What Are The Costs of Treating Ear Infections?
As health issues go, ear infections are relatively affordable to treat (although treatment still represents an undesirable cost). The average cost of treatment is $150, with the total cost varying from about $100 to $250.
Does Pet Insurance Typically Cover This Issue?
Unless they’re a pre-existing condition, or became an issue before enrollment, ear infections will be covered by the majority of pet insurance providers for dogs and cats. This makes sense, because they are a common and relatively treatable condition in most cases. A few examples include:
- Nationwide Pet Insurance covers ear infections under their Whole Pet with Wellness and Major Medical plans, but not their Pet Wellness plan.
- Healthy Paws doesn’t state explicitly that their policies cover ear infections, but does list a case of covering a severe middle ear infection among their pet insurance claims from 2013. This suggests that they do cover ear infections.
- Embrace Pet Insurance covers ear infections, which they categorize as dermatological conditions, but states that “If your Pet showed Clinical Signs of any Dermatological Condition prior to the end of the Waiting Period, your Pet must be free of any Dermatological Conditions for twelve (12) consecutive months” before they’ll be covered for dermatological conditions again.
- PetFirst categorizes ear infections as “curable pre-existing conditions,” meaning issues that can be resolved entirely. They’re considered eligible for coverage “once they have been completely resolved and free from symptoms for a period of time.”
If ear infections are a concern for you and your pet (e.g. they have allergies, they swim frequently, they are a breed that’s prone to these or have had them in the past), be sure to investigate the terms and coverage of whichever pet insurance provider you choose before moving forward.
About Ear Infections in Cats and Dogs
Ear infections happen when there is an overgrowth of existing or pathogenic bacteria or yeast in the ear. When these organisms overgrow in the outer ear, which is common, the infection can travel to the inner ear if left untreated. Typically, dogs develop yeast and bacterial infections, while cats almost always have yeast infections of the ear. If the eardrum ruptures, it will usually heal in 3-4 weeks. One of the most common causes of ear infections is allergies, which cause higher earwax production as well as scratching that contribute to infections.
Some pets are more prone to ear infections: dogs with hypothyroidism, breeds with floppy ears, swimming breeds, and those with hairy inner ear flaps (e.g. Schnauzers). Overall, ear infections are very common -- roughly one in five dogs and one in 15 cats that comes to a veterinarian has a form of ear disease. It’s one of the top reasons that pets are brought to the vet.
How Are Ear Infections Treated?
In dogs, ear infections are usually treated with a professional cleaning, then medication administered by you. These medications can be administered topically or orally (in the case of antibiotics). For cats, treatments can include topical antibiotics (creams, sprays, or drops) or oral antibiotics.
Prompt treatment of ear infections is essential. Without treatment, the infection will become more severe, may travel deeper into the ear, and will be increasingly difficult to eradicate. When chronic, ear infections can change the anatomy of pets’ ears, which also contributes to infections being more difficult to treat.
There are relatively few health risks associated with these minor treatments. Topical antibiotics don’t generally have many side effects, beyond some skin irritation/sensitivity and perhaps an allergic response in some cases. Topical steroids can cause skin thinning/tightness and acne.
With oral antibiotics, potential issues vary by the kind of antibiotic, but can include diarrhea, rashes, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, drooling, and other issues. This advice rings true across the board: make sure to ask your vet about the potential side effects of any treatment, no matter how non-invasive it may be.