Blog: What Causes Dirty Ears

SouthPaw Animal Clinic

Dirty ears in dogs and cats are a fairly common occurrence and we get many questions as a result of this.  Many people assume that a dirty ear means ear mites.  Although the vast majority of dirty ears are not due to ear mites, those dirty ears still need some medical attention.

It is important to know what is normal for an ear so we can identify when pets are having a problem.  A normal dog or cat ear should be clean of debris or dirt, free of hair, have no odor, and have a healthy flesh color to the skin.

If you are seeing redness, swelling, sores or scabs, debris or dirt, or a closed ear canal, it is time to seek professional help.  Many times, these ears will have a bad or musty smell and will be painful to the pet.  You may even notice your pet scratching at the ears or shaking their head.

The most important question is: What is the cause of those dirty ears?  The “dirt” is the body’s response to a problem.  Cleaning the ears will only appear to fix the problem for a very short time.  It is important to treat the underlying cause of the ear problem so the ears can heal.

Common causes of ear issues include infections by bacteria or yeast, ear mites, or polyps (growths within the ear canal).  Dogs that have allergies are especially prone to developing ear infections when their allergies are not well controlled.  Some dogs grow thick hair in their ear canals and this can lead to accumulation of moisture, ear wax, and dirt, which can also lead to ear infections.

If your pet is experiencing ear issues, it is best to not use over-the-counter ear cleaners or holistic medications prior to a visit with your veterinarian.  Some holistic medications can be harmful to pets or painful to an infected ear.  Some flushes and rinses can disrupt the normal bacteria and yeast populations in the ears and make infections worse.  Many flushes are alcohol based, which can be very painful to an infected ear.  Also, sometimes the ear drum can rupture and use of certain medications or flushes can cause further problems for your pet.

If your pet is having problems with their ears, a visit to veterinarian is best to get those ears feeling better.

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