Between the head shaking, ear scratching, and odor, all signs point to your dog having an ear infection…again. Ear infections are the number two reason for unplanned vet visits for dogs. Most dogs end up with an achy ear at some time in their life, but for some of our pups, ear infections are a regular battle. They take weeks to treat and leave our four-legged friends in a lot of pain. There’s even risk of dogs going deaf.
So what do you do about it? Your first step if you think your dog has an ear infection is to see your vet. Your vet will suggest treatment based on the type and severity of the infection. It’s also your job to prevent the infection from coming back. You can do that by learning about the common causes of ear infections and doing everything possible to protect your pup.
Types of Ear Infections in Dogs
While all ear infections are painful, there are three different types common in dogs: otitis externa, media, and internal. The type has to do with where the infection is located. It could be in the outer area of the ear canal (externa), the middle ear (media), or the inner ear (internal). The deeper into the ear, the worse the infection is, and the harder it is to treat.
Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs
It’s not always possible to pin down exactly what caused a dog’s ear infection. But veterinarians can still point the blame at a few common triggers.
When water gets trapped in the ear, it creates an environment perfect for bacteria, fungi, and yeast. When those things start to grow, they multiply and cause an infection. Dogs are more prone to ear infections than humans because of the structure of their ears. This is especially true for dogs with floppy ears that fold over and cover the ear canal. When dogs swim, spend a lot of time outside, or even get a bath, there is risk of moisture getting trapped in their ears. And if that moisture stays in the ear long enough, an infection will develop.
Ear mites are hungry little critters that feed on earwax and oil secretions in the ears. They’re parasites that are easily passed between dogs. You’ll probably need a magnifying glass to see them, and their small size allows them to go unnoticed for a long time. Most dog owners don’t realize they have a mite situation until their dog starts showing symptoms of an ear infection.
Dogs can be allergic to just about anything. And to make the situation even harder to pin down, allergy symptoms can present differently in different dogs. Some dogs that are allergic to grain, chicken, or beef, for example, get frequent ear infections. Allergy-related ear infections are also accompanied by itchy skin and red spots on other areas of the body.
Foreign Bodies and Ear Injuries
A damaged ear drum can leave an open door for bacteria to travel through the ear canal and into the inner ear. The injury itself is painful, and on top of that, the resulting infection makes matters worse. Infections can also occur if something gets stuck inside a dog’s ear. Grass seed is a regular offender, but it could be literally anything small enough to become lodged inside the ear. Bacteria will grow around the object and cause an infection.
Once infection takes hold, your only course of action is to see a vet. Sometimes curing the infection can takes weeks, and it’s never cheap. Both you and your pup will be better off if you take steps to prevent ear infections in the first place. One way you can do that is by utilizing an antifungal and antimicrobial ear cleanser. Pet MD Tris Ear Flush is formulated for dogs that are prone to frequent ear infections. It contains .1% ketoconazole to gently flush out bacteria, fungus, dirt, and excess wax.
If your dog has had multiple ear infections in their lifetime, it’s time to take action. Cleaning their ears on a regular basis is a simple step you can take to improve your dog’s ear health.