Dog Ear Infections: How To Treat Them
Did you know that dogs who suffer with recurrent ear infections have an 80% chance of food intolerance?
Ear infections are divided into otitis externa, otitis media and otitis interna - which you can probably guess to be infections of the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
Otitis externa in particular is an inflammatory condition of the external auditory canal or the external ear. Symptoms of this type of ear infection include redness, warmth, swelling, scaling, discharge and thickening of the ear. You may also notice that your dog is experiencing discomfort, itching or slight deafness.
You’re probably wondering how on earth an ear infection can be related to a food allergy or an imbalance in the gut?! Well, let us tell you…
Food allergies act as an immune system trigger and causes the body to go into a state of inflammation. This often includes the ear and ear canals. It may cause an ear to become inflamed, creating a warm and humid environment. We all know that warm and humid environments are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast! This will almost always result in an infection in the ear if not caught soon enough.
What causes an ear infection in dogs?
Diagnosing a dog ear infection requires a bit of research, because you need to determine why your pet is shaking his head, scratching and whining.
A canine’s ear canal forms an L shape and it’s more vertical than in humans, meaning it tends to retain fluid which might cause your pet to suffer from an infectious ear.
Of course, food allergies are not the only reason your dog could be experiencing frequent ear infections. Most of the time this condition is caused by bacteria and yeast, or combination of two. Other common causes of ear infections in dogs include:
- Thyroid problems
- External allergies
- Grass seeds
- Ear mites
- Bacteria growth
- Auto-immune disease
- Excess cleaning
Healthy dog ears are generally pink, clean and have an unobtrusive smell. A dog suffering from an ear infection might show a number of these symptoms and requires special health care.
If ear infections are left untreated, they can spread further into the ear, causing deafness, facial paralysis, vestibular and loss of balance. That’s why it’s important to address the signs as soon as they appear and have your dog ear infections treated at the vet clinic.
Dog breeds more prone than others to ear infections include those with floppy or hair ears such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles and Golden Retrievers.
What happens when I take my dog to the vet?
Your vet will perform a thorough health examination of your dog’s skin and ear drum to ensure it is intact. They may take a small sample of the ear contents to observe under a microscope in order to determine the problem.
If your dog is in extreme pain and will not allow the examination safely, it may be necessary to sedate or anesthetise them. Whatever the outcome may be, the veterinarian will suggest the best treatment for your dog.
Common signs and symptoms of ear infections include:
- Head shaking
- Foul odour
- Crusting around the ear
How do you treat ear infections in dogs?
Treatment for ear infections vary depending on the case and severity of the case. Some vets will prescribe antibiotics or other common medications to get rid of the infection. Be aware that antibiotics don’t discriminate and destroy both good and bad bacteria. Using Probiotics alongside antibiotics is a great way to keep your dog’s gut balanced and help prevent them from becoming even more sick, while providing additional care not only for their ear infection but for their tummies.
For less severe infections, your vet may perform a thorough clean on the ear and show you how you can do so too. This way you can easily clean your dog’s ear canal at home.
Recurrent infections will often need a closer look - you may be advised to undergo an elimination diet with your dog to find out just what is causing the flare ups.
Your veterinarian might recommend using a cleanser in combination with ointment. You will need to insert this medication deep into an ear canal and sometimes even use an oti-pack, which is lanolin based and doesn’t require the application of drops or daily cleaning.
In the most extreme cases, when your pet doesn’t respond to medical treatments, surgery is the only option. The veterinarian will open an ear canal or even completely remove the infected tissue.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s ear infections, always seek veterinary advice. Your vet knows your dog’s health better than anyone!
How to prevent ear infections?
Preventing ear infections from occurring can be difficult if you don’t know the cause but we can certainly try!
Always dry your dog’s ears after bathing, swimming or any other situation where they may have gotten wet because you don’t want to deliberately cause a dog ear infection.
Identify the allergy whether it be internal or external. In fact, infection cases can affect the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
Keep your dog clean! Check ears often for any changes and particularly focus on ear cleaning.
Use supplements. Strengthening allergen barriers with the help of probiotics and omega 3 may be just what your dog needs!
Are dog ear infections contagious?
While it may depend on the cause, most dog ear infections aren’t contagious. You should be very cautious with ear mites because these parasites are extremely contagious. All pets in your home need to be treated individually.
Practice good hand washing every time you interact with your dog and limit their contact with other animals in your household. Dog ear infection cases will not go on their own and you will require a veterinarian to evaluate the health condition of your pet.
When it comes to an ear infection, most dogs respond to medication immediately and don’t experience any long-term effects. If the infection isn’t diagnosed and treated on time, your dog may experience long-term effects like a lost sense of balance and deafness.
You need to follow the vet’s instructions closely to make sure that the ear infections cause has been eliminated entirely. Ear infections treated at a vet clinic can be expensive and you will probably need pet insurance.
What if you can’t afford a vet?
It’s always wise to take your dog to a vet but not everyone can afford their services. If you are short on funds, try explaining to your vet this situation and try to work out a payment plan. Some even have emergency funds for dogs and will gladly give you a hand. You could always ask your vet for alternative treatment if your pet doesn’t suffer from a severe infection or ask how you can take care of your dog at home.
How to clean your dog’s ears properly?
Regular cleaning and regular grooming are some of the best ways to prevent symptoms an ear infection can cause. You should clean dog’s ears regularly if your pet tends to swim often. We suggest using professional cleaning products that have been specifically designed for dogs.
They contain drying agents and are formulated for effective pH ranges for canines and will help you take care of your dog properly.
When cleaning your dog’s ears, don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol since these two products can damage healthy ear cells. Don’t stick a cotton swab into your pet’s ear because you might accidentally rupture their eardrum. You can use cotton balls to clean ear flaps and crevices.
To properly clean their ears at home, apply a liquid cleanser or any other treatment you use to the ear as directed. Close the earflap and start massaging the base of the ear gently. Clean the residue with cotton balls or cloth. Apply medication if prescribed. When doing all this, ensure your dog has enough privacy otherwise they will be restless since most aren’t fans of ear cleansing.