Otitis is a common inflammation of the outer ear in dogs and cats.

The ear is composed of three different parts, the inner ear, the middle ear and the outer (or external) ear.

The external ear is composed of:

  • The pinna: the skin and cartilage
  • The ear canal: a long tube
  • The eardrum : a thin membrane that closes the ear canal

When a pet has an otitis, these three parts of the outer ear are infected. Otitis can affect only one ear or both of them.

Signs of otitis in dogs and cats 

Otitis is painful for pets. If your pet doesn't let you touch their ears, if they're crying or trying to bite you when you are touching them, it means that they're in pain. When the pain is stronger, your animal might look tired, prostrated and refuse to eat. But every pet manages pain differently and you might not realize that they're hurt.

If you notice that our pet bends their head to the side, it is also a sign that they might have otitis.

Most of the time, otitis leads to scratching. If you notice that your pet scratches their ear or rubs it against pieces of furniture in an unusual way, this may be a sign of otitis. Also, their ear or ears might look red and smell bad.

In addition, the earwax that normally covers the ear canal might be different : it can leak out the pinna, be abnormally thick and blackish or yellowish. It will also smell bad.

If you spot one or several of those signs, you must consult a veterinarian.

Causes of otitis 

Otitis can be caused by different reasons:

  • Parasites: some parasites such as acarids that develop inside the ear canal cause otitis
  • Bacteria: an abnormal infection of bacteria can lead to a purulent otitis
  • A foreign body can get stuck inside the ear canal. It's very common that a spikelet gets inside the ear of an animal, provoking infection.
  • Local irritation due to water, draught or shampoo can cause otitis. Always use a cotton ball to cover your dog's ears when you give them a bath, and never use a cotton bud (Q tip) to clean your pet's ear.
  • Allergies can also cause otitis. In this case, the otitis won't be the only outward sign of the allergy.

Some dogs are predisposed to have otitis, because they have hairs inside the ear canal. Those hairs make difficult the aeration of the ear canal, thus otitis are more likely to appear.

Treatment of otitis will depend of the cause. For this reason, you must consult a veterinarian. They will make sure nothing is stuck inside the ear canal and that the eardrum is not pierced.

Photo credit : Yummypets

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