Can dogs get ear infections?
Ear infections in dogs are common and most dogs suffer from this painful condition sometime in their life. Canine ear infections are most commonly caused by bacteria or yeast though ear mites are a common cause in puppies. Ear mites, excessive hair, moisture or wax, foreign bodies, allergies, and hypothyroidism can all be contributing factors to the development of an ear infection.
Signs of ear disease
Signs of these ear problems include:
- Scratching or rubbing of ears and head
- Discharge in the ears
- Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
- Pain around the ears
- Changes in behavior such as depression or irritability
- Unusual eye movements
- Walking in circles
- Hearing loss
Causes of ear disease
When we see a dog with ear disease we need to think about the possibility of:
- Foreign bodies
- Hormonal abnormalities
- The ear environment
- Hereditary or immune conditions, and tumors
A veterinarian can usually diagnose an ear infection by examining the ear canal and ear drum with a magnifying ear cone similar to devices used on people. This may require sedation, especially if the dog is very painful. One primary diagnostic procedure in cases of inner and middle ear inflammation is myringotomy, a technique in which a spinal needle is inserted into the air and the ear drum membrane to extract middle ear fluid for microscopal examination. This can help determine any infectious presences, such as bacteria or fungi. Other tests may include an analysis of cerebrospinal fluid in the cranium, in which the brain essentially floats, urine analysis, blood tests, and computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
The treatment is going to depend on what caused the ear problem and what secondary conditions are there as a result. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections and for yeast infections. Ear problems caused by a systemic disease such as a hormone abnormality or allergy must include a therapy that treats the whole dog, such as hormonal replacement or allergy testing and hyposensitization.
Check your dog’s ears regularly for abnormal discharge, odor or redness. If your dog’s outer ear appears dirty, clean gently with a cotton. Your veterinarian can make recommendations on how you should clean your dog’s ears. After baths and swimming, be sure to dry your dog’s ears thoroughly. If your dog has excessive hair in the outer ear canal, you should remove that. You can ask your veterinarian to show you the proper technique for removing the hair.