Ear Infections – Why do I Need to Come in for an exam?

Scratching. Rubbing. Smelly. Sounds like an ear infection, right? So why does my pet need an exam to get medications when I already know the problem?

This is a commonly asked question in the veterinary clinic. Here is a look at a few reasons why your veterinarian will not prescribe ear medications without an exam first:

1. Yeast, bacteria and bugs, oh my!

There are several different culprits that can be the cause of your pet’s discomfort. These include yeast (fungal infection), bacteria or ear mites. To find out what is happening inside your pet’s ear, a sample may be taken from the ear and examined under the microscope to determine what kind of infection we are treating. Without knowing what we are treating, we may end up treating the wrong thing which in the long run, can cause more harm than good.

2. Follow the beat of the (ear)drum!

There are several ear medications and cleaners that can be toxic to the inner ear. This is why it critical that the ear is examined by a veterinarian to determine if the eardrum is intact. The eardrum can only be visualized using a special piece of equipment called an otoscope that has a cone-like tip to be able to see down into the “L” shaped ear canal. If the eardrum is found to be ruptured, a different course of medication may need to be considered.

3. Complications

There are some complications that can come about when dealing with an ear infection. For example, with excessive scratching, an aural hematoma can develop. This is caused by the layers of cartilage in the pinna (outer ear) separating and filling with blood and serum, which is not only painful for your pet, but much more invasive to treat. Other complications can develop by “self-treating” your pet’s ear infections. For example, if you are using an antibacterial drop to treat a yeast infection – firstly, it will not work, secondly, by killing off the bacteria in the ear, you are giving the yeast more of a chance to thrive and flourish in the ear.

Do you think the signs above describe your pet? Make an appointment to see your veterinarian today.

Written by Jessica Sirovyak, RAHT