Ear infections in dogs can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, becoming a serious issue if left untreated. Today, our Austin vets share some causes, signs, and treatment of ear infections in dogs.
Ear Infections in Dogs
In dogs, ear infections are fairly common and you’ll likely notice quickly if your dog begins to display symptoms, they may scratch their ear, whine, or shake their head, and discharge or wax buildup may become an issue.
But what if your dog is asymptomatic, and what can happen if the infection is left untreated? Here, our vets answer several questions our clients have asked us about ear infections in dogs.
There are three types of ear infections in dogs, and they include:
Otitis Externa (Outer Ear)
Also referred to as “infection of the external ear canal”, or “otitis externa”, an outer ear infection is one of the most common types found in dogs.
Otitis Media (Middle Ear) & Otitis Interna (Inner Ear)
If outer ear infections aren’t detected or treated, they can often lead to middle and inner ear infections. These can turn very serious and sometimes lead to vestibular symptoms, in addition to deafness and facial paralysis. That’s why it’s critical that outer ear infections are detected early, and that every reasonable effort to prevent infection is made.
More Susceptible Breeds
Due to the shape of their ear canals, some breeds are more prone to ear infections, including those with large, hairy, or floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles. However, ear infections can happen in any breed.
Signs of an Ear Infection in Dogs
Aside from wax buildup and discharge in the ear canal, some dogs will not show any symptoms of ear infection and in others, serious symptoms can appear. Serious symptoms may include:
- Crusting or scabs in the ears
- Redness or swelling in the ear canal
- Head shaking
- Dark discharge
- Scratching at the affected ear
Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs
More fluid tends to collect in dogs’ ear canals than in humans, due to our furry friends’ L-shaped ear canals. This leaves them more vulnerable to infection.
Bacteria, yeast, or a mix of both are common causes of infection. Other factors that can contribute to infections include:
- Injury to the ear canal
- Allergies (skin diseases or food sensitivities)
- Moisture creates an environment where yeast and bacteria thrive, causing bacterial ear infections in dogs
- Wax buildup
Diagnosing & Treating Canine Ear Infections
If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, you’ll want to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible and have it treated quickly, to both alleviate immediate pain and discomfort and prevent infection from spreading to the inner or middle ear.
Prepare to brief your vet on your dog’s medical history, ear infection symptoms, recent activities, swimming, grooming, and diet. The veterinarian will then perform a physical examination, including a close inspection of the ears.
A medicated ear cleanser can be used to clean your dog’s ears before the vet prescribes a topical medication for at-home use. Oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for severe cases.
While most uncomplicated infections will clear up within 1 to 2 weeks, severe symptoms or underlying conditions may lead to a chronic ear infection or take longer to be resolved.
Surgery to remove the ear canal may be recommended in cases of severe chronic disease. This would eliminate diseased tissue and prevent infection from recurring.
Untreated Ear Infections in Dogs
A qualified vet will need to treat your dog right away if he is showing signs of an ear infection. An untreated ear infection or lapses in treatment can develop into severe infections and lead to serious issues that may be considered a veterinary emergency.
If antibiotics are prescribed, ensure the full course of treatment is completed, even if your dog’s ear infection looks as if it’s cleared up before the antibiotics are finished. As mentioned above, untreated outer ear infections may lead to more serious middle and inner ear infections.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.