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If you notice your pooch constantly scratching at his ears, whining and shaking his head on a frequent basis, that his ears are red and swollen or that pus is emanating from one or both of them, he may have an ear infection. Ear infections are extremely common in canines and just as they are when we experience them, they are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, if your pooch is prone to infections, he is likely to get them all the time and from just about any sort of trigger, including bacteria, yeast and mites. Fortunately, treating an infection in a dog is relatively straightforward, and there are ways to prevent future occurrences. At the United Veterinary Center, our doctors want to help you get your pet’s infections under control. While we do this partially through careful diagnosis and treatment, we also educate dog owners so that they can plan an active part in their pet’s health too.

If your canine is susceptible to infections, this post is designed to tell you everything you need to know about dog ear infections, including the different types of infections, symptoms to look out for, possible causes and treatment.

Common Types of Ear Infections in Dogs

Dogs can develop three types of conditions of the ears: otitis externa, media and internal. Each of these is fairly common in all canines but are especially common in dogs with floppy ears such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels. However, 20 percent of all dogs, across all breeds, are plagued by infections.

Otitis externa means that the inflammation lies on the outside, in the lining of the external portion of the canal. When you, your child or your pet experiences pain in the ear, it is most likely due to otitis externa. Most problems start out as otitis externa but if not treated, it can travel to the inner and middle portions of the canal, causing otitis media and interna. If allowed to progress this far, it could result in deafness, facial paralysis or vestibular disease. To prevent any of these conditions befalling your precious pooch, it is imperative that you have him examined and treated at the first signs of otitis externa.

Signs Your Dog Has an Infection

Signs of an ear infection are relatively obvious and hard to miss. They can include:

  • Scratching on or around the ear
  • Redness or swelling
  • Crusts or scabs as a result of aggressive and continuous scratching
  • Hair loss around the area
  • Rubbing his head on the carpet, your leg or pieces of furniture
  • A bad smell
  • Pus or discharge
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Constant head shaking or drastic head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Weird eye movements (disorientation)
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

Hopefully you’re able to informally diagnose an ear condition by the first few signs, such as scratching, scabbing and pus, but if you do not, your pet will continue to demonstrate signs that gradually worsen as the infection does.

Possible Causes of Ear Infections

There are usually triggers for infections, as most don’t just arise out of nowhere. Some possible and common causes for your dog’s condition could be any one of the following, or even a combination of a few of these:


How you raise your dog, what you allow him to do and what you feed him all play a role in his overall health. For instance, if you let your dog go swimming or splash around in the tub, he could have water trapped in his canal on a constant basis, which could result in the canine equivalent of “swimmer’s ear.” If you feed your dog human foods and neglect a more natural diet of raw meats and vegetables, he may not be receiving the nutrients he needs to fight off infections, thereby making him more susceptible to certain problems and conditions. If you let your pup trollop through the woods after you while you’re on a walk or go foraging through brush, he could get foxtails in there that you may not notice until they have already wreaked havoc.


Diet goes hand in hand with lifestyle but we feel it deserves its own point. Canines need a diet full of protein and natural veggies, and one that is limited in carbohydrates. If the food you feed your furry friend contains a lot of carbs, it could contribute to yeast infections or trigger a food allergy you’re unaware of.


If you have hay fever, you likely know all about the tingling sensation you get in your ears right before your allergies come on full force. Dogs react in much the same way when they’re struck by an allergy attack. However, in order to resolve your dog’s problems if allergies are the cause, you will need to get to the root of his allergies first.


Your dog’s ears themselves may be the very source of his problems. If your pooch has floppy ears, it is up to you to clean them regularly to eliminate buildup, discharge or yeast growth.

Excessive Cleaning

On the other hand, if you clean your dog’s ears too much you may accidentally prevent the growth of good bacteria. Wax is meant to protect your dog, and a little goes along ways towards keeping out the bad stuff. Additionally, overusing cleaning substances, no matter how natural, can result in irritation and actually aggregate an existing condition. As with most things in life, moderation is key.

Foreign Bodies

Mites are a common parasite infection and type of mange that normally attacks dogs. Like louse, mites are extremely contagious and commonly affect the young. They itch terribly, causing young canines to scratch excessively at their heads until they bleed. You can usually rule out (or diagnose) mites by simply inspecting your dog’s ears. If he has mites, you’ll notice little black bumps in the ear and along the outer edges.

Other Causes

Other chronic conditions such as hypothyroidism or auto-immune disease can result in ear infections in dogs as well. If this is the case with your pooch, be prepared to deal with a lifelong battle, as it’s difficult to eradicate entirely problems that stem from chronic disorders.

Your pet may also have a hematoma, which is a pool of blood between the cartilage of the ear flap and the skin.

Diagnosing Canine Ear Infections

A veterinarian can usually tell right away if a dog suffers from an infection, and via a quick examination of their canal and drum. In fact, you are probably familiar with the procedure and tools required of it, as vets use the same magnifying cone on dogs as doctors do on humans. However, whereas you’re likely to sit still while your doctor probes your ear, your pooch is not. The vet may request to have your dog sedated so she can get a thorough look at your dog’s canal and drum. If necessary, they will take a sample of the discharge to determine whether bacteria, yeast or parasites is the cause of your pet’s pain. Most vets have to send their samples out to a lab but because we have a lab here at the United Veterinary Center, we can run it over and have the results back on the same day.

Treating a Dog’s Infection

Depending on the cause of your dog’s condition, treatment may vary. Your vet may prescribe a topical ointment if she determines that the infection is still outside the ear and caused by something external, like mites or foxtails. However, if the cause has to do with allergies, diet, lifestyle or some other chronic condition, your vet may recommend systematic antibiotics to kill the source of the infection for good. As with people antibiotics, it is imperative that your dog receives the recommended dose each day in order for his antibiotics to do their job.

There are natural remedies you can try out on your pooch such as cleaning your pup’s ear with apple cider vinegar and then squirting a mixture of the vinegar with water into your dog’s canal. Mullein is a plant with antibacterial properties that supposedly works great for infections, as is oregano oil, calendula and coconut oil. However, there is no scientific backing behind any of these home remedies, just hearsay. If you want to swiftly and effectively resolve your pet’s issues, it is best to seek the medical help of a trained veterinarian.

Preventing Dog Ear Infections

In order to prevent canine ear aches you need to know what is causing them. Sometimes prevention is as simple as wiping down your dog’s ears after he gets a bath or goes swimming, while in other cases it’s a bit more complicated, such as identifying food allergies and eliminating those foods from his diets. A trained vet can help you identify the cause of your dog’s chronic infections and devise a way to get rid of them once and for all.

If your pooch suffers from chronic ear aches, know that he is not alone. However, just because dogs are susceptible to infections doesn’t mean your pooch should have to live with them. If you notice any of the signs of a problem—scratching, redness, swelling, pus or any of the others—schedule an appointment with the United Veterinary Center to get to the root of your dog’s issues and to get him on the path to optimal health today.


Cats are notorious self-bathers and are able to clean their fur thoroughly with their tongue in a matter of minutes. However, while cats are particularly skilled in this regard, there is one area of their body to which they are unable to give adequate attention: their ears. Your feline’s ears will stay pretty clean most of her life, but every once in a while, you will need to give her a helping hand.

Before you approach your pet’s ear with a Q-Tip and some saline solution, however, know that there is a right way and there is a wrong way to clean a cat’s ears. From understanding their ear structure to knowing what tools to use, this post will help you clean your pet’s ears in as safe and effective way as possible.

Is it Necessary to Clean My Cat’s Ears?

First and foremost, you probably want to know if it’s even necessary to clean a feline’s ears. After all, they are self-bathers, as mentioned above, and wild cats managed to survive and evolve for thousands of years without our help, right? While each of those statements may be true, it is still necessary to lend your pet a helping hand every once in a while. That said, you should only clean them if you feel comfortable doing so.

If your pet is just a kitten, you can likely begin cleaning her ears now without a problem. If you make it a point to do so once a month or even more frequently, she will become used to it and sit nicely for you until you are done. However, if you adopt an adult cat, it may be more difficult for you to get in there. Adult cats who have never had their ears cleaned are generally skittish of anything coming near them. It would do them more harm than good if you were to try to wrestle a cotton swab in their ear than if you were to just leave them be. If you suspect that your cat’s ears need a good inspecting and cleaning, take her to your local feline vet, where she can be sedated and properly taken care of.

The Anatomy of a Cat’s Ears

cat ear close upIf you feel comfortable with the process, study up on the anatomy of a cat’s ears. A feline’s canals are intricate and vastly different from those of a human’s, and if you attempt to stick anything in their ears without knowing how their canal is constructed, you could end up hurting them. Fortunately, harm can be avoided with a brief anatomy lesson.

A feline’s ear is composed of three basic sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear consists of two parts: the canal and the pinna (or what you likely think of as the “ear”). The ear canal is the gateway to the middle ear, which is much more complex than the outer ear.

The middle ear is composed of the eardrum, three miniscule bones and a tube that brings oxygen from the nose to the ears. The middle ear is highly sensitive, and if you proceed with the cleaning process in the wrong way, you may end up puncturing an eardrum or breaking one of those small bones, two problems that would result in hearing loss.

The inner ear is the most complex part of the ear, and also the most sensitive. Believe it or not, but the inner ear is what is responsible for your pet’s ability to maintain her exceptional balance, and is the reason for her ability to land on her feet no matter from how high she jumps or what acrobatic tricks she pulls. If the inner ear becomes injured, so does your pet’s personality.

Now that you’re familiar with your cat’s ears and why each section is important, let’s move on to the process of cleaning.

Examine the Outer Ear First

Before you begin cleaning, thoroughly examine your cat’s outer ear for any signs that something is wrong. Begin by looking for any abrasions, missing patches of fur or swelling. Smell her ears for any foul odors, and check for discharge. Any of these things could be the signs of an infection, in which case you may want to put off cleaning your pet’s ears and schedule an appointment with the vet.

Some other signs to look for include:

  • Bald spots
  • A bad odor
  • Excessive yawning, shaking of her head or ear scratching
  • Head tilting
  • Dry, scaly or dark colored debris in the ears (not dirt)
  • Earwax buildup
  • Visible discomfort when you touch your cat’s ears

If you notice any of these signs, cease the inspection and call your vet.

Get the Right Tools

If your inspection revealed nothing amiss, you may proceed, but continue to do so with caution, and only after you make sure that you have the proper tools on hand. Those include:

  • A cotton ball or soft rag (put down that Q-Tip!); and
  • Warm water;
  • Olive oil;
  • Hydrogen peroxide; OR
  • Any liquid solution recommended to you by your veterinarian.

Do not use rubbing alcohol or any product that contains alcohol on your cat’s or any other pet’s ears, as alcohol will sting and irritate the sensitive skin of your pet’s ears.

It’s Cleaning Time!

Once you determine that you have the necessary tools on hand, you can begin. Find a nice, quite place without a lot of distractions so that your pet doesn’t feel a need to get up and go check something out every few seconds. Hold your kitten securely in your arms and stroke her fur to let her know that she’s safe. Dip your cotton ball into your preferred cleaning solution; make sure that it is moist but not sopping wet.

Fold back your cat’s outer ear and wipe the cotton ball along the lobe, removing any excess ear wax or debris. Throw the used cotton ball away and get a clean one. Do the same with the other ear.

Never reach further inside the ear than your first finger joint can reach. Going any further than that can result in an internal ear injury. And never, ever just pour cleaning solution into your cat’s ears in the hopes of cleaning them further, as this will most likely result in infection.

Scheduling Your Cat’s Ear Cleanings

If you are going to clean your cat’s ears, you should have a set schedule for doing so. Try to inspect her ears at least once a week, and if possible, clean them after inspection as well. If you give your cat weekly baths, clean her ears then. Like with all things with your pet, habits are key. Make ear cleaning a habit for both you and her and the process will never feel like a chore.

Though helping your feline clean her ears is not a necessity, it is an extra measure you can take to protect her health. If you are uncomfortable cleaning your cat’s ears yourself, don’t feel bad—not many people are! Just be sure that your pet gets into see the vet every six months or so and request to have her ears cleaned then. To schedule your kitten’s first appointment with the skilled team at the United Veterinary Center, call now – 203 957-3375 !


You and your pet may have more in common that you think. No, we’re not talking about your mutual love for ice-cream, long walks on the beach and backrubs. Rather, we are talking about something more innate, like your health. According to Science Daily, humans are not the only mammals to suffer from food intolerance and allergies. According to a condensed paper produced by the University of Veterinary Medicine, your dog, cat and even horse are susceptible to developing allergies, as they too produce immunoglobulin E, the antibodies that attack antigens, such as bacteria, viruses, and allergens. They are also responsible for Type I allergy symptoms, according to the paper’s lead author, Isabella Pali-Scholl.

Type I allergies most commonly present themselves in immediately-occurring and well-known symptoms such as hay fever, asthma and anaphylactic shock. Additionally, Type I allergies are responsible for food intolerance. The paper goes on to explain how food intolerance is extremely similar in humans and animals; however, in dogs, cats and horses, food allergies commonly start as skin reactions and then proceed to irritate the gastrointestinal tract.

Moreover, there is an overlap among the triggers of immune response to certain foods and ingredients. For instance, both pets and humans suffer severe allergic reactions to milk proteins, soy, peanuts, wheat, fish, eggs, meat and other common trigger foods.

This research wasn’t done to show humans that we have a lot more in common with our furry friends than we originally thought (though, now you can bond with your dog over your shared intolerance of all things dairy). Rather, the research was done to help us better understand animal allergies and to find a course of treatment that can help us ease the pain and discomfort they undoubtedly feel when those allergies kick in. One method that scientists introduced to cure food allergies and asthma is gene therapy.


Gene Therapy “Turns Off” Immune Responses

Imagine if you suffered from peanut allergies your whole life, or an intolerance to cheese, milk and all other dairy, or any other food allergy or intolerance that made it difficult for you to eat out or enjoy fine dining. But what if one day somebody told you that if you underwent a single, non-invasive treatment, you could stop living in fear of the trigger food and actually enjoy it? Would you do it? Of course you would!

Gene therapy is the cure that can do the impossible.

With a single treatment, your veterinarian can essentially “turn off” the immune response that causes an allergic reaction in your pets. The cure isn’t just a temporary fix, however, but can provide life-long protection from severe allergic reactions, including asthma. Such a discovery is huge!

The problem (up until recently, that is) is that asthma and allergy cells, known as T-cells, have immunities of their own. While they’re busy protecting you by keeping at bay allergens, they have their own protections in place that fight most allergy “cures.” This memory immunity makes those cells resistant to allergy treatments, which is why there has been no long-term fix for allergy sufferers.

Animals, those lucky furry creatures, can now undergo gene therapy to desensitize those gene cells and essentially “wipe” the memory of T-cells. Scientists hope to be able to apply this therapy to humans in the near future, allowing people who suffer from bee, peanut, shell fish and any other severe allergies to enjoy once off-limits foods once and for all. Though we’re not quite there yet, the leaps scientists have made in just a few short years is very promising indeed.


Work With United Veterinary Center’s Lab

If you want to help your pet overcome their food allergies and intolerances once and for all, head on over to out lab to see how we can help you help them. At the United Veterinary Center, we offer gene therapy for all pets, including cats, dogs, horses and any other mammals that happen to suffer from allergies. Call to schedule a consultation with your pet’s vet today!


A dog can be a person’s best friend, which is why it is so important to be extra vigilant in the care of your pup. From eating right to exercising frequently, and from getting vaccinations to receiving proper training, your dog requires a lot of special attention if you want to ensure that he lives a long, healthy and happy life. One big way that you can make sure that your pup sees old age is to follow a standard health care plan set forth by your dog’s veterinarian.


While each dog’s medical schedule is going to vary based on breed, size, age and individual needs, this canine care plan can give you an idea of what to expect once you adopt your life-long friend.


8 Weeks

your puppy first vet visit - plan for his healthCongratulations on your new puppy! At 8 weeks, your puppy is ready to come home with you. However, before you introduce him to your home, family members and other pets, take him to the veterinarian first. You should already have an appointment scheduled at this point so that your puppy can get his very first wellness check and receive his first weight and body conditioning score.


You can also expect…

  • Internal parasite screen
  • DAPP vaccine
  • First preventative medications
  • Heartworm medication


Your vet should also discuss with you proper training techniques, dietary and nutritional needs, what type of behavior to expect from your puppy, housetraining techniques, proper grooming, parasite management and appropriate toys for your pup based on his size and breed.


12 Weeks

At this point, your pup will have been with you for one whole month. Congratulations! No doubt your vet will want to discuss with you how house and behavioral training is going, as well as if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pup’s growth. Additionally, you can expect the vet to give your dog his second comprehensive physical exam and again receive a weight and body conditioning score.


You can also expect…

  • Rabies vaccine
  • Second DAPP vaccine
  • Flea and tick medications
  • Heartworm medication


16 Weeks

At 16 weeks, your puppy is likely growing rapidly, becoming more curious and learning to enjoy the great outdoors. As a result, his 16-week checkup will focus on his diet and include an additional vaccine—his Lyme vaccine. Of course, he will receive his standard comprehensive exam as well as a weight and body conditioning score.


You can also expect…

  • Nutritional assessment
  • Third DAPP vaccine
  • Flea and tick medications
  • Heartworm medication
  • First Lyme vaccine


18 Weeks

In order to ensure that your dog does not contract Lyme disease, you will need to schedule an appointment two weeks after he receives his first dose of the vaccine. At this appointment, he will simply receive his second dose of the vaccine—no exam required!


4 to 6 Months

At this stage in your puppy’s life, he or she is becoming a teenager. And, like with most teenagers, his or hers reproductive organs are starting to develop. Now is the time when you want to neuter them. While it is not necessary to neuter your pup, it is recommended, especially if you are not a licensed and certified breeder. Additionally, if you adopted your pet from a shelter, most shelters require owners to provide proof of spay or neuter within six months of adoption.


You can also expect…

  • Presurgical blood draw
  • Spay or neuter
  • Pre-surgery dental exam (any remaining baby teeth may need to be removed)
  • Third Lyme vaccine
  • Flea and tick medications


1 to 4 Years

Happy Birthday to your pup! Now that he is a year old, you can space out his visits to once a year. At his yearly checkup, he will receive a comprehensive physical, a weight and body conditioning score and a nutritional assessment. At this point, your dog should be big and healthy, and at least halfway to his full grown size. Your vet should be able to tell you what more your dog needs to develop properly, if anything.


You can also expect…

  • Blood work (junior early detection profile)
  • DAPP vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Lyme vaccine
  • Heartworm/tick disease screen
  • Heartworm and flea and tick medications
  • Internal parasite screen
  • Additional vaccines (optional)
  • Dental scaling and polishing


5 to 8 Years


Your puppy is a puppy no longer, and is actually a middle-aged canine. At this point in his life, he is susceptible to more illness and injury, which it is so important that he see the vet a little more frequently and that you keep up with his yearly and tri-yearly (DAPP) vaccines. Your vet will request that you bring your dog in twice a year at this point for a semi-annual physical exam, a weight and body conditioning score and a nutritional assessment.


You can also expect…

  • Blood work (standard early detection profile)
  • DAPP vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Lyme vaccine
  • Heartworm/tick disease screen
  • Heartworm and flea and tick medications
  • Internal parasite screen
  • Additional vaccines (optional)
  • Dental scaling and polishing


8+ Years

Your pup has officially made it to old age at this point. A whopping 56 years old in human years, he has been able to receive the senior discount for a whole year now! After you celebrate, schedule his bi-yearly checkups. Every six months, your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam and nutritional assessment, as well as provide a weight and body conditioning score.


You can also expect…

  • Blood work (senior early detection profile)
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Limited vaccines, and only as necessary
  • Heartworm/tick disease screen
  • Heartworm and flea and tick medications
  • Internal parasite screen
  • Dental scaling and polishing


While it is always important to consult with your veterinarian about what, exactly, your dog needs to live a long, healthy and fulfilling life, this guide can help you to know what to expect in terms of healthcare for your puppy. If you are considering adopting a puppy or adult dog, only do so if you are prepared to keep up with a healthcare schedule similar to this one, as veterinarians designed it to ensure optimal health for all dog breeds.


Bookmark this page and share it on social media so that you can find it more easily when it’s finally time to take home your new pet. For ongoing tips for caring for your canine at every stage of his life, subscribe to our email newsletter; include your puppy’s age and details regarding its breed for reminders about when it’s time to visit the United Veterinary Center.

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