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EAR SCRATCHING OR HEAD SHAKING

Your pet can't tell you that his ear is itchy, but he'll let you know by shaking his head or scratching at his ears. Then it's up to you and your veterinarian to figure out the cause and what to do about it.

Causes

What's behind that annoying tickle in your pet's ear? Some common causes could include bacterial or yeast infections, ear mites, food or inhalant allergies, other skin diseases, and foreign objects (such as polyps, tumors, hair, or plant material) in your pet's ear canal.

What You Can Do at Home

You can't diagnose the problem, but you can make your pet more comfortable. Start with a gentle ear cleaning, using a cotton ball and an ear cleanser formulated for pets. Do not use hydrogen peroxide to clean your pet's ears.

Remember to dry your pet's ears if they get wet, and put cotton in his ears before baths. Why? Moisture in the ears can lead to ear inflammation and infection.

When to Call the Veterinarian

Some causes of ear shaking respond to regular ear cleaning. However, some cases may require professional diagnosis and treatment. If the scratching and shaking persist for more than a few days or seem to worsen after an ear cleaning, seek veterinary help. You should also call the doctor if you notice discharge in the ears, if they're red and swollen, if they smell or if they feel warm to the touch.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do

Most ear problems are easy to identify. The veterinarian may first check your pet's ears with an otoscope for signs of inflammation and infection, ear mites, polyps, or foreign objects. The veterinarian also may swab the ears to check for mites, bacteria, or yeast under a microscope. If the doctor suspects allergies, or other skin diseases, he or she may run blood tests, or refer your pet to a veterinary dermatologist.

Once the problem is identified, treatment is usually a snap. Your veterinarian will administer an injection, provide ear drops, topical and/or oral antibiotics, or a steroid injection if itching is severe.

If the cause is allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or steroids for you to administer at home. Food allergies require a hypoallergenic diet.

Although most causes of ear scratching arent serious, your pet will appreciate a prompt diagnosis and treatment and the ensuing relief from this annoying symptom.

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