Ear Infections in Dogs
Ear infections in dogs happen at some point in their lives
The unlucky ones will get them every couple of months. But what causes ear infections in dogs?
Shape of the ear canal
Dogs have a “J-shaped” ear canal, meaning vertical and horizontal components. This means it’s much harder for the body to get debris, infections and even grass seeds out of the ear as they must go upwards instead of straight out. Accumulation of ear wax, skin oil, and other debris feed the bacteria and fungi that live in the normal ear canal leading them to proliferate, causing an infection.
Narrowing of the ear canal
This may be related to the breed, for example, Shar Peis. Also, it may be due to recurring ear infections over time. A narrow canal traps debris, wax and water, leading to infection.
Allergic skin disease
Dogs who are prone to skin allergies tend to accumulate wax which leads to infection. The moisture of the wax provides a fuel source for bacteria and yeast to proliferate.
Excessive hair in the ears
This is common in Poodles, Schnauzers and their crosses, for example, Groodles, Labradoodles. The hair traps moisture and wax leading to infection.
Foreign bodies such as grass seeds bring contamination into the ear. They often get stuck, trapping the source of infection into the ear.
What are the signs and symptoms of ear infections in dogs?
Signs and symptoms of ear infections include:
- Head shaking
- Scratching at the ears
- Redness of the ear
- Pain when touched near the base of the ear
- Odour coming from the ears or head
How can a vet help my dog’s ear infection?
A range of different bacteria and fungi can infect the ear.
It is important that you bring your pet into the vet when you suspect an ear infection. The vet can examine the ear with a special scope and take swabs. Swabs are looked at in-house under the microscope, allowing prompt treatment with the correct ear medication specific to that infection.
What is the best treatment for ear infections in dogs?
Topical antibiotics are the most effective treatment for ear infections in dogs and will often be combined with an oral steroid to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Every infection is different and may change over time so it is essential to recheck your pet’s ear when recommended, because the medication may need to be extended or changed.
DO NOT stop the course too soon as this will lead to continued infection and antibiotic resistance.
Occasionally the infections can be very challenging to treat and require ear flushing under sedation and further testing at the lab.
What do I need to do if my dog has recurring ear infections?
For those dogs that have recurring ear infections, owners need to do home maintenance.
This means using a prescribed cleaning solution every 1-2 weeks. Cortavance steroid spray can also be used 1-2 times a week to reduce inflammation and irritation.
For more information about dog ear infections and other health issues, see our Treatment Services page.