How To Prevent and Take Care of Your Dog’s Ear Infections
# 1 Dog’s Ear Composition
Think back to your high school anatomy class, and you’ll remember that the ear has three chambers: the outer ear which is the visible part of your ear and the ear canal, the middle ear which goes from your eardrum further into your head, and the inner ear which contains structures deep in your skull that convert sound waves and give us our balance. Like us, dogs have three-chambered ears, too. Guess what? Each of them can get infected. Yes, it’s possible to get an infection trifecta.
# 2 Causes of Infections
Most ear infections in dogs are in the external or middle ear, rather than the inner ear. Bacteria, fungus, or yeast can cause infection. Dogs with heavy ear flaps (we’re looking at you, Cocker Spaniels) are more susceptible to ear infections. Their heavy ear flaps keep the ear moisture up, and infection loves a damp environment. Dogs who swim a lot or who splash in muddy dog park puddles can be prone to infections, too. Towel off your dog’s head after wet adventures, especially if they have floppy ears.
Ear mites (nasty little buggers that they are) can create a pathway to a raging bacterial infection. Trauma (getting hit in the head) can set up a dog for trouble. So can naturally occurring polyps or foreign objects that make their way into the ear, such as foxtails or grass seeds, or a small figurine your 2-year-old put in there for safekeeping.
# 3 Taking Care Of The Infections
Early signs of an ear infection include pawing at the offending ear, shaking the head more, or trying to rub the offending ear on the ground or any furniture that’s the right height. The ear flap and ear canal may look red and irritated and feel warm to the touch. If the dog’s ear smells like cheese, you’ve probably got an infection. Get to the vet and get it treated.
If you miss the cheese stage, you’ll soon see colored discharge, which means the infection has moved into the middle ear. The middle ear is on the other side of the eardrum. The stuff coming out of your dog’s ear will be yellow (pus) possibly with streaks of red (blood from the infection’s infiltration of surrounding tissue). Don’t fool around, your dog needs to see the vet. Dogs at this stage are suffering badly.
Inner ear infections are very serious. Dogs stumble and fall over because they are unable to keep their balance. The infection can spread throughout the body and move to other organs. Depending on where it goes, other systems may begin to shut down. See your vet as soon as you suspect an infection. If your dog has an infection that isn’t clearing up, see your vet again as soon as possible.
If your dog gets chronic recurring ear infections a vet will need to conduct a culture to figure out which medicine will work best. Cultures have to grow, so they take a few days. The vet examines what has grown under a microscope. For some extreme cases, there are a few surgical options to ameliorate the issues or to remove ear structures so the infection has nowhere to thrive.
It’s okay if your dog has a little ear wax. Keeping the outer ear clean will help your dog friend avoid infections. There are several over-the-counter and homeopathic options available. Don’t stick cotton swabs (Q-tips) in your dog’s ear. Their ear canals have a sharp bend (human ear canals are straight), and you’re likely to jam infection-causing material further into the ear. That’s bad. Don’t do it.
One popular over-the-counter ear cleaner is Zymox. You’ll also find ear cleaner recipes online. Avoid any that have a high alcohol or witch hazel content. They are intended to help dry the area but can cause too much dryness, which will damage the tissue. A little dry is fine, a lot is bad.
Keep an eye on your dog’s ears, keep them clean, and avoid pond water. Give them regular maintenance if they need it. And if your dog’s ears smell like cheese, call your vet.
Written by Ann Warren of Blue Box Word Service, LLC
*** We are not veterinarians. We hold no medical degrees. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose nor recommend treatment. Always consult your educated, trusted veterinarian for genuine medical advice.
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