If you are a pet owner , you have likely had experience with ear infections in dogs. It usually starts as head shaking and scratching at the ears. Sometimes discharge may be noted in the ears. Typically the discharge can either be black discharge, or in severe cases pus may be noted in the ears. The ears can be severely inflamed and painful to the touch. So what causes ear infections in dogs? How are they diagnosed? What is the best way to treat ear infections? Can they be avoided?
The Anatomy of the Ear
The first step to understand how ear infections in dogs develop is to understand the anatomy of the ear. Many pet owners don’t realize a fair amount of the ear is made up of skin. Actually, the ear is mostly skin and cartilage. What makes the ears unique compared to other parts of the body with skin is that it has a canal that starts vertical and ends horizontally. In response to allergies the skin in the ear canal can be inflamed which results in increases secretion of their glands. This results in increased secretions within these canals making it more favorable for yeast infection due to a dark moist environment. This is also the case if water get in the ears for other reasons such as swimming or frequent baths. So as you see the main causes for ear infections in dogs includes allergies and moisture. Other less common causes may include earmites or conformation.
Diagnosis of ear infections in dogs
Why is the diagnosis of an ear infections in dogs important? A common issue I experience with owners is when they notice their pets exhibiting the signs consistent with an ear infection, home remedies to clean are often concocted hoping they will help. While symptoms such as head shaking and exudate can make it obvious that an ear infection is present, it is important to determine what is causing the infection. Infections can be caused by yeast, bacteria, or both. Also other factors such as ear mites can also contribute. Swab of the ear’s exudate can be a great help with treatment. A slide of this exudate is examined under a microscope to determine the cause of infection so the appropriate treatment can be given.
Treatment of ear infections in dogs
Though most ear infections in dogs can be effectively treated, the biggest challenge regarding treatment for owners is to get the medicine in the ears. There are pets who will run, hide, and even become aggressive for treating the ears. Fortunately there are several treatment options that can help any pet ranging from the most submissive to the most aggressive.
The most common treatment for ear infections in dogs include a topical ointment applied to the ear at least once daily and involves cleaning ears at least twice weekly. The topical ointment typical contains an antibiotic, an antifungal, and a steroid. This combination of ingredients helps with the common symptoms seen with most ear infections.
Other treatment options
For those pets who are challenging to treat, there are long term meds. These meds require just one or two applications and can last as long between 30 -45 days. There is Osurnia which just requires two applications 7 days apart and is then is effective for 45 days. There is also a product called Claro that is applied to the ear one time and last for 30 days.
If there is serious bacterial infection present, then oral antibiotics will be needed to treat ear infections in dogs.
Can ear infections in dogs be avoided?
You can’t guarantee that an ear infection will never occur in your pets. But you can help minimize their recurrence. Since the most common cause for ear infections are allergies, it may be a good idea to get your pet allergy tested to determine what they could be allergic to. Most allergy tests can provide information about what food and environmental triggers they may have. Sometimes avoidance of these factors can prevent recurrence. Also if your pet has a long history of allergies, then they may need to be placed on long term medication such as Apoquel, antihistamine, or steroids. You may also look into changing to a hypoallergenic diet to see if it would help. If your pet is a swimmer, then you should use a swimmer astringent afterwards to help dry the ear out after swimming.
Though ear infections are common in pets, with diagnosis of the cause, and control of allergies, they can be manageable. No matter what the cause of the ear infection, it is important that you get it treated before permanent issues with the ears occur.