Recurrent Ear Disease and Allergic Otitis in Dogs and Cats

I have a 6 year old male beagle named “Squirt” who has been suffering for years with recurrent ear problems My veterinarian has been giving me medication that seems to clear up the problem temporarily but then he starts shaking his head and scratching at his ears again. Do you have any suggestions?

There is a high probability that your dog’s recurrent ear problems may be related to an underlying allergic condition. A dog that is allergic to molds or to grass, weed, or tree pollens often develops an ear condition known as “allergic otitis”. Animals with allergic otitis develop an inflammation of the ear canal which causes them to be very uncomfortable and to scratch there ears incessantly. In response to the inflammation the animal’s ear often produces excessive ear wax and may become very smelly. If left untreated a secondary bacterial infection usually develops which further complicates the situation. If your veterinarian treats your dog’s ear problem as simply a bacterial infection and does not address the possible underlying allergic condition, the problem may clear up but only temporarily. Pets with an allergic otitis condition often show additional symptoms of an allergic skin problem as well. Chronic feet licking or repeated licking or biting of various areas of the body are common symptoms of animals with allergic skin condition. Fortunately, it is now possible to identify allergic dogs and cats with a blood test known as the “Elisa” or “Rast” test. This test determines whether a pet is allergic to specific weeds, grasses, trees, and specific food ingredients. By identifying the source of the allergy it may be possible to either eliminate the offending substance or “hyposensitize” your pet with injections that eliminate the allergic reaction. Please keep in mind that recurrent ear problems may also be the result of an immune system deficiency or antibiotic resistant bacterial or yeast infections. Not complying with your veterinarians recommendations regarding the frequency and length of time to apply the ear medication can also play a significant role in the recurrence of your pet’s ear disease. Recheck exams are very important in order for your veterinarian to determine the effectiveness of the therapy and the proper time to discontinue or switch to a different medication if the present one is not solving your dog’s ear problem.

Since August begins the height of the ragweed season for both pets and their owners if you find your pets scratching their ears, licking their feet, or chewing at various parts of their body until the area becomes raw definitely suspect airborne allergens but don’t forget about fleas.

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