As a caring owner, you should check your dog’s ears regularly to ensure they are not infected. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent care, many dogs are prone to ear infections. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20% of dogs suffer from infected ears.
Infections can occur in both ears or just one, and seeking immediate treatment is necessary to prevent long-term damage to your canine companion’s hearing.
This article will address what ear infections in your dog look like, why they happen and what actions you need to take to ensure your dog is healthy, happy and infection free.
The Three Types of Ear Infections
There are different types of ear infections in dogs, and they are classified depending on where in the ear the infection is:
- Otitis externa: Infections on the outer ear or external ear canal
- Otitis media: Infection of the middle ear
- Otitis interna: Infection of the inner ear
Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections
Ear infections can be painful for your pet, and there are several things to look out for when checking your dog. These include:
- Scratching at the infected ear
- A strong smell from your dog’s ears
- Head shaking
- A buildup of wax
- Black or yellow discharge
- Redness and swelling of the ear canal
- Crusting or scabs in or around the ears
- Your dog is showing signs of pain in and around their ears
Make sure you are checking your dog’s ears regularly. If your dog starts to tilt their head more often or struggles with balance, this may indicate the infection has moved deeper into the ear canal. It’s vital that at the first sign of infection, you seek the support of your veterinarian to prevent long-term damage to your pet’s hearing.
What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?
There are multiple causes of ear infections in dogs. An ear infection can be a sign of an underlying health issue, so seeking immediate help from your veterinarian is crucial. Treatment varies depending on the cause. These causes include the following:
Many things in the environment can irritate your pet’s ears and cause infection. Allergies can be broadly split into two types:
- Environmental allergies, including mold, dander and pollen
- Food allergies
Obstruction of the Ear Canal
Obstruction of the ear canal can cause ear infections. There are many ways the ear canal can become obstructed, including:
- Tumors: often benign, but treatment will require surgical removal
- Polyps: fleshy, benign growths which may block the ear canal
- Foreign bodies, such as grass seed, foxtails or other plant matter
The canine ear canal is shaped like an L, with a longer horizontal section than humans. This means it is easy for excess water from swimming or bathing to become trapped and create an environment where a fungal infection can develop and cause issues.
Endocrine and Autoimmune Diseases
Several disorders can lead to ear infections. These include hypothyroidism, pemphigus, lupus and vasculitis.
Trauma to the Ear
Trauma to your dog’s ears may lead to an ear infection. Therefore, any trauma should be treated as soon as possible to avoid further complications.
Identifying which of these is causing your pet’s ear infections is essential, as the treatment regime will differ depending on the cause. Your veterinarian will be able to determine which is the most likely cause of your dog’s symptoms and what tests they will need to run to give you a definitive answer. They will then be able to treat accordingly.
One of the causes of infections is ear mites, tiny insects that live on the skin’s surface or inside the ear canal. They belong to the Psoroptidae family of parasites and do not burrow into the skin like some other mites. Prolonged infection with ear mites can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
How Are Dog Ear Infections Diagnosed?
If you suspect an ear infection, you must speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will need information from you to reach a diagnosis. This may include:
- What symptoms is your dog experiencing, and for how long?
- Does your dog have any health concerns?
- Does your dog have allergies?
- Does your dog take medication?
- What has your dog eaten recently?
- Are you cleaning your dog’s ears? What products do you use?
- Has your dog been near water lately?
- Has your pet had an ear infection in the past?
Your veterinarian may need to run tests, including X-rays, MRI or CT scans. They may also need to collect blood, take tissue samples and examine your pet before they can make a formal diagnosis. Also, be aware that where a dog is experiencing extreme pain, it may need to be sedated for the veterinarian to examine them thoroughly.
How Are Dog Ear Infections Treated?
Treatment of the infection is dependent on the cause. It can include cleaning the infected ear, taking medication in several forms and removing the source of the irritation (in the case of physical obstruction). If food allergies are causing the infection, a change to your dog’s diet may be needed.
Can You Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs?
Regular cleaning of your dog’s ears is recommended to prevent their ears from getting infected. You’ll need cotton balls and a specialist ear cleanser to clean your dog’s ears. Follow the instructions on the ear cleanser and do not use cotton swabs as this may cause infection or make any infection present worse.
Regular cleaning will not prevent all infections, but it will help you spot infections early so that you can seek the appropriate care quickly.
Also, ensure you thoroughly dry your pet’s ears after bathing or swimming to prevent excess moisture from causing issues.
Types of Dogs That Are More Prone to Ear Infections
Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible than others to ear infections. These include:
- Any breeds with long, floppy ears, such as Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels, tend to be susceptible to ear infections. The combination of their anatomy and a larger number of ear sweat glands compared to other breeds leads to an environment where ear infection is more likely.
- Breeds that have small ear canals, such as Shar Pei’s, can also experience problems with ear infections. Small ear canals increase the risk of obstruction by a foreign object.
- Breeds that are prone to allergies, such as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
- Breeds that have excess hair in the ear canal, such as Schnauzers and Poodles.
Let Sunset Vet Clinic Answer Your Questions About Dog Ear Infections
By following the advice in this article, you can ensure that your pet is well cared for and minimize the chance of them getting an ear infection.
Are you concerned about your dog’s ears? Sunset Veterinarian Clinic can help you care for your pet. We offer a wide range of services, including health checks, dental work, boarding and surgery. Call us today at 405-844-2888 or visit the contact page on our website for more information.