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How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Posted by Dr. Roth on September 03, 2021

Lifestyle
Medical Advice
Wellness Care
What to do if?
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A dog’s ear canals are vertical — which means their ears can collect dirt, debris, and moisture. When debris or moisture sit in the ears for too long, it can lead to a painful ear infection. Ear infections are a common problem in canines, but fortunately, pet parents can often treat them at home without needing to go in for expensive vet treatments. The first step is recognizing the symptoms and getting treatment right away.

Types of Ear Infections

Dogs can develop a few different types of ear infections:

  • Otitis Externa - inflammation that develops on the outer portion of the ear canal.

  • Otitis Medina to Otis Media - an infection that develops in the middle of the ear. 

  • Otitis Interna - an infection that develops in the inner ear and can lead to permanent hearing damage if left untreated. 

Causes of an Ear Infection in Dogs

Several issues can contribute to the development of an ear infection, including:

  • Ear wax buildup

  • Moisture trapped in the ear

  • Too much hair in the ear canal

In many cases, ear infections can also be the result of an underlying condition — such as:

Some dogs are also more likely to develop an ear infection than others. While any dog can develop one, those with a higher risk are breeds with floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and English Bulldogs or Hounds. Canines with certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, are also at greater risk.  

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How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Recognizing the symptoms of an ear infection is crucial for pet parents. One of the most common signs is significant head tilting or shaking of the head. These movements can indicate the dog is in discomfort. Other symptoms of a dog ear infection include:

  • A reluctance to chew on toys 

  • Bad smells coming from the ears

  • Brown, white, or yellow discharge coming from the ears

  • Crusting or scabbing around the ears

  • Excessive ear scratching

  • Hair loss

  • Loss of balance, which can occur when the ear infection gets inside of the ear canal

  • Pain when the dog or pet parents touch the ears — the dog may yelp or wince

  • Redness and swelling around the ears 

  • Rubbing against hard objects to relieve itchy ears

The above symptoms can make a dog miserable, and they can get worse the longer the canine goes without treatment.

Seek Treatment Right Away

If pet parents suspect their dog has an ear infection or have any other dog health questions, they should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can also discuss their dog’s symptoms with an online vet chat service for dog health advice, dog tips, and directions on how to proceed. There are a few different at home treatments that can help ear infections or ear mites

A dog’s primary vet can diagnose the issue or run lab tests to determine the type of bacteria affecting the canine’s ears. They can recommend the appropriate course of treatment, which may involve an ear cleaning in the office and medicated drops at home. A vet may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as decrease the amount time a dog spends bathing or swimming, in addition to use of a dog-specific ear cleaning routine after exposure to water. Dog-specific ear cleansers are essential care items dog parents should keep in the home for the post-bath routine if a dog is prone to ear infections. Using these cleansers and developing ear-cleaning routines can help to prevent infections in the future.

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