Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs

Some estimates put the number of dogs with ear infections at as many as 1 in 5. More prone to ear diseases than humans, dogs can experience significant discomfort from them. 

So how can you tell if your dog has an ear infection? Read on to find out and learn how to treat these common canine complications.

Why Are Ear Infections More Common in Dogs?

The shape of a dog’s ear canal is slightly different from that in humans. It’s part of the reason that makes dogs more likely to suffer from an ear infection. Their ears tend to trap more moisture making them a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Dogs with floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds tend to pick up more ear infections than dogs with upright ears. Dogs that swim a lot are also more likely to develop ear infections because of a build-up of excess water in their ears.

Common Types of Ear Infection and How to Spot Them

Put simply, an ear infection is an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria found in the ear canal that can be sore and painful. The most common causes are:

  • An underlying issue like ear mites
  • A skin problem
  • Excess earwax
  • Skin and food allergies  
  • Foreign bodies getting stuck in the ear, excessive cleaning or injury

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All dog owners should regularly check their pets for tell-tale signs of health issues. These include ear infections. Here’s what to look for:

  • Ear scratching and head shaking that demonstrate discomfort and pain
  • A dark kind of discharge and/or unpleasant smell from the ear 
  • Some redness and swelling around the ear canal
  • Crusting or scabs on or in the ears

A tilting of the head or loss of balance are signs that an infection may have moved deeper into the ear. 

The more quickly you can treat your dog, the faster their recovery is likely to be. You should always contact your vet when you suspect your dog might have an ear infection.

The Importance of Early Treatment

Infections on the outer ear are most common. Some of these can easily spread to the middle and inner ear, however. Once that happens the consequences can be very serious. The result could be:

  • Deafness 
  • Facial paralysis
  • Vertigo and imbalance

Early and effective treatment is more likely to prevent these kinds of issues. When you contact your vet, you should have the following information to hand:

  • The duration and type of symptoms, including pain, swelling, discharge, & smell
  • A record of any allergies or other underlying medical conditions your dog has
  • A note of any medication your dog is taking
  • Your dog’s diet 
  • Whether you clean your dog’s ears and details of any products you might use
  • When you last trimmed the hair from your dog’s ears
  • Any recent activities like baths, swimming, or grooming
  • Your dog’s ear infection history

During a clinical visit, your vet will want to carry out a thorough examination. In very serious cases, they may recommend sedating your dog so that they look deep inside the ear canal.

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Your vet may use an otoscope. This is a special instrument used to examine the condition of the ear canal and eardrum. They will also carry out a pain assessment, may take swab samples, or conduct X-rays.

Treatment for Ear Infections in Dogs

Your vet is likely to clean your dog’s ears with a specialized medicated ear cleanser. They may also prescribe a cleanser or ointment for you to use at home. In serious cases, they may recommend a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

The majority of less serious ear infections will sort themselves out over 1 or 2 weeks after appropriate treatment begins. Severe infections or those related to underlying conditions can take far longer to clear up.

The most serious, chronic cases could result in surgery and the removal of the ear canal.

Whatever the recommended course of treatment, it’s vital to follow it carefully. If you don’t, you run the risk of reinfection and further problems down the road. Always, for example, complete a course of antibiotics even if your dog appears better.

The Prevention of Ear Infections in Dogs

Nothing beats stopping infections from happening in the first place. You can help achieve this by: 

  • Thoroughly drying your dog’s ears after swimming and bathing
  • Treating allergies 
  • Cleaning your dog’s ears at home before any infection has developed

If you decide to clean your dog’s ears, fill the canal with a dog ear cleaning solution. Massage the vertical ear canal from the outside. 

Wipe out the canal with some absorbent gauze. Never use paper towels or cotton. Cotton swabs are useful for cleaning your dog’s external ear flaps but do not use them in the ear canal.

Always Seek Professional Advice

Ear infections are relatively common and frequently recur in many dogs.

Still looking for answers about ear infections in dogs? Schedule an instant video consultation with our qualified veterinarians and get tailored advice from the comfort of your home – today.

We’re also able to offer further peace of mind with our straightforward, hassle-free, pet insurance.

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