Ear Infections In Dogs
Read about the symptoms, causes and treatments:
Ear infections occur when sebum, wax, hair, moisture, and debris build up in the ear canal, providing the perfect environment for nasty microorganisms to flourish.
Dogs with ear infections tend to show specific signs:
- Shaking head frequently
- Scratching at ears
- Odour from ears
- Excess debris in ears and/or discharge from ears
- Red, irritated ears (sometimes painful)
- Scabs and/or hair loss around ears (from scratching)
- Head tilted to one side (this is more common if the eardrum is affected)
Complications of Chronic or Untreated Ear Infections:
If an ear infection goes untreated, serious complications (such as hearing loss, facial nerve paralysis and vestibular issues) can arise, especially if the infection spreads beyond the external ear canal to the inner/middle ear.
Chronic (longterm) ear issues may cause the skin of the ear canal to become thickened and scarred. This causes the ear canal to become narrow – making it even more difficult to get ear medications down to the source of the problem.
In the worst cases, surgery is sometimes recommended to remove the ear canal in its entirety and close up the ear permanently, a procedure called a ‘total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy (known as TECABO).
Pets with chronic ear infections sometimes require lifelong maintenance. Medical investigations into general skin allergies or resistant microorganisms growing on the skin or inside the ears can help reduce the incidence of infections greatly.
Causes of Ear Infections:
- Certain dog breeds with floppy ears (such as hounds and spaniels) may be more prone to ear infections than breeds with erect ears.
- Some dogs naturally secrete more earwax and sebum than others.
- Some have too much hair inside the ears.
- Dogs with underlying or generalised skin allergies are more likely to develop ear infections because the ear canals are made from skin.
- Dogs that swim a lot may have excess moisture in their ears, leading to bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth.
How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed?
You should bring your pet to the veterinarian at the first sign of an ear infection. Typically, a swab to obtain a sample of the ear debris/discharge is obtained, then examined under a microscope to determine what type of microorganism is causing the issue.
Without microscopic evidence, a veterinarian cannot be certain of the type of ear infection present and ensure the correct medication is dispensed to treat the problem.
Once an ear infection has been diagnosed, your vet will discuss the proper treatment and ways to prevent a recurrence.
The removal of excess debris/discharge/hair is usually the first step to begin the healing process. Often, medications cannot work if the ear is full of hair or debris. Sometimes, ear infections are very painful, so initial cleaning and examination may need to be completed while your dog is under anaesthetic.
Your vet may prescribe a liquid ear medication to be placed directly into the ears daily, or arrange for the special application of a longer lasting medication to be applied. Sometimes, oral medications are also prescribed (this depends on the severity of the infection and your vet’s decision on the best treatment).
How to Prevent Ear Infections:
No matter the cause of the ear infection, one of the most important things you can do to prevent recurrence is to begin an ear checking and cleaning regimen.
- Check your pets’ ears regularly – if you know what ‘normal’ looks like it will be much easier to identify an issue early on.
- Purchase a gentle ear cleaning solution but do not clean the ears too often – they should only be cleaned when you can see the start of wax/debris building up.
- Ensure the ears are always dried thoroughly after a swim, bath or ear clean.
- Ensure dogs with hairy ears have them attended to regularly (plucking may or may not be appropriate).
If you are concerned that your dog may have an ear infection, call us on 3288 1574 or book an appointment to see one of our veterinarians.
GREATER SPRINGFIELD VETERINARY
Under the leadership of Dr Jeannet Kessels, we have been caring for pets in the Greater Springfield area since 2006.
We are one dedicated team working across two easy-to-access locations.
We are here for you 7am-10pm, 7 days a week.
Emergencies are seen at our Augustine Heights Hospital.