ExcelVets Robina

237 Scottsdale Dr
Robina Qld 4226
Phone: 07 5562 5777
Fax: 07 5562 5522

Business Hours

8:00 - 5:30 Mon - Fri
8:30 - 11:30 Sat

After Hours Emergency

07 5559 1599


Ear Problems

Ear Problems

Does your pet scratch their ears?
Do they have a strange smelling odour?
Does your dog or cat shake their head regularly?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, your pet may have “Otitis Externa” or in other words, inflammation of their external ear canal.

What causes ear problems?

There are many causes of ear problems in dogs and cats. Some of these include:

  • bacterial infections
  • fungal infections (yeast)
  • ear mites
  • associated with allergic skin conditions
  • foreign material in the ear such as grass seeds, dirt or sand
  • excessive wax production
  • excess water in the ear canal

Is your pet 'predisposed' or more likely to develop ear trouble or otitis externa?

There are two main reasons that your pet may be predisposed to ear problems :

1. The design of dogs' and cats' ear canals - they have an “L-shaped” ear canal which allows debris, wax and moisture to accumulate within the ear.
Dogs and cats with long 'floppy' ears accumulate this build up of material, and as the inside of their ears do not receive good air circulation, the ear canals get very humid, which creates a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to grow i.e. Spaniels
Dogs with very hairy ear canals – the ears develop a high humidity as the hair blocks air circulation.
Dogs and cats with narrow ear canals i.e. Shar-peis and pugs.
Dogs and cats with lots of skin folds in their ears.


2. Do they have an underlying allergic skin problem?  
The skin inside the ear suffers from the same allergic reaction as the skin on other parts of the body, however the skin inside the ear is warmer and moister, making it even more likely to develop problems.
These allergic pets commonly lick and chew their feet, have eye trouble, and rub their faces constantly.
Sometimes, if the ear problems are associated with an allergy, the ears may only be red and inflamed, and have a small amount of discharge present.

What are the clinical signs?

  • Scratching one or both ears
  • Smelly ears
  • Shaking their head
  • A head tilt
  • A discharge from the ear
  • Painful ears when touched
  • Redness and inflammation of the ear flap and canal
  • Stumbling or circling to one side

Diagnosis : How can we work out the cause of the problem?

Most ear problems show similar signs, so to diagnose the cause of the problem, the ear canal and ear drum need to be examined thoroughly with an otoscope. This is essential as different causes require different treatments. For example, a grass seed or foreign body needs to be removed, whereas an ear mite, bacterial or fungal infection needs to be treated with very specific drops.

Examination of the ear drum is crucial, as a ruptured ear drum is very serious and may alter the medication chosen.

Sometimes a smear of the discharge is taken and examined in our in-house laboratory to check the cause of the problem. Other times, a sample is sent out to a pathology laboratory to 'grow' and identify the exact bacteria or yeast causing the problem.

Treatment and medication

  • Medication may be given in the form of drops, ear cleaning solutions and tablets – all specific to treat the identified cause
  • In some pets, where the ear is too painful to treat initially, or if an ear is full of pus, your pet may be required to undergo a general anaesthetic to flush and clean the ears properly
  • With repeated ear infections, sometimes the external ear canal cartilage collapses and distortion of the canal occurs – this may require surgery to open the external ear canal
  • If the ear is VERY itchy or painful, a short acting anti–inflammatory injection can be given which will provide immediate relief
  • Treat and support underlying allergies
  • If the auditory bulla (an area within the middle and inner ear) becomes infected then specialist surgery is required to correct this particular issue

How can I prevent ear problems?

  • Cut the hair around and inside the ear flap short, to allow better circulation of air.
  • Get your groomer to pluck the ears regularly (your pet may require an anti inflammatory tablet be given at this time if their ears become irritated from plucking)
  • Depending on how much and how often discharge builds up, use an ear cleaner once or twice weekly or if not much discharge, once a fortnight.
  • If your pet is a swimmer, flush the ears with an ear cleaner after each swim, or use aqua ear each time your pet swims.
  • Control allergies.

When should you see the vet?

A sore and painful ear can be quite distressing for your pet, and may make them extremely uncomfortable. If your pet is showing any signs of ear trouble, consult your vet as quickly as possible and have the problem diagnosed and treated - your pet will thank you for it!! This will not only ensure your pet does not suffer any unnecessary pain and discomfort, but it will also ensure that an easily alleviated and preventable problem does not turn into something more serious and permanent.
Permanent deafness is a common consequence of an ear infection.
Inner ear, auditory bulla infections and even brain disorders can originate from a neglected external ear canal infection or inflammation.