Ear infections in dogs
Most vet practices see at least one ear infection case every day!
While some cases of ear infections in dogs are mild, other cases can be challenging to manage. If your canine companion can’t quite seem to shake ear infections, it’s important to get the right advice about how to help them.
Our partners over at Joii Pet Care have provided expert veterinary advice on dealing with ear infections in dogs, to explain what causes ear infections and how they are treated.
Remember: Ear infections can be extremely painful, so you’ll need to contact your vet immediately if you’re concerned your dog is suffering discomfort with their ears.
Causes of ear infections in dogs
It can be upsetting to see our dogs in distress while they’re dealing with an ear infection, which is why finding the cause behind your dog’s discomfort is important.
There are many causes of ear infections in dogs, though these are the most common:
• Food allergies (e.g. to beef, chicken, lamb, wheat, etc.).
• Environmental allergies (e.g. dust mites, grass, pollen, plants, etc.).
• Foreign bodies (e.g. grass seeds).
• Bacterial infections.
• Fungal infections.
• Ear growths (e.g. lumps on their ears).
• Ear mites.
Risk factors for ear infections in dogs
Any dog can develop an ear infection at any time throughout their lives.
However, there are risk factors that mean some dogs are more prone to ear infections than others. For example, there are types and breeds of dog who are at higher risk of getting ear infections, due to their ear shape, ear hair, or sensitive skin:
• Basset Hounds.
• Golden Retrievers.
• Bichon Frises .
Other risk factors that might make dogs more prone to ear infections include:
• Swimming frequently.
• Being bathed or groomed a lot.
• Having their ears cleaned too often.
• Seasonal allergies during warmer months.
Symptoms of ear infections in dogs
The faster they’re treated for ear infections, the quicker your dog should recover. So, it’s worth contacting your vet, or speaking to someone at Joii Pet Care, if your dog shows any of the following symptoms:
• Scratching their ears.
• Head shaking.
• Ear discharge (e.g. wax, pus, or blood).
• Red, painful ears.
• Smelly ears.
• Hair loss around their ears.
• Head tilt.
• Lack of coordination.
• Reduced appetite.
How are ear infections in dogs diagnosed?
Vets follow a process for diagnosing ear infections in dogs:
Step 1 – The vet will start with a physical exam, by checking your dog’s overall health and condition.
Step 2 – After a physical exam, the vet will scope your dog’s ear canal. The process of scoping your dog’s ear involves an ‘otoscope’ – a handheld tool that allows the vet to view the inside of your dog’s ear.
Step 3 – If required, the vet might take a swab of your dog’s ear to find out what’s causing the problem (e.g. bacteria, yeast, mites, etc.); they’ll also use that swab to select the right medication for your dog’s specific type of ear infection.
Step 4 – Blood tests may be taken, to check for underlying illnesses.
Step 5 – In case your dog has a food allergy, the vet might suggest a diet trial.
Step 6 – A biopsy (test sample) may be taken from any growths on your dog’s ear(s).
Step 7 – X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be carried out, depending on your dog’s condition.
How are ear infections in dogs treated?
Ear infections in dogs can be treated in different ways, depending on what’s caused the problem.
A vet will manage your dog’s ear infection using one or more treatments including:
• Ear cleaners – to break up ear wax, clean your dog’s ear canal, and soothe any discomfort (some ear cleaners are antimicrobial , too, helping kill bacteria and other nasties!).
• Medicated ear drops – have antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, and are usually given after receiving the results of an ear swab.
• Oral medications – may be given instead of drops, if your dog dislikes drops, is in too much pain, or has a ruptured (damaged) eardrum.
• Surgery – procedures for ear infections can include ear flushing (thoroughly cleaning their ears), removal of foreign bodies, or operations on ears that haven’t responded to treatments.
Remember: Only use medication as directed by your vet.
How to prevent ear infections in dogs
Prevention is better than cure, so they say!
Here are Joii’s top tips for preventing ear infections in dogs:
• Stay up to date with flea and worming treatments.
• Monitor your dog’s ears to make sure they’re clean, as well as free from itchiness and pain.
• Clean their ears every 7-14 days, if required, using a vet-approved pH neutral ear cleaner.
• Dry their ears well after swimming.
• Check their ears for foreign bodies (e.g. grass seeds) after walks.
• Avoid changing their food too frequently.
• Don’t offer too many treats or different flavoured food, as food allergies can cause ear infections in dogs.
• Apply pet-safe suncream to your dog’s ears; especially if their ears are white or pale.
Managing recurrent ear infections in dogs
Does your dog suffer from recurrent ear infections?
If so, your canine companion may need lifelong treatment to manage their symptoms and reduce the frequency of ear infections.
To manage frequent ear infections in dogs:
• Get your dog checked by your vet – especially if their symptoms haven’t improved after the first course of treatment.
• Use medication as prescribed by your vet.
• Regularly clean your dog’s ears, following your vet’s recommendations.
• Manage special requirements according to your vet’s advice (e.g. sticking to a certain diet or using specific skin supplements).
• Keep the hair around your dog’s ears as short as possible.
• Your dog may need regular blood and urine tests.
• Be prepared to complete a diet trial for food allergies.
• Book your dog in to be put under anaesthetic and have their ears thoroughly checked by a vet.
Can the Joii team help with ear infections in dogs?
Vet experts at Joii Pet Care can help if you:
• Have questions about pet-safe ear cleaners.
• Need support to choose the right supplement.
• Want advice on how to correctly clean your dog’s ears.
• Aren’t sure what to do about your dog’s recurrent ear infections.