way to prevent them is to eliminate the allergen. In some instances, your veterinarian may recommend a food trial followed by a change in diet. If allergies are environmental, your veterinarian may recommend frequent baths with a pet-specific medicated shampoo, more frequent cleaning of pet bedding and carpets, allergy medications, and year-round flea control.
Reducing moisture in the ear is a crucial way to prevent ear infections. Be sure to dry your dog’s ears carefully after bathing or swimming.
Regular ear cleaning can also prevent ear infections by removing environmental allergens, excess wax, bacteria, and yeast. Use a pet-specific ear cleanser as recommended by your veterinarian; fill your pet’s ear canal with the liquid, massaging it gently down into the ears from the outside. Allow your pet to shake some of it out, and then gently clean and dry the inside of the ears with absorbent gauze. Cotton balls and swabs should not be used as they can damage the delicate ear drum and leave behind residue that can exacerbate the problem.
When to Seek Veterinary Care
No one likes to see their pet suffering, so if you are worried about allergies or an ear infection, seek veterinary treatment. Your veterinarian will perform a complete ear exam and diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the ear infection and then prescribe a treatment plan. It is vital to finish all medications prescribed, as symptoms may resolve in some pets before the infection is completely gone. In addition, an antibiotic treatment that is started and stopped early may cause bacteria to become resistant, resulting in more infections that are more difficult to treat. It is also important to work with your veterinarian as to the actual cause of the infection, rather than just treating the symptoms.
In some cases, chronic ear infections of the outer ear can progress to the middle or inner ear infection. In these cases, a referral to either a board-certified veterinary dermatologist or our board-certified surgeon may be indicated. In addition, chronic ear infections may need surgical management if they affect the inner ear or the eardrum and threaten hearing loss.
The COVE Can Help
The emergency service at The COVE is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your primary veterinarian is not available and you feel that your dog’s discomfort or pain is truly debilitating, please don’t hesitate to call us.