Seeing a dog scratching or rubbing his ears is nothing new. While often this could be an innocent itch or irritation, it can also be a symptom of something more serious – an ear infection. It may surprise you to know those ear infections are just as common in pets as they are in people. Unfortunately, dogs are unable to verbally tell us that they are suffering and so instead, are reliant on their owners picking up on the signs and symptoms that they are displaying to us. By recognizing that your canine pal has an ear infection, you can seek prompt medical attention and alleviate their discomfort before it becomes too severe.
Symptoms of ear infections in dogs
There is a range of different ways that your furbaby may be trying to communicate ear discomfort to you. Some of the most common symptoms of an ear infection in dogs include:
- Scratching and rubbing his ears
- Shaking his head vigorously or holding it to one side
- Redness or swelling in or around the ears
- Balance problems
- Discharge from the ears
- Hair loss around the ears
- Hearing loss
- A foul smell emanating from the ears
- Refusal to be touched near his ears, or an aggressive reaction if you get too close to them
- A change in behavior such as depression or irritability
Causes of ear infections in dogs
Ear infections are a common problem affecting canines. There can be many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the natural shape of the ear canal. Breeds with floppy ears have ear canals that are bent at a ninety-degree angle, meaning that if something becomes trapped inside, it is exceedingly difficult to get it out. Heavy ear flaps covering the ear canal can also create a warm, moist environment which is perfect for bacteria to breed and infections to take hold.
Veterinarians also see ear infections in canines as a result of:
- Allergies, particularly atopy or food intolerances
- Hereditary factors – some breeds of dog are more prone to infections
- Hormonal imbalances
- Immune disorders
- Parasite infestations
- Trauma to the ear or ear canal
- Tumors or polyps
Ears can also be affected by a range of other medical conditions, so it is essential that you seek professional advice from our veterinarian, rather than trying to treat your dog’s infection yourself. This is because failing to treat the right thing can cause chronic infections, and/or cause permanent damage to the ear canal.
Treatments for canine ear infections
Thankfully, treating an ear infection is usually pretty straightforward. In addition to a physical examination, our vet may request x-rays of your canine pal’s ear, and take a sample of debris from the ear for culture and sensitivity testing. This will help him/her to check for foreign bodies that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and to select the best antibiotic to treat the infection.
After identifying the cause of the infection, our vet will recommend the most appropriate course of treatment. Most dogs with ear infections can be treated at home with either topical or oral medications. If your dog is diagnosed with ear mites, you may also be given a separate medication to administer, which is usually placed either inside the ear or between the shoulder blades.
The majority of yeast and bacterial infections will require you to perform regular cleanings of your dog’s ears, in addition to a course of antibiotic medication. This will ensure that any bacteria are completely eradicated, and your pet’s ears are as clean and healthy as possible by the time that they have finished their treatment. However, regular ear cleanings are still recommended as they will help to protect your pet from further ear problems in the future.
If the ear canals have suffered damage due to a severe infection, surgical repairs may be necessary. However, this is rare, and our veterinarian will be able to talk through the process with you ahead of the surgery.
If you are concerned that your four-legged best friend may be suffering from an ear infection, don’t delay to contact and seek the advice of our friendly, knowledgeable veterinarian for details about our services.