Common ear and eye problems in cats and dogs

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All owners will probably experience problems with their cat’s or dog’s ears or eyes at sometime during their lifetime.

Some are common ailments that may happen frequently, others less so and could be indicative of underlying conditions. We take a quick look at some of the signs you need to look out for which may require a visit to your vet for advice.

What are the signs of common eye problems in pets?

These ones are more easy to spot, your pet may have eye complaints if :-

  • The eyes are red/inflamed, sticky, weeping or closed
  • Your pet is rubbing at their face a lot

If you see sore eyes or your pet is agitated around their eyes, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Tear staining is also something you may see, particularly if you have a white cat or dog, and whilst harmless and not an actual problem, some owners would prefer not to see the staining on the fur from a cosmetic point of view. There are products generally available that can help with the appearance of tear stains on your pet.

How can you tell if your pet has an ear problem?

Some signs are more obvious than others, but there may be an issue with your pet’s ears if:-

  • They become “headshy” or are excessively scratching and rubbing their ears
  • Frequent shaking of head or ear twitching
  • Bleeding from ear canal
  • Loss of balance
  • Ears are reddened
  • There is abnormal or increased levels of discharge from the ears (it’s usual to have a small amount of wax in the ears)
  • Ears have become smelly

What can cause common ear and eye problems?

  1. Breed of dog – Certain dog breeds are predisposed to ear complaints, so if you have one of these breeds, this is an area you may have to pay more attention to on an ongoing basis. Dogs with long floppy (‘pendulous’) ears such as Spaniels, Setters or Bloodhounds are at particular risk, as are dogs with hairy ear canals such as Miniature Poodles and Schnauzers.  Other breeds, including Basset Hounds, Pugs, Westies, Bulldogs and Lhasa Apsos may be susceptible to dry eye.
  2. Allergies – Your pet may suffer from on-going or seasonal allergies to pollen. Ear problems are often the first signs that your pet may actually have a skin allergy.
  3. Ear Mites – These parasites live on the skin’s surface, particularly in the ear canal. They’re transferred between animals on contact and eggs and mites can persist for several months as the life cycle of a mite takes approximately 21 days to complete.

How can you treat ear problems?

It’s not generally advisable to keep poking and prodding around in ears, but you should be aware of your pet’s general day to day behaviour and if you see some of the signs outlined above starting, or upon inspection, their ears are different to normal, you should contact your vet for advice.

If you have a breed prone to ear infections, your vet will advise you on how best to manage their ear health on a routine basis. Providing there is no infection or allergy, there are regular ear health products your vet could discuss with you.

If your cat or dog has ear mites, they will require treatment which could last for a few weeks and your vet will prescribe something for those.

Allergies may take a little longer to identify, but vets may start by suggesting a change in diet to a sensitive skin recipe and offer some immediate relief and/or treatment if your pet has caused damage to their skin.

How can you treat eye problems?

Any injuries or soreness to the eyes really should be checked out by your vet asap.

Again, if you have a specific breed that suffers from dry eyes or you’re advised of this by your vet, there are regular, generally available eye drops or gels you can use to help your pet, but ask your vet first as to what might be suitable for your pet.

As usual, if you ever have any concerns about changes to your pet, ears, eyes or otherwise, please consult your vet for advice as soon as you can.

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