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An external ear infection first shows signs of local inflammation (redness, discharge). Pets may shake their heads, scratch their ears, or rub their ears against furniture or the floor. Some pets with severe infections may cry or groan as they rub and scratch their ears. Some pets scratch so severely that their nails create wounds on the skin around their face, neck, and ears.

External ear infections may progress to involve the middle and inner ear, leading to more serious signs of disease:

  • External ear infection (otitis externa)
  • Itchy or painful ears
  • Head shaking
  • Discharge and odor from the ears
  • Narrowing or even closing of the canals
  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • Paralysis of the nerves in the face
  • Dry eye
  • Hearing loss
  • Abnormal pupil size
  • Inner ear infection (otitis interna)
  • Inability to keep balance, stand, or walk
  • Nausea
  • Head tilt

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