Ear infections are common and can cause severe pain and discomfort to your animal. Recognizing the symptoms early on and halting the progression of ear dis-ease is very important to help prevent serious long term problems.
Dogs and cats have an external ear comprised of relatively long ear canals which are made up of the outer vertical ear canal running downward to meet the horizontal ear canal which runs almost at right angles to the vertical ear canal. The external ear is separated from the middle ear by a fine membranous sheath known as the ear drum which connects to the delicate ear bones that are responsible for an animal's hearing.
Most commonly we see infections of the outer ear which may be identified by observing any of the following signs in animals; head shaking, tilting of their heads to one side, scratching at their ears, slight hearing loss or in severe cases animals can be lethargic and uninterested in eating. On closer inspection the ear might be red and inflamed, and contain discharge which could be yellow pus, wax or black material and might have a putrid smell.
By visualizing the ear canal and ideally the ear drum with an ophthalmoscope, we can identify ear mites, foreign bodies such as grass seeds in the ear, protuberant growths, inflammation, infections or problems of the ear drum. Samples of ear content may be analyzed to confirm various bacterial infections.
There are a number of ear medications, both conventional and more natural, which have anti-bacterial properties and will easily drown ear mites. These are important to help get on top of the problem but from a Holistic point of view we look further than the bug and attempt to uncover why the body is out of balance and why the ear canal is a hospitable environment for infection which it shouldn't be in a healthy animal.
Various genetic factors will predispose certain breeds to problems; Labradors with hairs in their ear canals and spaniels who have long ears encourage a moist environment for bugs to prosper. In animals with long term ear problems, they might have thickened ear canals which cause narrowing of the ear canal space and subsequently are more likely to develop recurrent infections.
These animals need to have their ears regularly cleaned with a good ear cleaner (a simple solution is a 1% dilution of Hydrogen peroxide, but ensure that your animal's ear drum is intact with a visit to your vet). By instilling a generous amount into the ear and massaging the ear canal to ideally hear the "squish" noise that the liquid makes, debris will be loosened and most animals really enjoy the rub as it relieves their irritation immensely. Because of the great length of the ear canals, just wiping the visible outer ear simply doesn't do enough to keep ears clean.
In the greater scheme of things, the ears are simply an extension of the skin and as with skin problems, ear infections are generally easily prevented by keeping animals healthy with a natural raw food diet, that is free of chemicals and preservatives and provides optimal amounts of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids, as well as basic management with the regular use of an ear cleaner in animals predisposed to problems.