Dog ear infections and inflammation are common in dogs. Ear infections can happen in the outer, middle, or inner ear and they can be caused by a number of things. As the ear canal of a dog is not the same as a human ear canal, canine ear infections can differ in intensity as they have both vertical and horizontal components. The more vertical nature (L-shape) of the ear canal makes dogs more predisposed to ear infections.
Dog ear inflammation and infection are an unusual buildup of contamination within a particular part of the dog’s ear. This inflammation and infection can occur in the inner, middle, or outer ear. This is a common incidence in dog breeds that are genetically predisposed or dogs that live a specific lifestyle, such as being in humid weather, outdoors, or working dogs.
Ear infections are caused by several types of bacterial and fungal yeasts. Only after identification of a specific type of infection present, it is possible to know which medication to use. Sometimes, the infections are due to a tumor, foreign body, or polyp. Proper diagnosis can be done by a careful ear examination by your veterinarian.
Ear mites can also mimic ear infection symptoms, including head-shaking, black discharge, and scratching. However, infections due to ear mites are more common in pups and young dogs. Occasionally, adult dogs may contract ear mites from infected puppies. Ear mites produce a setting within the dog ear canal that often cause a secondary bacterial or fungal (yeast) infection.
Chronic ear infections are another major cause of hearing loss. Wax build-up in the ear canals causes temporary hearing loss. Traumatic injury to the ear causes infections that may be temporary or permanent.
Symptoms Of Ear Infection
- Itching, excessive pawing, and Scratching at the affected ear
- Shaking head repeatedly, particularly when it looks unnatural or awkward
- Rubbing the ears on the floor, as if to relieve pain or itchiness
- Redness and swelling around the ear canal
- Ear discharge or odor
- Head tilt to one side
- Crusted or scabs over the skin in the ears
Treatment Options For Ear Infection
Your vet may recommend diagnostic tests depending on your dog’s health, current symptoms, and medical history.
Depending on the underlying cause, vets may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:
- Pluck overgrown ear hair and remove foreign objects in the ear.
- The ear canal is cleaned by the vet and removes any infection and/or wax out of the ears.
- Infection - Oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
- Antihistamines - Chlortrimeton, Benadryl, Atarax, Clemastine, Claritin and Zyrtec.
- Pruritus - Pruritic skin disease via antipruritic drugs.
- Allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) - Presently, this is the only treatment existing to change a pet's immune response to allergens and help recover the well-being of the immune system.
- Antibiotics and Antifungal Medications - These are required to treat secondary infections.
- Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Agents - Cortisone (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone) and Cyclosporine (Atopica).
Home Remedies For Ear Infection
The best treatment for your pet will be based on what’s causing the itch. The quick fixes or just treating symptomatically without finding the source often leads to the development of resistant infections and aggravation of the itch over time.
Discuss with a veterinarian any home care specific to your dog’s situation.
This may include dietary changes, exercise, further medications to administer, and future veterinary visits for treatments as needed.
Prevention Of Ear Infection
There is a simple way to prevent ear infections. Inculcating a healthy routine and avoiding the triggers from the start is a good way of prevention.
- Dogs with skin folds and ears can be cleaned daily with a clean, damp cloth, shampoo, wipes, ointment, lotion, spray, skin cleanser, etc.
- Regularly brush the dog to reduce shedding. Consistent grooming spreads the skin’s natural protective oils across the surface.
- Regular long-term use of moisturizing, cleansing, and emollient products supports a dog’s skin and ear defenses and prevention of recurrence.
- Consult with your veterinarian dermatologist for hypoallergenic vaccinations.
Affected Breeds Of Ear Infection
Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Shar Pei, Labradoodle, Golden Retriever, Poodle, Bichon Frise, Boxer, Border Terrier, Border Collie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Cockapoo, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd, French Bulldog, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Rottweiler, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Spaniel Dog Breeds
Additional Facts For Ear Infection
- Environmental factors (eg, pollens of trees, grasses and weeds, dust mites, and molds)
- Ectoparasites( flea allergies)
- Infection by bacteria/Cutaneous colonization(Staphylococcus pseudintermedius)
- Yeast (Malassezia pachydermatis)
- Foreign objects inside the ear canal
Dog ear infections are of 3 types:
Otitis externa: Also called Swimmer's ear, the most common one that typically affects the external auditory canal and the auricle or both dogs.
Otitis media: This affects the middle part of the ear canal (middle ear cavity and ossicles). This usually develops secondarily in half of the chronic otitis externa cases.
- Acute otitis media (AOM): Affects abruptly
- Otitis media with effusion (OME): Even after the initial infection subsides, Fluid (effusion) and mucus continue to accumulate
- Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME): Even when there is no infection, fluid remains in the ear for a prolonged period
Otitis interna (labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis): This affects the inner ear and can result in neurological damage
Ear infections are not usually associated with mortality, however, ear infections can lead to Behaviour problems, which in turn decrease their health as well as their quality of life and may lead to euthanasia or relinquishment.
- Physical examination
Prognosis depends on the diagnosis and appropriate treatment for cases of ear infection. Infected Dogs due to an underlying medical condition will need follow-up visits to monitor their progress. Dogs that were diagnosed with an environmental problem will need their owner to have patience and consistency in breaking the influence.
When To See A Vet
Time to visit the vet clinic for an examination, if you notice any of the following:
- Itching, excessive pawing, and Scratching at the affected ear.
- Shaking head repeatedly, particularly when it looks unnatural or awkward.
Food Suggestions For Ear Infection
- Fresh, lean protein (Lean ground beef, White-meat skinless chicken, or turkey).
- Low-carb dog food/peas, sweet potatoes, squash, yams, pumpkin, etc.
- Antioxidants- Blueberries, blackberries, Steamed broccoli, spinach, cooked yellow squash, kale, and green beans.
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids: Brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, kale, pineapple, papaya, strawberries, etc.
- Iron: Lean meats like ground beef and lamb, fish, such as sardines and salmon, pumpkin, carrots, and leafy greens.
The prognosis for dogs with ear infections depends upon the specific diagnosis, as well as the dog's health condition at the time of diagnosis.
If the underlying cause of ear infection is diagnosed early and the dog is in relatively good health, effective treatment for the underlying illness will result in a good prognosis.