It is likely that if you own a dog you have seen them scratching at their ears, but when is it just an itch and when do you need to take them to the vet?

1. If your dog has been swimming or had a recent bath and for the days after he continually shakes his head, then its time to visit the vet.

2. You notice a bad smell from either ear.

3. The underside of one pinnae (the ear flap) appears red.

4. You notice a brown or yellow discharge.

Your vet will then determine the cause of the infection and whether it is a bacteria or a yeast or both.

Why do some pets get recurring ear infections despite great prevention in place? 

1. There is an underlying condition. The conformation of the ear- narrow canals, presence of hair and even being a certain breed plays a part.

2. Your pet may have allergies (parasitic/food/environmental) or even certain diseases that make them more prone to developing infections.

3. The application of the medication may be difficult. Some patients are not that obliging when it comes to ear medications .. especially when they need to be placed into the ears once to twice daily. Get your vet to show you the best way to hold your pet and apply the medication at the same time. To combat this, there is a new product that allows your vet to place a long-acting treatment down the canals so you don't have to worry! However, you have to be sure it will kill off the bugs down your particular pet's ear first.

4. The bacteria may be resistant to routine medications and your pet needs a 'culture and sensitivity' performed. This is an easy, non-invasive test where your vet will take a swab and send it off the laboratory. The lab then grows the bacteria and tests it against different medications to ensure we are using the correct one for that organism.

You can help to prevent ear infections occurring by following these steps:

1. Try to avoid water near the ears and getting it down the canals whilst bathing.

2. If your pet is a water baby and loves to swim then DRY the ears thoroughly after each swim and apply a specific ear cleanser. These will be available from your vet or pet store. The number of times you clean the ears weekly will depend on your individual dog's needs but can be anywhere from once to twice weekly for most.

3. Cats are different! Never attempt to clean your cats ears at home unless instructed by your vet. If you notice discharge in your cats ears, then it may be due to mites or allergies so get them your vet in this instance.

4. Use the Dr Zoo Natural Dry Shampoo over the body for 'in -between' bath times to reduce the number of times your pet comes in contact with water and therefore reducing the chance of water getting into the ear canals.

5. Work with your vet to determine possible underlying causes of the recurrence.

For lots of us, our dogs live inside and we love a good snuggle! So if you notice a smelly pet .. get to the vet!