The Red, Smelly, Goopy, Inflamed Ear
Your pet’s ears are the canary in the gold mine of health. When the skin is healthy, the internal organs are working well, the immune system is balanced, the diet is good, external parasites are absent, ears will be a beautiful pale pink with just a hint of yellowish brown to dark brown waxy debris. There will be no appreciable odour and your pet will only occasionally scratch near his or her ears.
If your dog or cat’s ears are red, smelly, full of goopy, sloshing sounding debris or perhaps are chock full of thick black debris, have ulcers on the edges , have swollen ear flaps, lumps or bumps and your poor pet scratches, rubs or cries constantly, you have the symptom of a disease. For example, thick black debris in a four week old barn kitten is often a case of ear mites but it could also be a serious bacterial infection. Ulcers on the edges of ears may signify self trauma from scratching due to sarcoptic mange mites, or they may be symptoms of immunologic or vascular disease. If your dog has one ear that is often itchy and infected, food allergies may be involved. If the outer ear flap has a large bulging blood filled swelling, your pet has what we call an aural hematoma which is secondary to any inflammation of the external ear canals and associated head shaking and scratching. Many dogs that swim regularly in Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford lakes get a type of bacterial infection related directly to repeatedly creating a damp environment inside the ear coupled with exposure to water borne bacteria.
Veterinary care is very important to determine the underlying problem and to direct you to the appropriate treatment. At Full Circle Vets, we will direct you to the necessary diagnostic tests which may include cytology; taking a swab of the debris in the ear and examining it under the microscope, and culture; attempting to grow organisms on a culture plate to identify the offending bacteria. A culture is usually done with a sensitivity test as well to determine what antibiotics are appropriate to treat the ear. If food allergy is suspected, you may be asked to do a food elimination trial either with home preparing or specific veterinary hypoallergenic foods. If autoimmune disease or hypothyroidism are suspected an array of blood tests may be needed. Some lumps and bumps are of no consequence and some may need to be surgically removed and submitted for analysis in case treatment for cancer is required.
Once the diagnostics are finished or underway, treatment choices can be made and your friend’s path to relief can begin. Full Circle Vets ‘ final ear care blog will focus on topical treatments for ear cleaning (remember leave the inside of the ears alone unless there is a good reason to do otherwise) and treating common ear problems.
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