Ear infections are a common problem in dogs. Many, if not most, dogs will suffer an ear infection at some time during their lifetime, and dogs with non-erect ears are more at risk of developing this painful condition.
The ears are made of skin and cartilage, and covered in a light layer of fur. The ears have a very intricate blood supply.
There are two main kinds of ear problem in dogs:
• Otitis Externa is inflammation of the ears, and results from allergies to foods, fleas and other allergens.
• Ear Infection is an actual infection of the ear, most commonly caused by bacteria, fungal agents, parasites, and foreign bodies. Ear infections can often cause secondary otitis externa.
Signs of ear infections in canines include:
• Shaking the head
• Scratching the ears or about the head
• Redness and inflammation
• Odour or discharge from the ears
• Hair loss and scabs in the area
Causes of canine ear infections are as follows:
• Bacteria – invade the ears and cause infection; these are often secondary and an expression of another health problem.
• Parasites – including ear mites, fleas, scabies mites, and ticks.
• Fungal diseases – these can affect the ears and the skin
• Yeast infections – often secondary to another cause
• Allergies – to food, fleas, pollens, grasses, dust, etc.
• Foreign bodies – particularly burrs from plant material
• Bites from insects in the ear pinna or canal
• Underactive thyroid
• Immune disorders
• Tumours in the ear
Accurate diagnosis of the cause of ear infection is imperative to delivering the correct treatment. Treatments are always based on the cause of the disease.
Treatments can include the following:
• A foreign body will be removed by the vet
• Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotic ointments
• Antifungal agents are used to treat fungal or yeast infections
• Inflammation may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids
• Severe infections will be treated with systemic antibiotic therapy
• Allergic ear problems will be addressed with low allergy diets and avoidance of the allergen.
• Flea prevention steps will be taken
• Parasitic infestation will be treated with anti-parasitic agents
• Thyroid disease is treated with hormone therapy.
• Tumours or masses will be removed
Canine ear infections can easily become chronic – and thus more difficult to treat. The underlying cause of the infection must be identified and resolved.
Next week we’ll look at home ear care for your dog – to keep his ears healthy.