Dog Ear Infections
Ear infections in dogs (otitis externa) are common, especially in dogs with large, floppy or hairy ears, such as Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles and Basset Hounds.
What causes ear infections?
Due to the shape of a dog’s ear canal, it tends to hold fluid (rather than drain, like a human’s ear) which makes it more prone to ear infections. Ear infections can be caused by bacteria and/or yeast. In puppies, ear mites can cause similar symptoms as an ear infection.
Dogs may also be more predisposed to ear infections if they experience trauma to the area (such as from rubbing and scratching), foreign objects inside the ear (seeds, hair, etc.), allergies, or auto-immune disorders.
Dog ear infections may or may not include visible symptoms. Common ear infection symptoms include:
- Head shaking
- Scratching at the ear
- Redness or scabbing inside the ear
- Ear is hot to the touch
- Ear is painful/sensitive
- Excess wax, buildup, or crusting in the ear
Ear infections can be uncomfortable and even painful for your dog. It’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible in order to prevent the infection from spreading into the middle and inner ear.
Your vet will perform a physical examination to assess the severity of the infection. Further examination may involve taking culture samples or biopsies and in more severe cases, X-rays. Your vet will likely ask questions to determine the cause of infection, such as what your dog has been eating, if they have allergies, if they have been swimming, and if they are on any medications.
Treating dog ear infections
Ear infection treatment involves thoroughly cleaning the affected area with a medicated cleaning solution. Your vet may also prescribe an ear cleaning solution and topical medication. In more severe cases, they may also prescribe oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.
If the situation isn’t severe, the infection should resolve within 1-2 weeks with proper treatment. Severe infections can take months to heal or may even require surgery.
There are a few preventive measures you can take to avoid or reduce the number of ear infections your dog gets.
- Keep your dog’s ears clean and dry, especially after bathing or swimming
- For dogs that are more prone to ear infections, regularly use an ear cleaning solution that contains a drying agent to gently clean your dog’s ears
- If your dog is prone to chronic ear infections, work with your vet to determine the underlying cause (such as allergies) to help prevent new infections
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