When most people think of an ear infection they don’t picture a bulging ear. Anyone who has had an infected ear know they are very painful, but don’t typically end up with an abscessed ear. Reptile ear infections unfortunately aren’t recognized until they form an abscess – a large bulge behind or under their ear opening that is filled with pus.

How Did This Happen?

Water quality is usually the cause of your reptile getting an ear infection. Aquatic turtles get infected ears due to the fact that they are regularly swimming. They defecate and eat in the same water they swim in so without a good filter and regular water changes their water will become contaminated quite quickly.

Other reptiles that don’t spend much time in the water, like anoles, may have been sprayed with too much water that got in their ears and caused an infection or sometimes a foreign body, like a piece of bedding or food, will become lodged in their ear.

What’s Causing the Ear to Bulge?

The bulge or bumps you see are actually pockets of infection. Pus and infected tissue is filling that space, causing pressure on the ear canal, and making your reptile look like he has new strange lumps on his neck.

What Can I Do?

If you’ve ever had an ear infection you know how painful they can be. Now imagine if that infection was so awful that your ear was swollen and pus was oozing out of it. Your reptile probably feels something like that so you can understand why it is important to get it to an exotics vet as soon as possible.

Your vet will most likely lance the bulge that is behind your reptile’s ear to clean out the infection. It will probably leave a gaping hole in their head but don’t be alarmed – this needs to happen. If the infected area isn’t cleaned out it won’t heal. After this, you may be sent home with an oral or injectable antibiotic to get rid of the rest of the infection and prevent it from spreading elsewhere or getting worse.

How Can I Prevent This From Happening Again?

Since poor water quality is the primary reason that reptiles get ear infections, it is critical that you maintain a clean environment for your pet. Aquatic turtles, like red-eared sliders, often get ear infections from swimming around in less than optimal quality water. Therefore, getting a water filter, such as a submersible or canister filter, is vital to having clean water in an aquatic turtle tank.

Other reptiles that don’t necessarily swim around in the water need to have clean water dishes. Change the water as soon as you see old food, feces or urates (the white waste matter) in their dishes. Since many reptiles like to soak or defecate in their water, if the dish or bowl is dirty they can get the bacterial ridden water in their ears if it is left dirty. The heat lights and water help the bacteria and fungi that cause infections grow more quickly so this routine cleaning needs to be done on a regular basis, or at least once a week.

Antibiotics for Reptile Ear Infections

Your exotics vet will know what antibiotics are safe for reptiles to take. Many kinds of antibiotics, such as over the counter ear drops for humans from your local drug store, are not safe, or won’t work, for reptiles. Therefore, don’t try to treat your reptile’s ears with something you have in your medicine cabinet. Consult a veterinarian first for your pet’s safety and for the most effective, fastest treatment.

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Filed under: Reptiles Health