Preventing deafness in pets video transcripts
[Preventing Hearing Loss with Dr. Jason Nicholas, The Preventive Vet]
Jason: Hearing loss does affect both cats and dogs. And though there’s any number of reasons that can cause hearing loss, there are plenty of those that can actually be prevented both with awareness and some simple steps. But it’s also very important to know that if your cat or dog does develop hearing loss they can still live a very rich and full life with the appropriate training and modifications.
Jason: So there are preventable causes of hearing losses in both dogs and cats and that list would include things such as trauma, toxins, foreign bodies, chronic noise, and then certainly chronic ear infections.
[chronic ear infections]
Jason: Trauma to the head would be something if you’re painting around the house and moving a ladder and your dog is your shadow and they wind up taking a blow to the side of their head that can certainly cause some problems obviously with hearing loss but also more importantly can cause some other problems as well.
Jason: Another thing on the list of potential preventable causes of hearing loss would be certain toxicities and the ones that we think about mostly in veterinary medicine are some of the antibiotics of the amino glycicyde class and these are fairly common antibiotics and one of the most common ways that they cause problems with hearing loss is when they’re inappropriately instilled in the ear to treat and that often sadly happens when people put things in their pet’s ears without actually having their veterinarian evaluate the integrity of the ear canal and the ear drum before starting treatment. So it is very important to check with your veterinarian to confirm what is going into your pet’s ears with every possible infection.
Jason: Another fairly common cause of hearing loss would be things like foreign bodies or things that wind up in the ear that shouldn’t be there. Especially in certain times of the year, one of the big ones in certain parts of the country would be grass seed or what we more commonly call foxtails and these are really painful parts of the grass seed that actually wind up migrating down into dogs’ ears. They can also get into their paws or up their snout, but when they wind up in the ear they cause a very significant amount of pain and then predispose them to infections and they themselves can also cause damage to the ear drum.
Jason: If you spend a lot of time cleaning your pet’s ears and you’re doing it inappropriately perhaps and maybe using q-tips which we always tend to discourage against, if a piece of that q-tip breaks off and winds up down in your dog’s ear canal that can certainly set them up for a problem as well as cause direct damage to their ear drum which can lead to hearing loss and other problems.
Jason: Another one on the list of preventable causes of hearing loss would be repeated exposure to loud noises. We do want to be very aware that those noises can cause hearing loss as well as some other problems.
Jason: So the last item on the list are chronic ear infections and typically for dogs that winds up being a bacterial and/or a yeast infection and with cats we typically tend to think about ear mites. These are very common occurrences in both cats and dogs and they can lead to hearing loss in the long term.
Jason: It is important to recognize that your cats and dogs can lead a happy, healthy, wonderful life even with hearing loss, so remember that and treat them like any pet you know and love, and hug them frequently.
[Protecting Your Pets from Loud Noise with Dr. Jason Nicholas, The Preventive Vet]
Jason: With chronic exposure to loud sounds over time, the muscles inside your dog or cat’s ears will contract to help protect their hearing, but over a long period of time they can only compensate so much and you’ll wind up with diminished hearing and potentially hearing loss.
Jason: Things like fireworks or chronic exposure to loud noise such as loud music in a car or another enclosed space, a warehouse or a factory or on a construction site, or even in your own home workshop, your pets can be exposed to these noises that can lead to problems with their hearing.
Jason: Certainly for gun dogs, we would have exposure to gunfire, especially if they’re standing close to you when you’re firing the gun. So if you’re protecting your hearing regularly in a situation where you’ve got your pets, it’s important to think about protecting your pet’s hearing too. And because you’re not likely to get your dog or cat to be able to wear earmuffs, it’s important that maybe we consider sticking cotton in their ears if we can’t remove them from the situation. It is important, though, to remember to remove the cotton once they’re not going to be exposed to that sound anymore. And so as a little gentle reminder, attaching a colored piece of thread to the cotton balls to remind yourself to take it out.
Jason: If you like to listen to your music loud, consider keeping your pets out of the room where you’re doing so, or turning it down a little bit in the car when they’re traveling with you. Just as you would do to protect your child’s hearing, you should do the same thing to protect your pet’s hearing.
Jason: Even in scenarios where they’re hearing loud noise just very rapidly and not for a sustained period of time, in an event such as fireworks, we can take some precautions by leaving our pets at home, but also if they do need to be out with you for a certain situation, go ahead and put some cotton in their ears to help protect their hearing.
Jason: Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your pet has lost their hearing, but if you’re noticing behavioral changes or any problems, it would be wise to bring them to your veterinarian to have them evaluated. Certainly if they’ve been in a scenario where they’ve been exposed to repeated loud noises and very sudden loud noises, then hearing loss would be a consideration. Mention it to your veterinarian so they can evaluate that specifically and then refer you on for a specific test called “the BAER test” to confirm or rule out the potential for hearing loss. It’s the only way to know for certain and it’s pretty simple to do. It’s a non-invasive test. Some pets require sedation to have it done, but it’s pretty simple. There’s only certain centers around that do it, but talk to your veterinarian about having it done if you’ve got concern for hearing loss in your pets.
[Chronic Ear Infections with Dr. Jason Nicholas, The Preventive Vet]
Jason: One of the really common causes of hearing loss in both cats and dogs would be chronic ear infections and some of the causes of chronic ear infections would be underlying allergies is a very common one, whether they be to food or something in your pet’s environment. Certainly dogs who do a lot of swimming or get frequent baths are at higher risk of developing ear infections. And some dogs, because of the way their anatomy is, may be predisposed to ear infections as well whether they have a lot of hair growing down in their ear canal or it’s already a very narrowed or what we would call Stenotic ear canal.
Jason:Things you might notice in your pet if they have an ear infection would be them potentially shaking their head. A lot of cats and dogs both will scratch at their ears. A lot of times in cats people report that they’re seeing blood on the outside of their cat’s ear from all the scratching. You might not actually notice your pet scratching their ears and they might do it a little bit more subtly by dragging their head either on the carpet or on some furniture. Abnormal discharge or abnormal odor coming from their ears and then also in dogs or cats where the infection is actually penetrated through the ear canal into the middle or inner ear. You might also notice a tilt to their head as well as potentially some abnormal movements of their eyes. And in some of these cats and dogs if they’re really badly affected and their balance is thrown off they may go off their food and they may also be vomiting.
Jason: Chronic ear infections can lead to deafness through a variety of mechanisms but one of the main ways that the ears respond is they tend to get thicker, they lay down scar tissue and that’s going to prevent air from flowing and circulating through the ears which is going to set up this viscous cycle of continued ear infection that’s going to be much more difficult to eradicate. And that also increases the chances that an infection will actually erode the ear drum and penetrate into the middle or the inner ear where it can directly affect the hearing apparatus for your pet and lead to deafness.
Jason: Not every ear infection is the same and they can be caused by anything from bacteria or yeast or mites. You do want to make sure that you know what you’re dealing with before you reach for that bottle of medication that might be left over from the previous infection because it may not be effective in treating the current infection and you might also wind up causing some hearing loss in your pet as a result of that. Because if their ear drum isn’t intact and you put down an antibiotic, a medication or a cleaner that can cause damage to the actual nerve that conducts the hearing, you’ve basically just caused hearing loss in your pet.
Jason: You might be tempted to just walk into the pet store and grab something over-the-counter to start cleaning or medicating your pet’s ears. And while that might seem like an attractive option because you’re going to save the cost of an exam and diagnostics at your veterinarian, it’s not uncommon for that to wind up costing people more money in the long run as well as prolonging pain and suffering and infections for their pets.
Jason: So in an ear that’s chronically infected that can’t be treated medically anymore, often times the only option is to resort to surgery. And while that can be very effective and often times is the best course of action because it will eradicate your pet’s source of pain and infection, it’s also not inexpensive and without its own complications. So it really is very important that at the first sign of an ear infection, you work with your veterinarian to start diagnosing that and treating that appropriately. If there’s problems in eradicating an infection, look at the option of undergoing anesthesia to have it maybe cultured or flushed, and also maybe involving a dermatologist in the work up.
Jason: Equally important is once it’s been diagnosed, it’s very important that you manage it appropriately with your veterinarian and follow their instructions for both cleaning and medicating for the duration of their treatment. When that treatment is over and they recommend coming back in for a re-check on their pet’s ears, it’s very important that you actually do that re-check because it’s not uncommon for signs of the infection to have abated over the course of treatment but then for there to still be an infection going on deeper down.
Jason: It is very important to keep on the lookout for these signs that I’ve described and then get your pet in promptly to the veterinarian to have it evaluated and do the follow-up as recommended.
[Preventing Hearing Loss in Hunting Dogs with Dr. Jason Nicholas, The Preventive Vet]
Jason: Hunting dogs as a group are at a higher risk for hearing loss problems for a number of reasons. We certainly worry about the dogs that spend a lot of time out in the fields and getting grass awns and other foreign bodies into their ears. To prevent grass seeds and other foreign bodies from getting into your hunting dog’s ears, you can take such steps as putting cotton into their ears. You can also consider something like the OutFox Field Guard to protect their ears and it’s also very important that at the end of their hunting day to evaluate the fur around your dog’s ears and also look in the canals to see if anything has either gotten in or is in the process of getting in so that you can remove it before it causes a problem.
Jason: Retrieving dogs who spend a lot of time in the water on a daily basis on a day’s hunt are more susceptible to ear infections because of the water that invariably gets down in their ear canal. So it’s very important at the end of the day that you clean your dog’s ears because that will also help to dry them out and prevent an infection from getting established.
Jason: With loud noises from the gun fire, if you can at all have your dog stand a little bit further away from you, but you can also help protect their hearing by putting cotton balls into their ear. Just be sure to take them out when you’re done with your day of hunting.
Jason: Regular wellness and care, both that you’ll do at home and that which you’ll do with your veterinarian, is vitally important for the health, safety and effectiveness of your hunting dog. Your hunting dog is obviously very important to you. You’ve put a lot of time, energy and effort into training them so that they’re effective out in the field. Take the appropriate and simple steps to ensure their health and safety and work closely with your veterinarian to make sure that they can spend every day out on the field hunting with you.
[Aural Foreign Bodies (Things in Your Pet’s Ears) with Dr. Jason Nicholas, the Preventive Vet]
Jason: Foreign bodies are things that wind up in your pet’s ear that shouldn’t be there. One of the big ones in certain parts of the country would be grass seed awns or what we more commonly call foxtails. Grass seed awns can actually affect both cats and dogs and it’s not just their ears that they can cause problems in, though that is one of the more common areas. Especially for outdoor cats and dogs that spend a lot of time in fields, these little grass awns basically do what they’re designed to do which is migrate into the ground, but they migrate into your pet’s body, and they tend to get in between their toes and then migrate up their legs. They can actually inhale them, whether that be through their mouth to their lungs or through their nose and stuck in their nostrils. These little pains can wind up in their chest, they can lead to infections, they can lead to very expensive surgeries, and depending on where they wind up they can actually even lead to death.
Jason: Be aware of these things at certain times of the year and if your dog, in particular, tends to spend a lot of time in fields, or in your outdoor cats, you do want to check their paws very carefully. If they start sneezing or coughing or if they’re shaking their head a lot, bring them to the veterinarian to evaluate for the potential of a grass seed awn.
Jason: There’s a great product out there; it’s called the Out Fox Field Guard, that can be very useful for your dog especially if they spend a lot of time in the fields or if you’re hunting with them. And it’s a little mesh hood that goes over their head that they can breathe in, drink with, they can even fetch with. But because it goes over their entire head it’s going to protect not just their ears but also their nostrils and their mouth from having problems with grass awns.
Jason: Signs of a foreign body in your pet’s ear can be very similar to those that you would see with just an uncomplicated ear infection. Things like shaking their head, dragging their ears on the carpet, scratching at their ears.
[shaking their head]
[dragging their ears on carpet]
[scratching their ears]
Jason: If the infection is penetrated deeper than just the external ear canal, you might see a head tilt, problems with balance or even abnormal movements of the eyes.
[loss of balance]
[abnormal eye movements]
Jason: Your pet may also exhibit pain when you go to approach them around their head or around their ears and that may even lead to bites. You do want to keep an eye out for these signs, recognize that they can mean any number of things and bring them to your veterinarian promptly for evaluation and appropriate safe and effective treatment.