Ears are naturally warm, dark, and moist, but dogs with long, pendulous-type ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, or dogs with hairy inner ear flaps, like Miniature Poodles and Schnauzers, increase the favorable environment and therefore tend to have higher occurrences of ear infections.
Some infections, like those of the skin or ear, are the result of an over-population of the bacteria that live on or in a specific area of the body. More specifically, ear infections are an over-population of the bacteria found naturally in the ear, Staphylococcus Sp., Streptococcus Sp., and Pseudomonas Sp., and may or may not include a secondary infection of Candida (yeast). Weekly preventative ear cleanings, keeping your animals head/ears out of the water, and/or drying off the head/ears thoroughly after getting wet are some ways to help reduce or eliminate the chance for ear infections.
As you can imagine, ear infections are unpleasant and uncomfortable for your dog so be on the look out for the following symptoms:
1.) Shaking of the head or scratching of the ears.
2.) Red and/or inflamed ears accompanied by an unpleasant odor, plus or minus a black or yellowish discharge.
3.) Constant tilting of the head is a sign of discomfort associated with an ear infection and may actually indicate a middle ear infection.
External ear infections can also occur because of other bodily infections or ear mite infestation, and other causes for middle ear infections may be due to foreign bodies, debris, ulceration or improper ear cleaning rupturing the eardrum. A trip to your local veterinarian is therefore necessary and why you shouldn’t self-diagnose or see if the problem gets worse. By performing an ear exam and ear cytology, your veterinarian will be able to determine the type of ear infection your pet has, external ear canal (otitis externa) or middle ear (otitis media) and the cause, bacterial, yeast, or both. Your veterinarian will then put together the right combination of treatment/procedures necessary to eliminate the issue.
The right treatment needed for your pets ears may be as simple as cleaning the ears on a regular basis, or as extensive as antibiotics combined with routine ear cleaning. Sometimes infections can become more severe when located in the middle ear, most often a result of the external ear canal infection spreading. Ear flushing procedures, cleaning and an antibiotic regimen may be necessary to eliminate the infection.
It is important to note that while most ear infections can be easily treated, they can cause severe damage (i.e. loss of hearing, broken blood vessels in the ear due to excessive head shaking), if left untreated or ignored. The duration of treatment and clearing of the infection is dependent upon the duration in which the infection was present before the treatment began. It may take up to 6 weeks for an infection to completely clear, with relief of symptoms starting at 4 weeks. Scheduled re-checks with your veterinarian are necessary to ensure that the treatment prescribed is effective and that no further treatment is necessary. Compliance with the treatment prescribed is crucial for your pet’s well-being and happiness.
Please note that humans have a horizontal ear canal (straight in), but dogs have both a vertical and horizontal canal (down, then over), so send Spot and email at firstname.lastname@example.org for the proper technique and other helpful tips for cleaning your pets ears safely!