Dog Ear Infections

How to Identify Them, How to Treat Them

Dogs will always have a certain amount of microbes growing in their ears, but for various reasons, you can end up dealing with a dog ear infection. Dogs’ ears can be infected with yeast, or bacteria. Either infection will be extremely bothersome to your dog, and should be dealt with ASAP.

Symptoms of a Dog Ear Infection

Any one of the following symptoms, is likely a clue that your dog has an ear infection:

  • Nasty smell in your dog’s ears – particularly if it smells like chalk.
  • Dog is constantly rubbing or scratching the ears, or shaking or titling the head.
  • Black or yellow discharges in the ears.
  • Dog has pain when being touched on the ears.
  • Ear canal or inner flap of the ear is red or swollen.

In addition to any of these, your dog will become easily annoyed when he has an ear infection.

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Identifying a Dog Ear Infection

The dog’s ear infection is probably yeast, if:

  • The ears smell like chalk.
  • The dog’s ears itch like crazy.
  • The dog’s ears begin drying out and becoming scaly.
  • There is an oozing discharge from the ears.
  • The dog’s ear infection spreads to the paws or face.

The dog’s ear infection is probably bacterial, if:

  • The ears stink badly, but they don’t smell like chalk.
  • The dog’s ears hurt or are very tender to the touch.

In both cases, there may be discharges, redness and/or swelling.

Know the Difference:
Is It a Dog Ear Infection, or Other Problem?

Don’t instantly assume there’s an ear infection, or that the ear infection is the main problem. Even if the ear is clearly infected, check for a physical injury to the ear, a flea infestation, lumps and sores, ear mites, or objects lodged in the ear canal that may have caused the infection.

Check your dog for fleas by inspecting his belly and the fur at the base of his tail. If you don’t see them crawling around, use a fine-toothed comb at the base of the tail and see if you can pull out any fleas or their waste. If the comb pulls out a lot of dark, grainy specs, that is a likely sign of fleas – treat the fleas, and you may treat the dog’s ear infection.

If the dog’s ear or head was recently injured, the vet should get involved. The ear infection could just be a minor problem, in those cases, compared to other things that can follow from ear and head trauma.

The same goes for tumors. A tumor is a knot in the skin, and they come in many varieties. If you find a growth like this anywhere on your dog, ear or otherwise, it’s time to visit the vet.

If your dog has ear mites, then the ear infection symptoms will be mixed with what looks like coffee grounds – that black powder is dried blood. Ear mites will quickly infect all your pets if not controlled, but there is over-the-counter medicine to deal with them.

As for foreign objects, the most common problem is called a “foxtail.” A foxtail is a type of grass that has barbed hooks. The way it’s shaped, it’s going to move further into your dog’s ear, and not come out on its own. If you can remove it with tweezers, great; if not, visit the vet.

That’s it for the list of problems that are commonly mistaken for a dog ear infection – now, if you’ve ruled these things out, read on.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?

The biggest factor to dogs getting ear infections is a moist environment. Drafty, moist air is a problem. Swimming without properly drying out is another. It’s suggested that any time your dog’s ears are going to get wet, you rinse the ears with a product such as Epi-Otic. You should fill the ear completely up, and then allow him to shake it out. Finish by swabbing out the remaining debris with a cotton swab. You can also pinch the base of the ear to squeeze out the base of the ear canal as you do this. This kind of product will evaporate quickly, removing both the medicine and any other moisture.

Another cause of dog ear infections, is an allergic reaction. Dogs’ ears react to most allergies, so if your dog has repeated ear infections, you should consider the possibility of an allergy. The allergy could be related to their food, a flea attack, to something in their environment such as plants or pollen, or it could be a medication or soap. If you suspect an allergy, your veterinarian can help with blood tests.

Hypothyroidism is another common source of infection. Hypothyroidism has many side effects, and one of them is water retention. Once again, your veterinarian can perform blood tests to check to see if hypothyroidism is the cause of your dog’s ear infections.

Weakened immune systems, hereditary skin problems, and a lack of certain nutrients in the dog’s diet are also possible causes for dog ear infections. There are immunity supplements for dogs that will help with all three of these causes.

Treating Dog Ear Infections

A dog with an active ear infection should be taken to the vet. The veterinarian can quickly determine the degree and type of the infection. In most cases, the vet should be able to send you home with a prescription that will fit the exact type of ear infection. Epi-Otic flush is commonly prescribed for both bacterial and yeast infections. Temeral-P, a steroid, is also given for both types of dog ear infections. Other drugs your veterinarian might prescribe include Otomax or Cephalexin for bacterial ear infections, or Mometamax for yeast.

If you’ve already determined that your dog’s ear infection is coming from yeast growth, you can try a heavily-diluted solution of vinegar, to flush out the ears. Fill the ear and let the vinegar sit for a minute, massaging the base of the dog’s ear to make sure the vinegar gets everywhere. Let the dog then shake out the vinegar, and use cotton swabs to wipe them out. You’ll need to repeat this a few times per week before the yeast level drops to normal.

Preventing Dog Ear Infections

Here are the basic dog ownership habits that will help you prevent your dog from getting ear infections:

  • Keep the dog clean with proper grooming habits. Make sure he has good exercise.
  • Give him good, nutritious food including vitamin C.
  • Certain herbs also fight ear infections when used as a dietary supplement, try pau d’orca and acidophilus together, with your vet’s permission.
  • Make sure his ears are properly dried after every bath or swim.

Remember – a dog’s ear infection is serious enough on its own, but left untreated, it can turn into a bigger health problem. You and your dog will be fine, so long as you catch the ear infection early and do the right thing for your dog.

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