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Posted on 07-03-2018

     With spring and summer weather comes one of the most common complaints in veterinary medicine: my dog is shaking his head and scratching his ears all day! Warm weather usually means we spend more time outside with our canine companions. Time spent in the pool, baths, seasonal or year-round allergies, and a generally humid environment here in NJ, are all factors that can lead to ear infections.

     Any time material is found in a pet’s ear, it is abnormal. Many owners think a small amount of black “gunk” in the ears is just a little bit of dirt. Generally, if we were to swab some out, wipe it on a microscope slide and take a look, we would find that “gunk” is most likely a bacterial or yeast ear infection. It could even be a combination of both! The majority of dogs (and cats) will start shaking their head and/or scratching their ears. Owners may notice their pet’s ears get red or even bleed from the constant irritation. Some pets, do not seem bothered their infections, but regardless, require treatment. After a visit to the vet to confirm infection, most pets will likely be prescribed a flush to clean out all material from the ears, and then a medicated gel or liquid to help get rid of the infection. After a few days of treatment, most infections clear easily. Some pets with stronger bacterial infections or ear infections that return week after week, may require a culture and sensitivity to provide a more accurate antibiotic treatment. In addition to bacterial and yeast infections, ear mites (mainly in cats) can also cause black ear discharge, and requires appropriate diagnosis and treatment by your vet.

     Preventing ear infections may not be easy for all pets, but staying on top of cleaning may help. After swimming, bathing, grooming, your dog’s ears should be flushed out with an appropriate cleaner and dried out with cotton balls. Standing water in the ear canals provides a good environment for bacteria to flourish. Pets prone to ear infections may be recommended to maintain flushing clean ears weekly.

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