A common condition that often goes unnoticed in dogs is ear infections. Many pet owners see their dog scratching at their ears and think that means their dog may have mites, but the cause is more often than not an ear infection.
While ear infections can occur any time of the year, we often see more cases in our vet hospital as the weather warms up. This is due to a number of factors, including allergies, water getting trapped in a dog’s ear after swimming, and warmer temperatures creating ideal conditions for the growth of yeast and bacteria in the ear.
What causes ear infections in dogs?
Ear infections can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Bacterial infections
- Overgrowth of yeast
- Foreign objects in the ear
- Moisture build-up from water getting trapped in the ear
While dogs of any breed or age can suffer from ear infections, those with longer, floppy ears – such as cocker spaniels and labradoodles – are typically more prone to infections
What are the signs of an ear infection?
The most common sign of ear infections in dogs is frequent scratching at their ears or rubbing their ears against furniture or on the ground.
Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Head shaking
- Scratching or pawing at the ear
- Tilting of the head
- Red, irritated or crusting skin inside the ears
- Discharge that can be brown, yellow, white or green in colour
- Strong smell coming from the ears
How we diagnose an ear infection
If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, it’s important that you take them to the vet to get a physical examination as soon as possible. In most cases, an ear infection won’t go away on its own.
Your vet will give your dog a thorough check-up and will examine their ears to see if the ear canal is inflamed, and if there is any evidence of mites or foreign objects that could be causing them discomfort.
Following the physical examination, your vet may take a swab of the ear for further diagnostic testing if required.
Treatment of ear infections
Depending on the cause of the ear infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or an anti-fungal treatment to be applied to the ears. Within a day or two of commencing treatment, your dog will start to feel some relief. If the infection is allergy-related, your vet will discuss additional testing and longer-term treatment options to prevent further ear infections.
If symptoms persist, it’s important that your vet rechecks your dog’s ears to check if a change and medication is required, and to ensure they haven’t ruptured an ear drum.
Preventing your dog from getting an ear infection
There are a few things you can do to try and lessen the chances of your dog from developing an ear infection.
- Try and keep your dog’s ears as dry as possible – infections love a moist environment, so after swimming, gently dry the entrance to their ear
- Get your dog groomed regularly, and get them to keep the hair in their ears short
- Chat with your vet about using a dog-specific ear-cleaning solution
- Know what is “normal” for your dog’s ears, so that if anything changes, you can get it checked out by your vet
Need some veterinary advice?
If your dog is displaying signs of an ear infection, or you have any questions about how to prevent recurrent ear infections, our vets are here to help. To book an appointment, visit our website or call us on 03 9555 4808.