The Itchy Ear

Ears get itchy for different reasons. Ear mites, ear infections, insect bites and allergies are some of the more common causes of itchy ears in dogs and cats.

Owners often complain that they have treated their pet many times for ear mites but they keep coming coming back. Most likely it is not ear mites causing the itchiness and debris. Ear infections are itchy just like ear mites. And the debris in infected ears can look a lot like the debris with ear mite infestations.

The secret to conquering the ear infection is first figuring out what is causing it and then treating with the correct medication. We find the cause by making a smear of the ear debris and looking at it under the microscope.

Here are pictures of different ear smears. If you double-click on the picture, the image gets larger and easier to see.

Ear #1

Ear #2

Ear #3

The causes pictured above are yeast, bacteria and mite eggs. Can you guess which one is which? Bacteria are little and round, yeast look like peanuts and mite eggs look like clear footballs.

After we figure out the cause and pick the right medication, it is very important that the ear is rechecked before treatment is stopped. In many cases, the outside of the ear looks good but the infection is still in the deep part of the canal. That can be why people feel that they never can get rid of an ear infection, it just goes deeper and then comes back in a few months. Most ear infections need treatment for more than 2 weeks.

After the infection is treated and cured, the last step is to start a maintenance program that keeps the ear clean and infection free. This varies dog by dog. Many dogs require weekly ear cleaning. But in some dogs, cleaning seems to make things worse. And sometimes you have to try a few things to figure out what works for your pet. Good communication with your veterinarian, follow-up every 2 weeks until the infection is completely gone and sticking with a maintenance program are the steps to successful resolution of your pet’s ear infection.

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