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Dog Ear Infections for Beginners

This is a Guest Blog Post written by Dr. Susan Wright, Staff Veterinarian for DogFenceDIY.com

Dog Ear Infections for Beginners:

You notice that your dog has been swatting at his ears or shaking his head excessively. These are the classic signs of an ear infection. What causes ear infections in dogs and how are infections treated?

Dog ear infections do not happen spontaneously, but are secondary to some other condition going on in the dog’s ear. The most common causes are:

Allergies, either to foods, or the environment or a combination of both. Allergies cause an increase of secretion production (which naturally happens to keep the ears clean). Dead skin, warmth and moisture from the increase in secretion production are the perfect breeding ground for bacterial or fungal infections.   For example, even though German Shepherds have erect ears, they are prone to allergies, which also make them prone to ear infections.

Foreign bodies. Plant matter, ear canal masses and impacted ear wax may lead to infection.

Ear anatomy. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to infections due to the outside of the ear, the pinna, flopping over the opening of the ear. This reduces the amount of air that can get to the inner ear and creates a warm and moist environment. The breeds of dogs that fall into this category include pugs, spaniels, basset hounds and poodles. Also, some dogs have a narrowing or stenosis of the ear canal, which also stops air circulating and keeps the ear canal warm and moist.

You’ll need to visit your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis as to the cause of your dog’s ear problem.

She will take a look at the outside and inside of your dog’s ears using an otoscope to determine the extent of the infection. If the infection is only on the pinna and outer ear, the irritation maybe due to mild allergies, mites or scabies, and a topical medication may be all that’s needed.

If you dog has had chronic inner ear infections or infections that have never resolved over a period of months, a maintenance treatment plan of topical and systemic medications may be the best way to bring your dog some relief.

If the ear is very painful, or the infection is the result of a foreign body, or mass in the ear canal, your dog may need an anesthetic to allow your vet a good look at what’s going on.

She will also take a sample of the secretions to look at under a microscope to determine if bacteria or fungi are growing, and she may even have the sample cultured in a lab to see what specifically is growing so the appropriate medication can be prescribed.

When your vet has established the cause of your dog’s ear infection, she can start an appropriate course of treatment.

The ear first needs to be cleaned with a gentle cleanser to remove as much of the discharge as possible. Do not use cotton tips to “dig” the discharge out. You may actually push it further into the ear canal.

Antibiotic drops may be prescribed to topically treat the infection. Most antibiotic drops also contain an anti-inflammatory to reduce the pain in the ear. Sometimes, antibiotic tablets are added when the infection is more advanced.

In more chronic cases when long term inflammation has thickened the outer canal, and is preventing air circulation and drainage of any fluid, surgery may be necessary. This surgery will open up the ear canal and allow more air to get to the canal, and allow the ear to drain properly.

There are steps you can take to prevent your dog getting ear infections.

Keep the outer opening of the ear as clean and dry as possible. Trim or pluck the hair from in and around the ears. If your dog swims or has floppy ears, ask your vet about products to dry out the ear canal and stop moisture accumulating.

If your dog is showing signs of an ear infection, do not use old medications from previous infections. Your vet will need to reexamine your pet to determine what the next course of action should be, including what ear drops are important. Using the wrong medication can make things worse.

Ear infections are usually preventable. Your vet can show you how to properly care for your dogs ears to keep infections at a minimum and treat them efficiently and thoroughly when they do occur.

This Guest Blog Post was written by Dr. Susan Wright, Staff Veterinarian for Dog Fence DIY, a provider of do-it-yourself dog fence solutions.

Additionally, Malacetic Wipes & Malacetic Otic solution are great for cleaning pug ears & folds to help prevent buildup bad-ear-stuff.  Check the products out and read the reviews — they are what we use on our pugs and are what our vet has recommended for cleaning their ears.

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