Dogs and Ear Infections
- Head shaking or head tilting
- Ear odor
- Vigorous scratching
- Lack of balance
- Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
- Redness of the ear canal
- Swelling of the outer portion of the ear
- Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
Canine ear infections are most commonly caused by bacteria or yeast. Ear mites, excessive hair, moisture or wax, foreign bodies, allergies, and hypothyroidism can all be contributing factors in the development of an ear infection. Because the ear canal in dogs is mostly vertical (unlike a human ear canal that is horizontal), it is easy for debris and moisture to be retained in the ear canal.
Which Dogs Are Prone to Ear Infections?
Dogs with allergies or those with non-erect outer ears can be predisposed to developing ear infections. Dogs that have excessive hair growth in the ear canal may also be more susceptible to ear infections.
How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?
A veterinarian can usually diagnose an ear infection by examining the ear canal and ear drum with a magnifying ear cone similar to devices used on people. This may require sedation, especially if the dog is very painful. A sample of ear discharge may be examined to look for bacteria, yeast, and parasites. If a bacterial infection is suspected your veterinarian may send a sample of the ear discharge to a laboratory to see what bacteria is causing the infection. Other diagnostics may be done (such as checking for an underactive thyroid) if your veterinarian feels they are indicated.
How Are Ear Infections Treated?
Most commonly, ear infections can be treated with a professional cleaning followed by medication given at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical and/or oral medicine. It is not uncommon for some dogs to have recurrent ear infections.
How Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?
Check your dog’s ears regularly for abnormal discharge, odor and/or redness
If your dog’s outer ear appears dirty, clean gently with a cotton ball dampened with a solution suggested by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can make recommendations on how frequently you should clean your dog’s ears.
After baths and swimming, be sure to dry your dog’s ears thoroughly.
If your dog has excessive hair in the outer ear canal, it should be removed. A groomer can do this, or you can ask your veterinarian to show you the proper technique for removing the hair.
Always take your dog to the veterinarian if you think he has an ear infection. In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will quickly clear up an infection. However, surgery can be needed for chronic infections or if forceful head shaking results in the rupture of a vessel within the outer part of the ear.
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