Ear health in dogs & cats: How to care for YOUR pet's ears!

Ear problems are very common in both dogs and cats. It is very important for pet owners to be able to detect, prevent and treat ear infections and inflammation which can often worry dogs and cats.

The Feelgood Pets team talks about how to care for your pet’s ears and what to do if there is a problem.

1. Understand your pet’s ears

Dogs and cats have L-shaped ear canals and this design predisposes them to wax, moisture, bacteria, dirt and mites which get trapped in the ears, causing infections. Because of the shape and size of your pet’s ears, the ear canal doesn’t always drain or dry properly

While both dogs and cats are prone to ear problems, certain dog breeds do tend to develop ear infections and inflammation more frequently. 
Floppy-eared dogs such as Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Basset Hounds and Poodles are susceptible to ear problems. Dogs with hair in their inner canals like Schnauzers are also more vulnerable to ear infections.

Dogs and cats with allergies to pollen, dust, food or fleas are more susceptible to  ear infections. Yeast is also a common cause of ear infections in dogs, frequently resulting in secondary bacterial infections.

Dogs that are bathed or swim regularly are usually prone to ear problems. Humidity and moisture which results from bathing and swimming is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive in, causing ear problems.

Mites and a weakened immune system can cause ear infections in cats, who can also develop ear problems when infected by the feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia.  
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2. How will I know if my pet has an ear problem?

There are certain warning signs that will help you to detect if your pet has an ear problem.
• Excessive scratching and pawing at the ears.
• Rubbing ears against objects
• Shaking and tilting of the head
• Unpleasant smell from the ears
• Redness and even bleeding
• Crusty skin
• Swelling
• Yellow, dark brown, green or black discharge
• Hair loss
• Stumbling, clumsiness or unable to maintain balance
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What to do if your pet has an ear problem?

1. Regular maintenance and care

Routine ear cleaning is very important for pets if you want to prevent ear problems. Use a cotton ball or swab with a natural cleaning solution, such as Natura Pet Ear Cleanser to clean the inside of your pet’s ear.

You can also use a solution of one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water. Saturate the cotton ball with cleaning solution to swab the inside of the ear until all wax or dirt is removed.

Ear wax is normal and healthy and designed to protect the ear. However, excessive wax can cause problems. You can use a few drops of Feelgood Pets' Ear Dr in your pet’s ear, rub the ears to spread the oil and then clean the ears with a cotton swab after about 5 - 10 minutes.

Be gentle when cleaning your pooch or kitty’s ear because the inner ear is delicate. If you don’t know how to clean your pet’s ears, ask your vet for a quick lesson. Depending on how much build up is in the ears, you may need to clean them daily, weekly or monthly.
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2. Avoid using sharp objects to clean the ears

Never use ear buds or sharp objects to clean your pet’s ear canal as it you will only cause further damage.
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3. Remove excess hair in the outer canal

Pets with hair in their ears will often become tangled and matted – get your groomer to pluck hair from ears with a tweezer.
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4. Dry ears thoroughly

Dry your pet’s ears thoroughly with a soft towel after bathing and swimming to prevent infection and irritation. A good tip when bathing your dog is place a bit of cotton ball in his ears to prevent moisture from entering. 
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5. Control allergies and itching

If you suspect that your pet has allergies to pollen or dust, use a natural antihistamine such as AllergiClear Pets from the Feelgood Pets range – this herbal remedy reduces and prevents the symptoms of allergic dermatitis, flea bite dermatitis or inhaled allergens such as grass or pollen. Use AllergiClear Pets together with Allergy Itch Ease which is a 100% homeopathic remedy and helps to reduce itching and scratching in pets. 

For pets with food allergies, change to a natural diet which is free of preservatives. Try DoggoBone Raw Active Food and Vondi’s Cooked Foods which contain a combination of meat, grains, veggies and herbs. These foods are available from Feelgood Health, Unit 6, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake Business Park, Cape Town – 021 797 0193.  
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6. Treat ear infections naturally

Pets with recurring ear problems will usually be prescribed antibiotics and other medications from the vet. However, these medications in most cases only provide temporary relief and are not a long-term fix. When treating ear problems naturally in pets, you have to look at the animal’s diet, lifestyle and underlying cause if you want long-term success.    

Treat outer ear infections by applying a warm compress and holding it gently against the ear. The warm compress will soothe the redness, inflammation, pain and irritation of the ear.

For inner ear infections and ear mites, use Ear Dr which contains natural ingredients in an olive oil base. This remedy helps to treat and prevent acute and chronic ear infections, yeast infections in the ears and ear mites, without the side effects of prescription drugs.

In order to strengthen the immune system and aid recovery, a course of Immunity & Liver Support will act as a natural antibiotic.

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