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External otitis or dog ear infection is a condition that results in the infection of the delicate ear canal.  A majority of dog ear infections develop in those breeds which have long, droopy ears.

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Symptoms of dog ear infection

Some of the symptoms of dog ear infection are listed below:

  • Rubbing and scratching of the infected ear along with head shaking. The dog cries and whines when the affected ear is touched and often tilts its head towards the side of painful ear.
  • Normally, Staphylococci bacteria cause the acute bacterial otitis, which results in a light brown and moist discharge. Pseudomonas and Proteus bacteria cause the chronic infections, and the discharge is normally yellow or green along with some exceptions. Involvement of more than one kind of bacteria in dog ear infection causes difficulties in the antibiotic treatment
  • Ceruminous otitis develops with primary seborrhea. The presence of wax and an extensive oily build up in the ear canals, works as a positive medium for bacteria and yeast. Regular cleaning of ear canal is necessary until seborrhea is controlled.
  • Antibiotic treatment of bacterial otitis may be followed by fungal or yeast infections. Dogs suffering from food hypersensitive dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and seborrheic skin disease are prone to yeast dog ear infections. Sometimes, an inflamed, reddened and moist ear with little discharge or a waxy, brown discharge with putrid order is seen. The infections persist until the diseases are effectively cured.

Causes of dog ear infection

  • Dog ear infection is caused by many factors such as presence of excess wax, soap, water and alien objects like grass seeds or shafts of hair in the ears. Clean and dry ears generally stay healthy.
  • Certain breeds have narrow or stenotic ear canals which predisposes them to dog ear infections. Some other breeds have excessive growth of hair which blocks the air circulation, thereby increasing their vulnerability to the condition
  • An overgrowth of yeast, which is a kind of fungus usually found inside the ear canal cause most of the ear problems. The ears get ‘goopy’, inflamed and hot when the yeast grows very rapidly.
  • Iatrogenic causes for dog ear infection include water getting into the ear canals during bath, clipping hair in the external ear canals and improper cleaning of the ears.
  • Dogs with allergic skin diseases, especially skin conditions such as food hypersensitivity dermatitis and canine atopy are at greater risk to developing dog ear infections. Likewise, bacterial growth in the ear canal is facilitated by the presence of primary and secondary seborrhea that result in accumulation of oil, yellowish wax in the dog ears

Diagnosis of dog ear infection

Examination of the deep portion area of ear canal by a veterinarian is done after cleaning the dirt, wax and purulent debris present in the ear. Then an otoscope is used to make the proper diagnosis and plan the treatment.

The cleaning and examination may affect the hearing. It may not be safe to use certain medicines if the ear drums are perforated. Hence, it should be made sure that the ear drums are intact and the problems are not caused by a tumor or alien body. Waxy material sample is collected and examined under microscope for yeast, bacteria, ear mites or any other possible factor. Correct diagnosis helps to get the best treatment for dog ear infection.

Treatment of dog ear infection

  • Early treatment avoids many problems of manifestations.
  • As the medications can’t penetrate the debris in dirty ears, the initial treatment requires the ears to be cleaned and the ear canals to be kept dry. Cleaning reduces the chances of bacterial growth and allows the medicine to work and treat the ear canal.
  • The presence of brown or black, waxy and runny substance in ear canals emanating bad odors, is an indication of overgrowth of yeast and fungus infection. In order to treat such dog ear infection, spray the ears with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture, twice a day. Then clean the ear with a cotton ball. If there is no improvement even after 48 hrs, then consult a vet.
  • Need to follow up the medications at home as prescribed by the vet. If the ear continues to produce wax, the vet may recommend Epi-Otic or Oti-clens or a drying solution such as Panodry or ClearX . These solutions are used immediately before giving the antibiotic medication or antifungal medication. For controlling the pain, swelling and inflammation, corticosteroids may be recommended. For severe dog ear infections in some dogs, oral antibiotics may be needed.
  • Bacterial infections that keep on progressing may give chronic pain and narrow down the ear canal. The vet doctor may advice surgery as the last resort to establish air circulation and to promote drainage.

Prevention of dog ear infection

  • Inspect and clean the ears of the pets once in a week on regular basis.
  • Take the pets for checkup if bad smell is noticed from its ears or if it scratches or rubs the ears very often.
  • Most dog ear infections start with common food allergy reactions which trigger itching, leading to infection due to repeated digging of the ears by dirty pet nails. Identify and avoid the food that is allergic to the pet. Keep away from poor quality meat or bone meal.
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