If you have ever had an ear infection, you know how uncomfortable and painful it can be. It’s no different for your pup if they get an ear infection. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to ear infections, but most cases are easily treated, depending on the exact cause.
Types of Ear Infections in Dogs
There are three main types of ear infections common in dogs. Of course, if you have reason to believe your canine friend is suffering from an ear infection, it’s very important to get them to the vet as soon as you can so it can be treated. Here are the three most common types of ear infections in dogs.
Otitis Externa: Outer Ear Infections
The most common type of ear infection diagnosed in dogs is otitis externa. This infection happens when the cells lining the outside of the ear canal are inflamed.
Otitis Media: Middle Ear Infections
Otitis media is not as common as otitis externa. It affects the middle of the ear canal. In many cases, otitis media occurs after a prolonged, untreated case of otitis externa.
Otitis Interna: Inner Ear Infections
When there is an infection and inflammation in the inner ear, it is called otitis interna. This is the most serious type of ear infection. If left untreated, a severe case can lead to deafness or facial paralysis. Vestibular signs of a severe inner ear infection include:
- Tilting the head to one side
- A loss of coordination and balance
- Circling constantly in one direction
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to drink
- Nausea and vomiting
- Standing with a widened stance
What causes Ear Infections in dogs?
A dog’s ear canal is different from an adult human’s. Their ear canals are more vertical. They form an L-shape that allows fluid to be held more easily. This is the factor that makes them more susceptible to ear infections. Most commonly, an ear infection is caused by either a buildup of yeast or bacteria. Sometimes, it’s due to a buildup of both. Young dogs and pups often have ear mites that can be extremely itchy and lead to an ear infection.
There are also several common factors that can lead to frequent ear infections. These include:
- Moisture Buildup. Due to the L-shaped ear canal, moisture can get into the canal but not drain well. Moisture enters from swimming, bathing, and even just the rain. If it does not drain properly, it can cause problems, especially in dogs with floppy, long ears.
- Wax Buildup. Earwax is a good thing. It is a natural moisturizer that helps keep the inside of the ear from drying out. It also traps dust and dirt before it can reach the ear canal. However, if a dog produces a lot of earwax, it can prevent the ear canal from draining properly, which can lead to an infection. If your dog has too much earwax, you may notice a smelly, brown discharge.
- Endocrine Disorder. Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism can lead to chronic ear infections in canines.
- Autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disease can slow the natural ability to fight off infections. This often causes an infection to get worse faster.
- If you clean your dog’s ears too much, it can cause an infection. By removing too much earwax, the ear loses its natural defense against dust, dirt, and dryness. Cleaning can also be abrasive, which can cause the ear tissue to become irritated or inflamed.
- Injury to the Ear Canal. An ear canal injury usually causes inflammation, which prevents proper draining, and leads to an infection.
- Foreign Bodies. Just like your body, your furry family member’s body is designed to fight off anything that is not supposed to be there. If a foreign body enters the ear canal, it can lead to infection and inflammation, which is the body’s way of trying to remove the object naturally.
- Skin Allergies and Food Sensitivities. If your dog has allergies, it can increase the occurrence of ear infections since their body is busy fighting off allergens, which can make the infection worse.
Diagnosing Dog Ear Infections
If you think your dog may have an ear infection, getting treatment quickly is important to ensure their comfort as well as their overall health. Treating an infection in the outer ear canal is simpler than if it is allowed to go deeper. Your veterinarian will want to know some things like:
- What are your dog’s symptoms, such as discharge, swelling, odor, or pain?
- How long have you noticed the existence of symptoms?
- What medications are being given to your dog?
- What type of diet is normal for your canine friend?
- Does your furry family member have any underlying conditions, allergies, or autoimmune disorders?
- How often do you clean their ears, and what products do you use for cleaning?
- Does your pup have a history of ear infections?
- Do you pluck or trim the hair in your dog’s ears?
The vet will examine your dog’s ears and touch them gently to see if they are causing any pain. They’ll also look for redness, swelling, or discharge using an otoscope. If they see signs of infection, the vet may take a culture to determine if the infection is fungal or bacterial in nature. If it is a bacterial infection, the vet will prescribe antibiotics for you to give your dog. If the case is severe, they may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.
An uncomplicated ear infection will usually clear up in a week or two after treatment begins. If the infection is due to underlying conditions or causes, it can take a few months to completely resolve. In some cases, it can be a chronic problem. Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions carefully.
Preventing Ear Infections in Dogs
Prevention is always the best option, like with most diseases. Always dry your dog’s ears out after swimming or bathing them. Cleaning your dog’s ears can help prevent infections too, especially if they are prone to ear infections. How often you clean their ears depends on their breed, activity level, ear wax production, age, and coat. Your veterinarian can determine how often your dog’s ears should be cleaned, so you don’t overclean them.
In most cases, dogs only need their ears cleaned about once per month. Floppy eared dogs, or those that get wet or swim often, may need cleaning more often. The key to cleaning your pup’s ears is gentleness. Ask your vet about frequency and techniques for cleaning your dog’s ears.