Canine Ear Infections
Yes, ear infections are a common problem in dogs. The ear is divided into three distinct sections, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear is the part you can see. It includes the ear canal from the ear flap, called the pinna, to the ear drum. Infections in the outer canal are caused by bacteria and yeast that are normally present in small numbers. Floppy eared dogs like cocker spaniels and Labradors, or breeds that have hair naturally growing in the canal, like poodles, are more prone to ear infections. The problem may be seen in any breed though.
How do I know if my dog has an ear infection?
Odor and signs of pain are the two most common symptoms of an ear infection. A dog will shake its head or rub its ears on the furniture. If you look in the ear you will see a yellow or dark discharge. The skin is often bright red or even bleeding.
Is an ear infection the same as ear mites?
No, ear mites are microscopic insects that bite the animal and feed on its blood. Ear mites cause a great deal of itching and leave a crusty black material in the ear canal that is actually dried blood. Ear mites are not as common in dogs as they are in cats. Puppies are at greater risk for developing ear mite infections.
How do I know which kind of infection my pet has?
Ear infections are a serious, potentially chronic health problem that needs to be seen by your veterinarian. By collecting the material inside the ear and looking at it under the microscope, your veterinarian can determine if the problem is due to mites, bacteria, or yeast. Bacterial infections often require culture and sensitivity testing to determine what kind of antibiotics will control the infection. Another possibility is that the infection is secondary to a tumor in the ear canal.This may require aggressive surgery to treat.
How will my veterinarian treat an ear infection?
The treatment options depend on the results of the examination and laboratory results. After examining the ear canal with an otoscope, the veterinarian may take a sample for cytology and culturing. The cornerstone of any treatment involves cleaning the ear thoroughly. In cases where the animal is in pain the veterinarian might recommend anesthetizing the pet. After the ear has been cleaned, an appropriate antibiotic or anti-yeast agent is placed in the ear. Some cases will also require oral medications. Your veterinarian may also check for other underlying causes for the ear infection. For example some pets may have a thyroid condition. Allergy is still another cause of chronic ear infections.
Is the prognosis good?
Yes, after making an accurate diagnosis, and selecting the proper method of treatment, most cases of otitis externa can be cured. The important point to remember is that the problem can easily reoccur if the inciting conditions are not resolved.
A little prevention goes a long way in managing ear problems. Your veterinarian can recommend effective cleaning solutions and ointments to help keep your pet comfortable and happy.
Are there ever cases that cant be cured?
Yes, sometimes there are underlying anatomic conditions that keep the treatment from working. For example, if the canal is too narrow, or the cartilage becomes mineralized due to long term inflammation. In this case surgery is usually indicated. The procedures range from doing a lateral resection, which involves removing about one half of the external canal, to a total ablation, which involves removing the outer and middle ear. These are aggressive procedures that may be necessary in very bad cases.
How do I clean my pets ears?
Start with a good quality ear cleaning solution. Your veterinarian can provide this for you. Never use water or hydrogen peroxide. Other home solutions may be used if recommended by your veterinarian. It may be necessary to have someone help you. First, lift the ear flap and fill the canal as if it were a funnel. Then massage the canal to work the debris loose. Take a tissue and wipe the canal as deep as your finger can reach without forcing. Repeat the entire procedure until the solution you pick up on the tissue is free of wax and debris from the ear. Never use ear cleaners or place any thing smaller than your finger in the ear. This may damage the ear drum, and only serves to pack the wax deeper into the canal. Consider using a muzzle to prevent the dog from biting during the ear cleaning procedure. The animal may display discomfort or resist having the ears cleaned. If this happens, stop immediately and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have the ears flushed.