Have you ever noticed your dogs itching and scratching their ears then vigorously shaking their heads as if something is biting them? If the answer is yes, chances are they might be suffering from canine ear infection.
Dogs such as golden retrievers, basset hounds, cocker spaniels, shar peis, or poodles are especially predisposed to this infection as they have long, dropped, floppy ears which have poor air circulation because they trap a lot of moisture. Nevertheless, floppy ear dogs such as Saluki are less predisposed to dog ear infection because they have large root canals. Having said that, dog types that tend to have hairs grown in the inner ear canal are quite vulnerable to this infection as those excessive hairs will block the circulation of air—encouraging bacterial growth and causing inflammation and itchiness.
There are basically three different types of dog ear infection you should be aware of:
- Otitis externa. This is the most common and easiest to cure. It is an infection of the external part of the ear. Otitis externa can progress to otitis media if left untreated or detected too late.
- Otitis media. Media means middle so this form of infection refers to the infection of the middle portion of the ear.
- Otitis interna. Internal is as you have guessed it, the internal part. Otitis interna is harder to treat and it should be taken seriously. If left untreated, it can lead to serious conditions and eventually cause your dog’s death.
Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs
Besides having dropped, floppy ears, below is a list of the common causes for this dog ear yeast infection:
- excessive inner hair
- trapped water(from swimming or incorrect bathing methods)
- foreign objects such as debris, grass seeds, or foxtails that got caught in the ear canal
- bacteria, yeast or fungal (common in adult dogs)
- ear mites (common in puppies)
- narrow or stenotic (abnormally narrow) ear canals
- dog allergies
- allergic skin diseases
- atopic dermatitis
- excessive ear wax (perfect medium for bacterial growth)
- environmental changes (moisture)
- hormone abnormalities
Symptoms to Look for
The easiest way to tell whether your dog is suffering from canine ear infection is to look for any redness and swelling of the ear. Usually you will find brown, yellow or bloody discharge from the ear and a strong odor. Below is a list of other common symptoms that can serve as good indicators as to when you should take your four legged friend to a veterinarian or animal hospital:
- frequent ear scratching
- unusual and regular rubbing of the ear on a surface such as the floor or furniture
- crusted or scabby skin around the ear flap
- excessive buildup of oily, yellowish wax in the ear canals
- foul discharge from the ears
- hair loss around the ear
- hearing loss
- frequent head shaking as if to get something (debris, trapped water, mites, etc.) out of the ears
- tilting or lowering the head to one side as if to minimize the pain
- unusual eye movements
- walking in circles as if in pain or uncomfortable about something
- cries or whines when the ear is touched
If your dog shows some or all of the above symptoms, you need to send him or her to a vet for diagnosis as soon as possible. Basically, the veterinarian will diagnose the problem by examining the dog’s ear canal and ear drum with an otoscope (magnifying ear cone) to examine the root causes of the infection. The vet will also use a cotton-tipped applicator to take a specimen of the waxy material and examine it under the microscope to look for bacteria, yeast, ear mites, parasites, or other factors that might be causing the infection.
When a dog is in extreme pain, he / she will behave violently and refuse the examination. In such cases, you may have to allow the veterinarian to sedate or anesthetize your dog so as to make examination possible.
Treatment Options for Canine Ear Infection
Unless you are really experienced at treating dog ear infection, you should let a veterinarian treat your dog because there are certain “little” things which done wrongly, can seriously injure your dog and might potentially lead to his / her death. One of the “little” things that you need to bear in mind before attempting to treat this infection is to find out whether the eardrums of your dog are intact? If the eardrum is ruptured during the treatment process, your dog may become deaf for life.
If your dog’s ears have certain conditions, it would be wiser to let a veterinarian handle the whole treatment process as he / she is trained in such matters. You should also make sure that the infection is NOT caused by a foreign body or tumor in the ear canal.
Once the causes of the infection have been established, your veterinarian will decide the best treatment method for your four legged friend. It may be a simple cleaning, drying, or flushing of the ear canals or it may be something extreme which involves surgery like lateral ear resection. Surgery is usually the last resort when the dog’s ear canal is too narrow (hyperplasia) for regular cleaning methods. The purpose of the surgery is to improve air circulation and drainage in the ear canal.
If you’re confident that you can handle the treatment on your own, be sure to ask your veterinarian to recommend a cleansing solution that is suitable for your dog. Cleaning your dog’s ears on a regular basis (without overdoing it) can help kill the bacteria in the ear and prevent them from spreading and causing infection. Below are three simple steps for cleaning your dog’s ears:
- Get a cotton ball and soak it in the right cleansing solution. Generally, antibacterial drops for bacterial infection and antifungal ointments for fungal ear infection. If you’re unsure, consult your veterinarian. Do NOT make the cotton ball too wet; squeeze out any excess solution.
- Carefully rub the cotton ball around the inside of your dog’s ear. Do it gently around the infected and inflamed areas so that you don’t cause too much pain for your dog.
- You dog will want to shake his or her head. This behavior is normal and encouraged because it will help shake off the debris that is trapped inside the ear.
NEVER use q-tip swabs or cotton tipped applicators as a substitute for cotton balls. The reason for this is because unlike human, dog ear canals are L-shaped; using q-tip swabs will only push the debris back into the vertical ear canal and rupture the eardrum.
Home Remedies for Treating Dog Ear Infection
If you cannot afford to pay a visit to the vet, despair not as there are many home remedies you can use to clean your dog’s ears and treat the infection. Below are the basic steps for applying the remedies:
- Use warm water to clean and flush out the ears to get rid of any irritants and debris. This step is very important because you want to make sure the ear canal is not obstructed with excessive ear wax which will prevent the home remedies from reaching the infected areas.
- To treat the infected areas, you need to prepare your solution (mixture of water and apple cider vinegar, mixture of witch hazel and organic apple cider vinegar, etc). By the way, witch hazel is frequently used as a natural astringent in many herbal remedies.
- Soak the cotton ball (do NOT use q-tip swabs) in your homemade ear cleaner and squeeze out any excess liquid. Carefully rub the cotton ball around the inside of your dog’s ear to kill the bacteria and fungal inside. This should help reduce the swelling and ease the pain.
If your find a lot of foul discharge from your dog’s ears or if there are signs of blood in the ear, chances are your dog might be suffering from a serious ear infection. If that’s the case, you need to pay a visit to the veterinarian office as soon as possible!
Truth to be told, there are all sorts of mixture you can use to make your dog feel better. Some ingredients will be harsh on your dog so be sure to avoid using them if possible. Anyway, here’s a list of home remedies which people have found useful for treating this infection:
- hot compress
- witch hazel and organic apple cider vinegar (1:1 ratio)
- white vinegar and warm water (1:1 ratio)
- aloe vera gel (1 teaspoon)
- almond oil
- olive oil
- warm water and apple cider vinegar (1:3 ratio)
- garlic oil
- vitamin e oil
- garlic macerated in olive oil
Prevention is (Always) Better than Cure
Prevention is always better, cheaper and easier than the cure. So what can you do to prevent the development of this infection in the first place? Below is a list of simple things you can do to make your dog less predisposed to the infection:
- Check and clean your dog’s ear canal as necessary on a regular basis to remove fungus and yeast. Be sure NOT to overdo it (stick to your veterinarian advice). Ask your vet to suggest a solution that is suitable for your dog’s ears condition.
- Keep your dog’s ears dry all the times if possible, especially after bathing him / her.
- If your dog tends to have hair grown around the opening of the ear canals, you want to make sure that the hairs do not block the air from circulating freely. Tweeze them away as necessary but be careful not to cause pain to your dog.