Have you noticed your dog shaking its head excessively? Or maybe they have been scratching around their ears and whining? This could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an ear infection.
Ear infections are quite common in dogs, especially dogs with long or floppy ears. It may affect one, or both, of the ears, and, if left untreated, can cause serious damage to your dog’s ability to hear.
Signs Of Ear Infections n Dogs
If you suspect your dog could be suffering from an ear infection, because of their head shaking, whining, or scratching, you should take them for a visit to see your veterinarian.
However, if those signs are not severe and you want to be sure, there are other ways to tell if your dog has an ear infection. In addition to those common signs, there are some others you can watch for, which include:
- Bad smell coming from ear
- Dark, or bloody, discharge
- Swollen or red ear canal
- Crust or scabs in or around ear
- Loss of balance
- Hair loss
While these physical signs can make it obvious that your dog could have an ear infection, there are some symptoms that might not necessarily point to a problem with your dog’s ears.
Those include strange eye movements or walking around in circles. That is because, like humans, our ears help us stay balanced when we are moving around in the world. It never hurts to look inside your dog’s ears to see if there is an issue.
Causes Of Dog Ear Infections
Ear infections can happen to any dog, but some dogs are more susceptible to them.
Floppy- and long-eared dogs – such as basset hounds and cocker spaniels – are more likely to have problems with ear infection. However, there are many breeds that are prone to ear infections. They include:
- Afghan Hound
- Basset Hound
- Bull Mastiff
- Cavalier King Charles
- Cocker Spaniel
- Coon Hound
- Great Dane
- Great Pyrenees
- Saint Bernard
- Shih Tzu
- Springer Spaniel
It is also typical to see ear infections in dogs that regularly swim. For these dogs, moisture is the problem. When moisture becomes trapped in your dog’s ears, bacteria and yeast can start to build up and lead to complications.
Trauma from an accident, or objects in the ear that should not be there can also lead to infections.
Still, not all ear infections in dogs have external causes. There are certain chronic conditions, and other health problems, that make some dogs more like to get ear infections than others.
- Allergies – If your dog does suffer from allergies, keeping an eye on their ears is critical. Usually, the skin is the first place you will notice allergy issues, and that inflammation and irritation can also affect your dog’s ears. Food allergies can also lead to problems with your dog’s ears, so it is important to take all health factors into account when determining what could be causing ear infections.
- Thyroid Disease (Endocrine) – Typically, dogs with a thyroid condition have Hypothyroidism, which slows the metabolism. In addition to pain, swelling and redness in the ears, it can also cause infections.
- Autoimmune disorders – While considered rare, many autoimmune disorders result in problems with the skin in dogs, including the ears. The inflammation can lead to infections in the ear canal.
In some cases, ear mites can travel between pets while interacting with each other. While this is rare, ear mites are infectious.
Types Of Dog Ear Infections
While ear infections are common and can happen to any dog, there are different types of infections that can affect your dog. The American Kennel Club, also known as AKC, lists three types of ear infections that are most common in dogs. Those include the otitis externa, media, and the interna.
Otitis externa is the most common type of ear infection found in dogs. This happens when the external ear canal becomes inflamed.
Otitis Media and Interna
Otitis media and interna can be thought of as middle and inner ear infections. This often happens as infection spreads from the external ear canal further into the ear. These types of infections are less common, and more severe, and can lead to several health issues, including deafness or paralysis of the face.
Treating And Preventing Dog Ear Infections
So, how can you make your dog feel better?
Treating Dog Ear Infections
First, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog assessed and diagnosed. If it is determined that your dog is suffering from an ear infection, your veterinarian will likely use a medicated ear cleanser to ensure your dog’s ears are as clean as possible.
They may also provide cleanser or topical medicines for you to apply to your dog’s ears while at home. Some cases can be severe and may require prescription medicines such as an antibiotic or an anti-inflammatory.
In most cases, an ear infection will clear up within a couple of weeks. However, more serious cases, especially those involving underlying medical conditions, can sometimes take months to heal. If ear infections become chronic, surgical intervention may be needed, but is typically only considered when other treatment options have not worked.
Preventing Dog Ear Infections
For some dogs, ear infections can become a recurring problem. But there are several things you can do at home to help prevent these issues. They include:
- Keep dogs’ ears dry. Because moisture is a common cause of ear infections, drying your dog’s ears after a bath or a swim is very important. Trimming the hair in the ears, especially in dogs with long or floppy ears, can also help to eliminate excess moisture.
- Clean your dog’s ears regularly. Once a week clean thoroughly clean your dog’s ears with a medicated cleanser. If you are not sure what to use, just ask your veterinarian’s advice. Also, you want to use fabrics that are absorbent, and do not leave fibers behind. Materials like this, such as paper towels and cotton, can lead to even more irritation.
- Manage any underlying health conditions. If your dog suffers from conditions, such as allergies or autoimmune disorders, be sure to partner with your veterinarian to keep them under control. Keeping your dog’s overall health in check can help avoid further problems in the future.
Book an Appointment with Your Veterinarian
Taking care of your dog’s ear infection is important, because it can lead to other serious issues. Because of the constant discomfort of itchy or hurting ears, dogs will scratch and shake their heads.
This can lead to a condition called aural hematoma, which impacts the blood vessels in the ear flap and may need surgery to repair. Ear infections can also lead to issues with the eardrum, which could result in permanent hearing loss.