If you’re a proud pet parent to a lovable pooch, you should be prepared to one day help your canine companion fight off an ear infection. Why? For one thing, your pal’s ear canal is mostly vertical unlike yours, which is mostly horizontal.
This vertical orientation makes it easier for dirt, debris, and moisture to get trapped inside the ear and lead to infection. There are a lot of reasons why dogs get ear infections, which are one of the most common health problems pups face.
The medical term for an ear infection is otitis, or an inflammation of the ear. Your doggie could get one of three types, depending on what part of their ear is affected:
Otitis Externa is the most common, but it’s important that you always take your pup to the veterinarian if you suspect an ear infection, even if their symptoms are mild. Ear infections can spread deeper into the ear canal, causing nerve damage, equilibrium issues, and hearing loss.
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to your pooch developing an ear infection. Some common ones include excess hair in the ear canal, earwax buildup, or too much moisture. However, these factors are only contributors.
Typically, dog ear infections are linked to an underlying cause, such as:
Dog ear infections don’t discriminate. Any pooch can develop one at any time – regardless of age, breed, or medical history. However, doggies with allergies and certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, are at a higher risk for ear infections.
The shape of a dog’s pinnae, or outer ear, can also be a factor. Breeds with long, floppy ears – like Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers – are predisposed to the condition.
It’s pretty adorable when your lil’ buddy tilts their head to the side and looks up at you with those puppy dog eyes. But persistent head-tilting could actually be a sign that your pup is suffering from a dog ear infection. If your dog keeps shaking their head, they might also be trying to tell you they are experiencing pain or discomfort. Other symptoms include:
Remember, dog ear infections are typically the result of a root cause and additional factors, which all add up to a very miserable pup. Contact your veterinarian as soon as you observe symptoms in your dog, so you can put the right treatment plan in place to get your furry friend on the mend.
If you suspect an ear infection, schedule a visit with your veterinarian so that they may perform a thorough physical examination to determine the root cause. They can also check your pup for any self-trauma, deformities of the outer ear, and abnormal tissue growth that could lead to ear infections.
Next, the veterinarian may examine your dog’s ears with an otoscope. This handy device gives a magnified view inside your pal’s ears and helps identify impacted debris, ear mites, or anything else causing trouble. It also lets the veterinarian know if the eardrum has been ruptured or damaged in any way. If your pooch is in a lot of pain or tends to get nervous in these situations, they may need to be sedated for this part of the examination.
From there, your veterinarian may want to take tissue cultures or examine your pup’s discharge for parasites. If allergies are the suspected culprit, your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing. If there’s a chance the middle or inner ear is affected, your dog may need an X-ray. In severe, long-term cases where just one ear is affected, a tumor may be present, and your dog could require a biopsy.
Since ear infections are linked to a variety of causes, treatments can vary. In the most basic terms, bacterial infections require antibiotics, fungal infections require fungicides, and parasite-related infections require insecticides.
Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a treatment plan. In many cases, your pup will receive an ear cleaning right in the veterinarian’s office because earwax and discharge can interfere with topical medications. Then your veterinarian will send your pal home with 2-4 weeks of medicated eardrops. It’s critical that you finish the entire course of medication – even if your dog’s symptoms start to improve – and schedule a follow-up visit with your veterinarian.
No matter what, do not try to treat your dog’s ear infection at home without consulting your veterinarian. Home remedies can be painful and dangerous.
Singing “A Spoonful of Sugar” might calm your nerves, but it’s probably not going to help your doggie’s eardrops go down their ear canal any more efficiently. Make sure you ask your veterinarian for a demonstration. You can also try these helpful hints:
If your dog has recurring ear infections, speak with your veterinarian about developing a long-term plan that takes into account their history and lifestyle. For most pups, basic prevention includes checking the ears regularly for debris and wax buildup.
Always keep your pal’s ears dry and well ventilated, taking extra care after bathing or swimming. Your veterinarian can prescribe an ear-cleaning solution with a special drying agent if needed, but make sure you never apply with Q-tips – cotton-tipped applicators can damage your dog’s ears.
Grooming can also be a helpful preventative measure, taking special care to trim excess ear hair, but always ask your veterinarian for a demo first or take your pal to a professional groomer. And of course, scheduling an annual check-up is an important step in prevention.
Like any pet health condition, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up expenses for dog ear infections can add up. An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Plan can help cover the cost of care for your furry friend. Get a quote now.
Don’t forget kitties can get ear infections, too. Is your cat is covered?