Ear infections can be a common occurrence in dogs, especially if the dog has floppy ears. It’s estimated around 20% of dogs have been diagnosed with some kind of ear disease. It can and will affect one or both ears.
More About Ear Infections
Otitis externa, media, and internal are the three types of ear infections, with otitis externa being the most common. When this occurs, the inflammation affects the layer of cells lining the external part of the ear canal. Middle ear infections and inner ear canals are otitis media and the internet. When these infections occur, they often spread from the external ear. Otitis media and the internet could become extremely serious and can cause deafness, facial paralysis, as well as vestibular signs. This makes the prevention of infections extremely important, as well as getting treatment early as soon as symptoms arise.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
A buildup of wax and discharge is sometimes the only symptom of an ear infection a dog may show. However, ear infections often cause extreme discomfort in dogs. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Scratching the affected ear
- Dark discharge
- Redness and swelling in the ear canal
- Scabs or crusting in the ears
What are the Causes
Unlike the ear canal of a human, the ear canal of a dog is more vertical. It forms somewhat of an L shape that contributes to its retaining fluid. This is why these types of dogs are more prone to ear infections. Ear infections are commonly caused by bacteria, yeast, or a combination of both. Ear mites are usually also a source of ear infections when it comes to puppies.
Factors that could contribute to ear infections include:
- Growing yeast and bacteria in the ear because of moisture.
- Allergies. Approximately 50 percent of dogs with allergic skin diseases and 80 percent of dogs with food sensitivities get ear infections.
- Endocrine disorders such as thyroid disease.
- Autoimmune disorders
- Wax buildup
- Foreign bodies
- Injury to the ear canal
- Excessive cleaning of the ear
Visiting your vet as soon as possible when your dog begins to display symptoms is very important. It’s very important that your dog treatment prevent the infection from spreading to the middle and inner ear. Your vet should be the only one administering treatment, don’t try and treat the infection at home.
You’ll need to prepare yourself to give the vet a full history of the problem. This is extremely important for first-time infections or in the case of you seeing a new veterinarian.
Your vet would require the following information:
- The duration of symptoms such as pain, swelling, discharge, and odor.
- If your dog has been diagnosed with any allergies or underlying medical conditions.
- If your dog is taking any medication.
- What food has your dog been eating?
- How often do you take the time to clean your dog’s ears, including which products you use?
- If the hair in your dog’s ears had been trimmed or plucked.
- If any activities such as swimming, grooming, or bathing had recently taken place.
- If your dog is prone to getting any form of ear infections, as well as when they’ve occurred and how they were treated.
Once you have provided your dog’s full history, your vet will perform a physical examination on your dog. If the case is chronic, your dog may need to be sedated for the vet to observe deep inside the ear canal.
Both ears will be examined, and the exam may include:
- A visual assessment to look for signs such as redness, swelling, and discharge.
- Evaluation of the eardrum and ear canal was done by examination with an otoscope.
- Assessing the level of pain through gentle palpitation.
- Swabbing the ear in order to do a microscopic examination of the samples.
- Culture of samples from the ear.
- In severe ear infection cases, there may be a need for biopsies or X-rays may be required.
The first step of treatment will be done by your vet. He will thoroughly clean your dog’s ears with a medicated ear cleanser. Your dog may also be prescribed an ear cleanser as well as a topical medication that you will need to administer at home. If the case is severe, your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics as well as anti-inflammatory medications.
It generally takes 1-2 weeks for uncomplicated ear infections to resolve once the appropriate treatment has begun. Severe infections or infections that have been caused by underlying conditions could take months to resolve. Some ear infections could become chronic problems. In severe chronic cases where treatment no longer has an effect, surgery may be recommended by your vet. In this surgery, the ear canal will be removed, therefore, removing the diseased tissue and preventing the recurrence of infection. It is imperative that you complete the medication or treatment as prescribed by the vet. If there had been lapses in your dog’s treatment, the infection could recur.
Preventing Ear Infections
Excess moisture is one of the most common factors that result in that ear infections. Therefore, it is best to dry your dog’s ears after bathing and swimming. Frequently cleaning your dog’s ears at home could prevent ear infections as well. It is best to identify the issue, and what has caused it and then manage any other underlying conditions or allergies to help prevent new infections from occurring.
Ear infections are common amongst dogs. Never allow an ear infection to spread. To prevent the infection from spreading, take your dog to the vet for the first signs of infection. Your dog may require treatments such as medication and, in severe cases, surgery. Infections could be painful for your dog. Therefore, it is best to have it treated as soon as symptoms arise.