Ear infections are the most common health issue for dogs
- The percentage of dogs that have some form of ear disease is as high as 20%.
- Ear infections in humans typically affect the outer third of each canal and are treated with antibiotics.
- Chronic ear infections in dogs can often affect the inner thirds of both ear canals.
- Prevention is key. Learn how to safely clean your dog’s ears yourself.
- If you notice any signs of an infection, it’s important to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible because treatment may be complicated if not started early on.
Is you do whining, scratching, or shaking her head? Dog owners have learned to recognize the symptoms of an ear infection and understand that these behaviors may be early warning signs. Here are the facts about ear infections in dogs and what you can do to prevent them or manage them if they occur.
Ear infections are common conditions in dogs and it is estimated that 20% of dogs have some type of ear disease. This can affect one or both ears. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to reduce the severity and length of these ear infections in dogs.
There are three types of ear infections in dogs: otitis externa, media and interna. Otitis externa refers to infection of cartilage or soft tissue in the external part of the ear canal and is common. Both otitis media (middle ear) and interna refer to infections of the middle or inner portion of the ear canal. Symptoms can be very serious; deafness, facial paralysis, and vestibular signs occur in many cases. Therefore it’s important to prevent these infections by preventing entry into the ear canal by germs as well as by using antibiotic ointments if they appear.
Symptoms of dog ear infection
Dogs with ear infections are often affected by a build-up of wax in the ear canal. This can create an uncomfortable situation for your dog, and may cause him to shake his head vigorously. Dogs with this condition often have difficulty hearing, which is why they shake their heads so much. It is important that you take your dog to the vet if he shows any of these signs or symptoms:
Dogs ear smells
Dog ear red inside
Dog ear wax dark brown
Dog ear wax black
Brown discharge dog ear infection
Increase in scratching or pawing at his ears
Dog seems to be uncomfortable when he lies down
Shaking his head
Swelling of the ear canal
Yeast infections in dogs ears
Yeast infections in dogs ears are a common problem. They can cause the dog a great deal of pain, and if they are not treated, they can lead to more serious health problems. Yeast infections can be treated with medication, but it is important to seek medical help if you think your dog may have a yeast infection.
What causes ear infections in dogs?
The ear canal of a human is more horizontal while that of dogs has an inverted “L” shape which makes it prone to wax sticky infections. Although there are some ear infections that can be mild, most cases of this condition must be treated with antibiotics. Ear mites cause constriction in hairy ear openings, often causing excess wax and resulting blockage.
Factors that may cause your dog to have a predisposition to ear infections include:
- Moisture is a source of prime growing conditions, which can lead to bacterial and yeast growth.
- Allergies (which lead to ear disease in about 50 percent of dogs with allergic skin disease and 60 percent of those with flea allergy dermatitis) are usually caused by animal allergens.
- dogs with existing food sensitivities
- Autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease or other endocrine disorders
- Injury to the ear canal, or the presence of wax buildup or foreign bodies
- Excessive cleaning
Severe ear infection in dogs
If your dog is in pain, you should take him or her to your vet immediately. While some dogs may only show signs of pain with a bad ear infection, most dogs who are suffering will exhibit pain in the form of agitation, whining, and restlessness. This is because the condition causes swelling of the eardrum, which can block sound from reaching the brain. In addition, your dog may try to push or rub his ears against things to relieve the discomfort. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you should take him to your vet right away.
You will need to provide your vet with a comprehensive history of the problem, especially if this is a first-time infection, or if you are seeing the veterinarian for the first time. Your vet will need to know:
- If your dog has had an ear infection in the past, how long it lasted and if there were any complications
- Any medications your dog has taken recently, including vitamins, over-the-counter drugs, or herbal remedies
- If your dog is spayed or neutered If your dog’s ears are cleaned regularly, whether by you or someone else
- If your dog has ever been to a groomer, and how often If your dog’s ears are prone to infection (such as if they have been trimmed too short, or if they have a history of infection)
- If your dog has had his ears checked by another veterinarian or pet store employee
Your veterinarian will want to check your dog’s ears for signs of infection and inflammation. He or she may perform the following:
- Ears can be checked with a simple visual inspection.
- A veterinarian may use a cotton swab to gently clean your dog’s ears. This is usually done after the ear has been inspected, to remove any debris that may have been left behind.
- A veterinarian may also use an otoscope to see if there is any visible swelling or fluid around the ear. This type of examination is especially important if there are signs of infection or if your dog has not been recently cleaned.
- Your veterinarian may also check your dog’s ears with an otoscope, which is a small instrument used to examine the ear canal and the tympanic membrane (ear drum).
In severe cases, your vet may also want to sedate your dog in order to examine deep within the ear canal. This exam may include:
- Removing earwax or debris with a cotton-tipped applicator
- Tapping the tympanic membrane (eardrum) with a special tool
- Performing a culture of the fluid that collects in the ear canals to detect bacteria and other pathogens
- Removing excess hair from the external auditory meatus (the opening of the ear canal)
Treating dogs ear infections
Your veterinarian will clean your dog’s ears using a medicated ear cleanser. They may also prescribe an ear cleanser and a topical medication that you can use at home. In severe cases, they may prescribe oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.
Most uncomplicated ear infections will clear up within 1–2 weeks with the appropriate treatment. However, severe infections or those due to underlying conditions may take months to resolve and may become chronic problems.
It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely, especially when it comes to finishing your dog’s prescribed antibiotic treatment. It’s also important that you finish the full course of medication even if your dog appears to be improving, because lapses in your dog’s treatment can lead to the recurrence of the infection. Failure to finish the full course of treatment may lead to additional problems, including resistant infections.
Can you prevent ear infections in dogs?
Prevention is always the best strategy when it comes to diseases. It is possible to prevent ear infections in dogs. Excess moisture is a common cause of ear infections in dogs, so be sure to dry their ears thoroughly after swimming and bathing. If your dog is prone to chronic or recurrent infections, identify and manage any underlying causes such as allergies in order to prevent new infections. In general, keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy with exercise and attention will prevent many forms of illness for your dog.
Cleaning your dog’s ears
- To clean your dog’s ears, you will need a bowl of warm water, some cotton balls, and a pet-safe ear cleaner.
- Fill the bowl with warm water and soak the cotton balls in it.
- Squeeze out the excess water and then use them to clean your dog’s ears.
- Gently rub the cotton balls around the inside of your dog’s ears to remove any dirt or wax.
- Be careful not to insert the cotton balls too deep into your dog’s ear canal.
- Finish by using a pet-safe ear cleaner to rinse your dog’s ears.
- Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully.
- Do not use any household cleaners or other chemicals, as they may be harmful to your pet.
Ear infections are a common ailment in dogs and can be difficult to manage. In this article, I’ve provided you with some tips on how to clean your dog’s ears and prevent infection. I hope this information has been helpful!