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Preventing and Treating Ear Infections

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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As many dog owners know, some dogs are prone to ear infections. With the first head shake, they are at the vet's office and their pet is on medication, again. Is there some way to prevent these ear infections from developing in the first place? For some dogs, yes. For others, chronic ear infections may continue until drastic action such as surgery is done.

Ear infections usually develop because moisture remains in the ears and allows bacteria and yeast to thrive. Preventing the accumulation of moisture and keeping the ear canals dry can help reduce the severity and frequency of chronic ear infections and may even prevent them.

Dogs with floppy ears are most likely to develop ear infections because their ears cover the ear canal, preventing the air access to accumulated moisture. These breeds need special attention. You should lift your dog's ears frequently and look at the canal. Make sure it is clean. Remove any accumulation with cotton balls or cotton tip applicators. However, do not place the applicator deep in the canal because damage to the eardrum can occur. Also check the odor of the ear. Ear infections usually have a characteristic foul or a fruity odor.

Dogs that enjoy swimming are also prone to ear infections. After swimming, try to dry your dog's ears with cotton tip applicators or cotton balls. Again, do not place the applicator deep within the canal.

One home medication that is recommended by many veterinarians is a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and isopropyl alcohol. If you feel that moisture is accumulating in your dog's ears, such as after a few laps in the pond, place several drops of the vinegar and alcohol mix in the ear. The vinegar is acidic and helps destroy bacteria and yeast. The alcohol is a drying agent and helps remove excess moisture. This remedy is typically used as a preventative as well as a treatment in early ear infections. It is not very effective in treating full fledged, active infections.

Discuss consistent use of the remedy with your veterinarian. For some dogs, prescription drying agents or specially formulated products from your veterinarian will be more effective than the vinegar/alcohol mix. For more information, please read Otitis Externa.

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