Ear infections are not uncommon with our dog and cat friends. Some breeds, in particular, are especially predisposed to ear infections. An infected ear is uncomfortable, painful, smelly, irritating, or all of the above.
Ear infections can arise from a variety of causes: allergies (food allergies or environmental allergies), injuries, foreign material finding its way down the ear, parasites, etc. The underlying causes may have very different types of treatment, but when there is ear pain, relief is needed, and ear infections are something that we can certainly help by getting the treatment to the painful location.
“How do I treat my dog’s ear infection?” This is a common question that we hear. Another is, “How do I know where to put the medicine in my cat’s ear?”
Critical to the success of resolving an ear infection in a dog or cat is applying the ear medication as directed on the label. It is important that the ear treatment be given at the right intervals, but if the ointment is applied every 12 hours (for example) like the label says, and it is not applied in the proper place, then the ear infection will continue to fester.
To demonstrate how and where to apply ear medications such as Panalog or Mometemax (or any other treatment for ear trouble), follow along as Gretel and Kristina walk us through the process:
For starters, a dog’s ear canal and cat’s ear canal are shaped similarly to each other, but very different from a human’s ear canal. People have a horizontal ear canal… stick a Q-tip in to far, and there’s going to be a problem! Instead, dogs and cats have a vertical ear canal that turns a corner to become a horizontal ear canal, and their eardrum is at the end of the horizontal canal. This shape is important to consider for two reasons:
- Gravity is not our friend when it comes to ear infections. The accumulating wax, bacteria and/or yeast simply does not fall out. It sits in a blind-ended canal and continues to smolder. (Smolder at the body’s temperature of around 101 degrees!)
- It is vital that treatment be applied to the deepest portion of the ear canal, but because the canal is so deep, and because it turns a corner, you cannot touch or hurt the eardrum with the applicator tip of your ear medicine. (So don’t be afraid to use the tip as it was designed to be used!)
Now enter Kristina & Gretel. (Kristina is our RVT, Gretel is Dr. Ryan’s Boxer puppy.)
Begin by holding onto the ear at the base and lifting the flap of the ear (pinna) so that you can see where the ear canal begins. This can be confusing, especially with some breeds! Remember that the ear canal goes straight down the side of the head at the start; it is not directed inward at the beginning.
Insert the applicator tip of the ear medication into the canal so that the entire tip is within the vertical canal.
Give the tube a healthy squeeze. There needs to be a sufficient amount of medication deposited at the elbow of the ear canal so that when you massage the ear canal (below) there will be enough medication to coat the entire ear canal.
As you’re massaging the ear canal, you may be wondering if there is enough ointment within the canal. You’ll know you applied enough if you hear a moist, “goopy” sound as you rub the elbow of the canal. Often times dogs and cats actually enjoy the massaging process and lean into your rub!
Finally, ears being treated for infection need to be re-evaluated at appropriate intervals, and the doctor will let you know when these rechecks should occur. By staying on top of the problem, we can often minimize the amount of time needed to treat a troubled ear, and ultimately minimize the amount of time your dog or cat will be bothered by an uncomfortable ear.