By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
With the warmer weather and melting snow, the molds and mildews in the dry grass take flight. As soon as the bare ground is seen, the procession of allergy-affected pets begins.
For some, particularly cats, respiratory cough or sneezing tend to be the most common presenting symptoms. In dogs, however, skin itching, foot chewing, and ear infections are more common.
The ear issues could still be a nonseasonal food associated allergy in the winter months, but the most likely cause in the warmer months would be inhalant allergies like pollen, dust, mold, or mildew. The histamine release in response to these allergens creates a warm, moist ear environment that facilitates the growth of the normal yeast that inhabits the ear canal.
As this progresses, ear itch and a buildup of wax allows bacterial growth and the more destructive bacterial ear infection. The destructive enzymes from these bacteria can damage the eardrum, possibly resulting in hearing loss and a deeper middle ear infection. Long-term antibiotic therapy and ear canal flushing — under general anesthesia — to remove infectious debris may be required.
Prevention is the best course of action. If you notice head shaking or see redness with increased debris in one or both ears, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. Early treatment can prevent the deeper damage and decrease the chance for a broken blood vessel in the ear flap. This is a frustrating condition called an aural hematoma, possibly requiring surgery.
Along with the treatment of the early ear condition, a prevention plan including home ear cleaning and medication can help keep infections under control. Using an ear cleaning solution on regular basis, especially after swimming, helps to dry the ear and acidify the canal to inhibit yeast growth. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.