Pet Ear Infections

Otitis Externa is a Common Pet Ailment

Otitis externa, or ear infection, refers to an inflammation of the ear canal, and can be caused by by a foreign body in the ear canal, parasites, yeast or a bacterial infection. It’s also one of the top claims submitted by Nationwide pet insurance policyholders year after year.

In 2016, Nationwide pet insurance policyholders submitted more than $8.7 million in claims for canine otitis externa, making it the highest claim submitted for dog owners. Although it is not as prevalent in cats as it is in dogs, ear infections landed at No. 2 on the top 10 claims submitted by policyholders.

Signs of an Ear Infection

Symptoms of otitis externa include:

  • Shaking of the pet’s head
  • Pawing at the ears
  • Reddened or thick and scaly skin around the ear
  • Abnormal discharge or odor from the ear
  • Aversion to being petted or touched on or around the head

Pet owners who suspect their four-legged friend has an ear infection should schedule an appointment for a thorough physical examination with their veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will determine the cuase of your pet's otitis externa and prescribe the proper course of treatment for your pet.

A vet examines a cat's ear

Diagnosing an Ear Infection

Veterinary examinations usually involve viewing the ear canal with an otoscope, a medical device used to look into the ears that provides both light and magnification, to make sure the ear drum is intact, and to see if any foreign objects are present. Usually a swab sample of the material within the ear is also taken and examined under a microscope to determine the cause of the infection.

Treating an Ear Infection

Treatment for otitis externa depends on the severity and cause of the problem; most pet ear infections can be cleared up with a professional cleaning by a veterinarian and ear medication. Medication for ear infections comes in many forms: drops, ointment, antibiotics for bacterial infections, or even steroids. Regardless of what your veterinarian prescribes, it is important to discuss treatment details and to ask questions.