Like humans, dogs can also develop ear infections at times, due to fungal or bacterial overgrowth, and the accumulation of earwax inside the ear canal. This article discusses some of the possible causes of canine ear infection, along with its symptoms and treatment.
The anatomy of a dog’s ear is largely responsible for increasing the risk of getting frequent ear infections. The ear canal of a dog first plunges downward (towards the side of the head) before taking a horizontal turn inward. The structure of the ear makes it difficult for debris and water to move upward to escape the ear canal. This is the reason why dogs are more susceptible to develop ear infections.
Ear infections and inflammation are usually classified into three types – Otitis Externa (inflammation of the external ear), Otitis Media (inflammation of the middle ear), and Otitis Interna (inflammation of the inner ear), of which middle and inner ear infections are more serious in nature.
An infection of the inner ear can sometimes spread to the central nervous system, which if left untreated, can cause death of the affected animal.
Diagnosis and Treatment
» A veterinarian can detect an ear infection by examining the ear canal and the eardrum with the help of an otoscope. Additionally, the veterinarian may take a swab of the debris or the ear discharge, and examine it to look for the presence of parasites, ear mites, bacteria, and yeast.
» If the infection is found to be caused by bacteria, then a culture of the ear discharge is carried out to detect the specific type of bacteria responsible for causing the infection. But if the infection is chronic in nature, and is suspected to be caused by an underlying disorder, your veterinarian can perform a few other diagnostic tests like blood tests (to rule out hypothyroidism), allergy tests, fungal cultures, and skin scrapings.
» An ear infection is usually treated with professional cleaning followed by the application of appropriate medications. Veterinarians usually flush the infected ear with a wash and then clean it with an ear cleaning solution, which helps remove the accumulated debris. Afterwards, you can clean the ear on your own. But before cleaning your pet’s ear, always make sure that the eardrum is intact. If the eardrum is perforated, you cannot use certain medications and cleaning agents.
» For cleaning the infected ear, never use cotton swabs, as these can push the dirt and debris further into the ear canal. Instead, you can use a piece of dry cloth or cotton balls to wipe away the dirt from the outer ear canal. First, apply the cleaner recommended by the veterinarian in the infected ear, and wait for a few seconds. Massage the ear at the base to facilitate the movement of the cleaner. After 25 to 30 seconds, use a cotton ball to remove the dirt from the ear, and wipe the inner flap of the ear with a piece of dry and soft cloth.
» Along with cleaning, it is important to address the underlying causes of ear infections. A veterinarian usually prescribes antibacterial ear drops, if the infection is caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can also be recommended for treating a severe bacterial infection. On the other hand, antifungal ointments and drops are recommended for treating a fungal infection of the ear.
» Never use alcohol and other products that can irritate the already inflamed skin of the infected ear. Many people recommend the use of home remedies, like apple cider vinegar and garlic for preventing the growth of bacteria and yeasts in the ear. Never apply such home remedies on your pet’s ears without consulting a veterinarian.
For preventing canine ear infections in the future, consider the following precautionary measures.
✔ Clean your pet’s ears at regular intervals, and keep him out of water as much as possible, if he happens to be an avid swimmer.
✔ After giving your dog a bath, be sure to dry the ears properly.
✔ If food allergies are responsible for causing frequent ear infections, then identify and avoid the specific foods.
✔ Finally, check your dog’s ears regularly for the presence of any discharge, swelling, and odor.
Causes of Canine Ear Infections
» It has been observed that dogs having floppy ears, and excess fur inside the ears are more prone to develop an infection and inflammation of the ear, due to reduced air flow. The lack of proper air circulation creates a warm and moist environment conducive for the growth of infectious agents.
» The fungus that is more commonly responsible for causing canine ear infections is Malassezia pachydermatis. On the other hand, bacterial ear infections in dogs are usually caused by Staphylococcus intermedius andPseudomonas aeruginosa.
» Sometimes, this condition is caused by an excessive secretion and buildup of earwax. Dogs that love to swim are more prone to get frequent ear infections, as water can easily enter the ear canal while swimming. The resultant moist environment created inside the ear can produce a favorable environment for bacterial and fungal growth.
Signs and Symptoms
The affected dog usually shakes its head vigorously, and scratches the infected ear with the paw, or rubs it against furniture or other objects. Sometimes, the dog can tilt its head to one side continuously, in order to get rid of the discomfort and pain. Apart from these, you can observe the following symptoms if your pet is suffering from an ear infection:
✧ Yellow, brown, or bloody discharge from the ear
✧ Presence of a strong odor in the ear
✧ Crusting or scabby skin accumulated in the ear flap
✧ Hair loss around the affected ear
✧ Loss of balance
✧ Walking in circles
✧ Nystagmus or unusual eye movements
If you notice the presence of any abnormal discharge or odor in your pet’s ears, do not forget to get the ears properly examined by a veterinarian. Finally, be sure to take care of your pet, and give him healthy and nutritious foods. You can also talk to your veterinarian whether vitamin C supplementation can be given to your dog, in order to strengthen his immune system.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.