Red, stinky, dirt ears usually mean a dog ear infection is brewing and with it comes sensitivity, pain, and irritability. If your small dog has been shaking his head, rubbing his ears against objects or scratching, then he might have an ear problem.
Dog ear infections are one of the most common reasons that dog owners visit their veterinarians each year. After all, who wants to see their poor dog suffer and when they have ear problems, their discomfort is very noticeable.
If your dog has an infection, you might notice one or more of these symptoms. Not all of these will be present.
Infections occur for a number of reasons:
If a dog has a problem with allergies, they may end up with an ear infection.
Dogs can be allergic to many different things such as something they come in contact with, something they ingest or something they inhale. Food, grasses, pollens, molds, cleaners and other chemicals are common allergens that affect people and dog.
to allergies, though, differently than people.
Dogs with two infected ears may be allergic to something in their environment.
Sometimes the veterinarian can diagnosis the allergy by treating the ear. To be thorough, the vet will need to treat the allergy and the ear.
Parasites: The main parasite that enjoys the environment inside the dog’s ear is ear mite, Otodectes cynotis.
If you have cats, you are probably aware that they are more frequent in our feline friends, but dogs can be affected too.
If a dog becomes hypersensitive to these
mites, their scratching, rubbing and shaking can be so intense that they
cause trauma to the ear flap.
Water and other lifestyle issues: Dogs that regularly swim can be prone to infections. Chlorine in pools can be an irritation.
swim in lakes, rivers, and oceans come in contact with germs that can
live comfortably in the warm dark environment of the ear canal. Even
excess bath water can get into the dog’s ear creating a warm moist
environment for germs to grow.
If your dog loves to run in the woods or roll in the grass, he may pick up something that sticks to the ear causing irritation.
They scratch and rub and shake and before you know you have trauma, redness, and swelling. Plant awns are a big culprit and will stick to your clothes and their ear flaps.
Ticks can also get into the ear and cause problems. A good grooming after a day in the forest is advisable to prevent this type of problem from turning into a full blown infection.
The Dog’s Anatomy can play a part in whether or not they will suffer
from ear infections. The bacteria and yeast that cause ear infections
need a warm, dark, moist environment in which to thrive, grown and
Those breeds that have thick floppy ears are the most likely to have problems with ear infections. Any long haired dog whose ears hang low are candidates for ear infections.
That is not to say that small erect ears never have problems, but rather these types of ears do not have the ideal environment for the germs to fester.
Spaniels are well know as one breed that often has recurrent and chronic ear infections.
Breeds that tend to have hair that continually grows inside the ear canal can suffer from ear infections too, if the hair and wax build up is not removed periodically. Poodles, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Maltese and other long hair dogs have this issue.
The ear canal is L shaped in dogs where it starts in a vertical position and then bends slightly as it nears the ear drum. Humans, on the other hand, have a horizontal ear canal.
The shape of the dog’s ear canal is such that it is difficult to puncture the ear drum, but does make it easy for infections to become established.
There are numerous types of bacteria and yeast present in ear infections. Normal healthy ears can live with hundreds of bacteria and not be affected unless something changes.
Allergies, hormonal abnormalities (deficiencies or excesses of hormones), moisture, foreign objects—anything can change these microorganisms allowing them to grow and multiply rapidly.
Sometimes the dog’s natural body defenses
are just overwhelmed and cannot compensate. Ear infections are the
These are usually breed specific. For example, Shetland Sheepdogs can be affected by dermatomyositis and West Highland White Terriers have problems with primary seborrhea.
The extent of veterinary diagnoses often depends on the facilities where you take your dog and what the initial physical exam shows.
If you suspect a dog ear infection, it is time to call the vet. They will begin by viewing the ear canal with their otoscope. They can determine the extent of the inflammation, if the ear drum has been affected, and if there are any foreign objects, tumors, or parasites (ear mites) present.
They may also swab the inside of the ear to view under the microscope. A simple smear observed under the microscope will reveal mites and pus.
If the veterinarian then fixes and stains this smear, they can determine whether there is yeast or bacteria present. They can identify the type of bacteria so that the correct antibiotic can be prescribed.
Sometimes a culture and sensitivity is ordered. This is more costly and time consuming and the results may not be back for several days. This procedure is usually reserved for dogs that have chronic problems where antibiotics have not be effective.
They will also ask questions to determine if allergies might be the problem or if this is a recurring problem (Chronic ear infections). If this is a chronic problem, the veterinarian will look for underlying causes such as allergies or hormonal problems.
These will be taken into consideration when making the treatment plan.
Treatment usually consists of a good professional cleaning at the veterinarian’s office followed by home treatments. These procedures may include additional cleanings, antibiotics if bacteria are present, antifungals if yeast is suspected; steroids to reduce swelling and other treatments to address underlying problems.
Veterinarians treat most ear infections with oral medications or injections, ear cleanings, and topical medications. In severe chronic cases, surgery might be necessary, but it is relatively rare.
The most successfully treated dogs are those that are also treated for any underlying causes and then a strict grooming and environmental protocol at home.
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