External Ear Infections in Dogs; a very Common and Painful Condition
External ear infections are a very common condition in pets. Your pet will need to be examined by your veterinarian to diagnose and properly treat the problem. Don’t delay an exam, the longer you wait the problem will be more difficult to take care of.
Understanding Ear Infections in Dogs.
One of the most common maladies in dogs are external ear infections. In most dogs, ear infections have a yeast or bacteria growing in the ears, but they also usually have some type of underlying cause. Diagnosing the underlying cause is very important in managing the ear infection. I would like to discuss what I see as the most common causes of ear infections in dogs.
The first are allergies. Two common allergies that dogs suffer from that can cause ear infections are inhalant allergies and food allergies. Both of these allergies may cause inflamed, itchy ears leading to secondary infections. If I suspect allergies as a cause of the ear infection using antihistamines or oral corticosteroids may aid treatment.
The next are ear mites. Ear mites are too small to be seen by the naked eye so you must take your pet to a veterinarian who will do a thorough examination of the ear in order to make a proper diagnosis. Since ear mites are very contagious between animals I will generally treat all of the dogs and cats in the home. If you have dogs or cats that are outside and have contact with other animals control can be very difficult. In this case I recommend a monthly topical anti-parasitic that is labeled for ear mite control such as Advantage Multi (only labelled to treat ear mites in cats) or Revolution (labeled to treat ear mites in dogs and cats).
Foreign objects are another common cause of ear infections in dogs. Grass seeds are the most common foreign objects which I diagnose. If the ear canal is clean I can usually see the grass seeds right away and if the patient is cooperative I can remove it with a pair of alligator forceps. If they aren’t cooperative I will sedate the patient and remove the seed. Often there is too much debris or puss to see the foreign object on the initial exam. In this case it is extremely important to set up a treatment progress exam so your veterinarian has the opportunity to examine the ear when some of the debris is cleaned out of the ears.
As I indicated earlier, regardless of the underlying cause of external ear infections most are also commonly infected with yeast or bacteria. I therefore suggest an ear cytology to help guide treatment of the ears. If I find only yeast I prescribe a medicated ointment. Most yeast infections will respond with this treatment, but occasionally some patients will also require an oral antifungal. If there are bacteria I will use the medicated ointment and also an oral antibiotic. I also suggest culturing the bacteria to make sure that the mediations we are using will be effective. If the bacteria is resistant to the medications I have initially chosen a change can be made to more effective medications.
As with most cases individual treatment will vary on a case by case basis. Working closely with your veterinarian and keeping treatment progress exams is the best way to achieve a successful outcome.