Overview of Ear Infections in Dogs
Otitis externa, commonly referred to as an “ear infection”, is an ear condition characterized by inflammation of the dog’s external ear canal. It is particularly prevalent in dogs with long, floppy ears. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, ear infections represent one of the top 10 reasons dogs present to veterinarians and may affect up to 20 percent of dogs.
Infections are caused by fungus, bacteria or parasites. Laboratory tests can help to determine the underlying cause of the infection. Ear mites can cause 5-10% of ear infections in dogs.
Several factors may predispose dogs to ear infections, including:
Ear infections can occur in dogs of any age breed or sex. Dogs predisposed to otitis externa include those with genetic predispositions to abnormal ear canals, such as the Chinese shar-pei chow chows and English bulldogs; breeds with hair in the ears like poodles and terriers; dogs with pendulous pinnae such as the cocker spaniel, Brittany spaniels, basset hounds, beagles and Springer spaniels; or outside and working dogs that are exposed to water or foreign bodies. Infections are most common in humid environments or during the summer months.
What to Watch For
Common signs of an infection include:
Dogs at risks include dog that frequently swim, dogs with excessive ear care such as ear plugging or excessive cleaning and dogs with underlying allergies. Ear infections are more common in the summer months when swimming, increased humidity and seasonal allergies increase. Excessive cleaning with cleansers can keep the ear canal moist and skin susceptible to infection. Ear infections can affect any age, breed or sex of dogs.
Generalized skin problems may suggest underlying allergies.
Diagnosis of Otitis Externa in Dogs
Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause and help guide subsequent treatment recommendations. Tests may include:
Some pets may require additional diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the abnormalities. Pets with recurrent ear infections, those who respond poorly to treatment, pets with generalized skin abnormalities, or those with other health problems may need additional diagnostic tests. These may include:
Treatment of Otitis Externa in Dogs
Treatments for otitis externa may include the following:
Home Care and Prevention
Optimal treatment requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Be sure to have your veterinarian or his/her staff show you how to place medication into your pet’s ears.
At home special care of your pet’s ears can help to maintain healthy ears. Dry the ears after bathing or swimming and check ears for foreign matter.
Also, at the first sign of scratching, head shaking, pain, swelling, odor, or discharge, have your pet’s ears checked by your veterinarian.