Ear infections in dogs are most often due to bacteria or yeast in the ear canal.
This can be triggered by a number of things, including ear mites, hair growth in the ear canal, a foreign body, trapped water, allergies, hypothyroidism—even frequent swimming or bathing can lead to infection. Once an irritation occurs, the dog’s natural response is an over production of wax.
Because a dog’s ear canals plunge downward and then horizontally from the ear opening, this makes it difficult for water or debris that is caught in the canal to be released. Dogs that have floppy ears, such as cocker spaniels, golden retrievers and poodles can be especially vulnerable. Some breeds such as schnauzers are also more prone to grow hair in the inner canal which makes them more susceptible to ear infection.
Signs of an ear infection can include:
- Ear scratching
- Head shaking or head tilt
- Odor in the ear-most often associated with yeast
- Scabbing or crusty skin on or around the ear flap
- Wiping the ear on furniture or the floor
If you are seeing any of the signs of an ear infection in your dog it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Improperly treated ear infections can lead to chronic pain or even deafness. Your veterinarian can usually diagnose an infection by examining the ear canal, and by taking a sample of the ear discharge to look at under a microscope to determine if there is any bacteria, yeast or parasites present.
Some dogs have chronic ear problems that require a culture to be done of the ear discharge to pinpoint the precise organism to treat. Allergies are one of the most common reasons for recurrent ear problems and further diagnostics and possible diet changes may be warranted if this is suspected.
Your vet will typically need to clean or flush out your dog’s ears, after which medication will be prescribed as appropriate. Recheck appointments are crucial to make sure that the medication has cleared the infection completely to prevent reoccurrence.
Avoiding ear infections:
You can help prevent ear infections in your dog by checking their ears on a regular basis for any abnormal signs or odor. After swimming or bathing, dry the ears carefully and thoroughly using a soft cloth, but never insert anything into the canal itself. Talk to your vet about home maintenance or ear drying products that might be appropriate for your dog.