What’s that smell?

Does your dog shake its head violently back and forth? How about constant scratching at their ears? Is there a foul odor coming from the ears? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your dog may have an ear infection.

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Ear infections in dogs are incredibly common.

Ear infections in dogs are incredibly common. There are several reasons that dogs can develop ear infections. First, excessive hair growth in and around the ear canal can trap bacteria, yeast, and moisture deep within the ear canal. This is why it is important to keep the ear canal as hair-free as possible by ear hair plucking and shaving at the groomers, veterinary office, or at home. Second, the anatomy of the ear canal causes bacteria and yeast to be more prone to being trapped inside because it is shaped like an “L”. Dogs with floppy ears are even more prone to ear infections than dogs with ears that stand upright as this creates a “hood” over the ear canal allowing a dark protected home for yeast and bacteria to thrive. Third, in some cases, ear infections can be caused by allergies to dogs’ food or environment making them even more difficult to prevent. If your dog has recurrent ear infections, speak to your veterinarian about a possible food or environmental allergy underlying cause.

Dogs that go swimming, go to the groomers, or receive frequent baths are more likely to develop ear infections. This is because all of these activities make dogs more common to have moisture enter the ear canal. This is why it is very important to flush your dog’s ears out at home with a reputable ear cleanser after bathing or going swimming.

Ear infections can take many different forms. Sometimes, the ear flap and ear canal will look red and irritated. Sometimes, there may be small bumps all over the ear. Other times, the ear canal can be narrowed from inflammation and discharge can be present creating an incredibly foul odor. No matter the level of severity, all ear infections must be treated by a veterinarian.

Contrary to what many online resources say about ear infections, it is NOT safe to treat an ear infection on your own at home.

Contrary to what many online resources say about ear infections, it is NOT safe to treat an ear infection on your own at home. This is because the ears are a direct pathway into the brain. It is important to make sure the ear drum inside the ear canal is intact with every ear infection to avoid possibly leaking medications from the ear canal into the brain. Some medications placed in the ear canal can be toxic to the brain causing neurological signs if the ear drum is not intact. Also, at home remedies can cause resistant bacteria and yeast to form making it more difficult for your veterinarian to treat it once they see your dog. Remember, because of these risks, each ear infection is treated as a brand new infection and your dog will need to be seen by a veterinarian for each one, no matter how close or far apart they are.

Remember, each ear infection is treated as a brand new infection and your dog will need to be seen by a veterinarian for each one, no matter how close or far apart they are.

There are several things you should expect at your veterinary visit when your dog is treated for ear infections. First, your veterinarian should perform a full body physical examination and a thorough history. This is when your veterinarian may discuss a possible link between ear infections and your pets’ allergies. Second, your veterinarian should perform a thorough examination of both ears, even if it’s only one ear causing the problem. Sometimes, a mild ear infection in the “healthy ear” may not cause clinical signs if the other ear is severely infected. A thorough ear examination looks at the ear flap, the ear canal opening, both canals of the “L” shape, and the ear drum. An otoscope is the special piece of medical equipment necessary for performing this complete evaluation. Third, cotton swabs will be used to collect samples of debris from inside of your dog’s ear canals. These samples will be placed on a microscope slide, specially stained, and examined underneath a microscope to determine what medication will best treat the ear infection. This process is called an ear cytology. Fourth, your dog’s ear canals will need to be flushed with ear cleanser to allow medication to penetrate into the ear. Ear flushing can be a very messy job, but is very easy to learn how to do at home. Ask your veterinarian to teach you how to perform this skill, if you don’t already know how. Finally, appropriate medication will be prescribed or administered at your visit to correct the infection. It is always important to schedule a follow-up visit to be sure ear infections are completely cleared. On occasion, medications may need to be repeated for severe ear infections. Ask your veterinarian when an appropriate amount of time would be for a follow-up visit.

Ear infections are incredibly painful and can become severe rapidly.

Ear infections are incredibly painful and can become severe rapidly. If you think your pet has or is developing an ear infection, please see your veterinarian right away. Although they may not be life threatening, they are extremely uncomfortable and not something your pet should have to endure for long periods of time.

Do you have questions about your dog’s ear infections or other veterinary questions? Please post below!

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