Dog ear infections can be painful, for both the dog and their owner. It can be an incredibly helpless feeling to know that your dog is uncomfortable or has had some discomfort, and not know what (if anything) that you can do about it. If there is any good news here, though, it’s that ear infections in dogs are a common issue.
That means there is plenty of research behind understanding exactly why they happen, what can help prevent them, and what remedies are out there.
Want to know more? WINPRO Pet has the answers to everything you ever wanted to know about ear infections in dogs, and maybe to questions you haven’t even thought about asking!
What Exactly Are Ear Infections In Dogs?
First, some basics. In essence, ear infections in dogs work similarly to ear infections in people. However, because dogs’ ears are anatomically different to the human ear, how they are impacted can be slightly different.
There are three parts to the ear - the inner ear, the middle ear, and the outer ear.
The inner ear is where the part that creates “hearing” lives, an organ known as the cochlea. It is also where the dog gets their center of balance from.
The middle ear is home to the eardrum, various bones and muscles, and the eustachian tube (which connects the ear to the back of the nose).
And finally, the outer ear which is the part that you can physically see. This includes the “pinna,” which is what we commonly refer to as the ear, and the ear canal.
When it comes to the shape of the ear canal, dog’s ear canals are more vertical (up and down) than ours are. Essentially, the area from the outer ear to the inner ear forms an “L” shape instead of a gentle curve. That can lead to an increased susceptibility to a buildup of fluid inside the ear canal, which can also trap germs, yeast, or ear mites inside.
There are three different types of ear infections that dogs can experience, depending on exactly where in the ear the infection occurs:
- Otitis interna - An infection of the inner ear, which can be more serious and lead to neurological symptoms and damage.
- Otitis media - An infection that occurs in the middle ear, which usually happens as a result of an otitis externa infection.
- Otitis externa - The most common type of ear infection, affecting the ear canal and the other outer parts of the ear.
What Are The Common Symptoms of Ear Infections In Dogs?
While every dog is different, and the way that they show that they’re ill is different, there are a few more common signs to look for that can indicate your dog is dealing with an infection in the ear.
- Excessively itching or scratching at the ear.
- Shaking of the head.
- Redness or visible swelling around the ear canal.
- An unusual odor or discharge in the ear.
- Crusted over skin or scabbing around the outside of the ear.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely To Develop Ear Infections?
While any dog can develop an ear infection, there are certain physical characteristics that can make it more likely to happen.
Specifically, dogs that have larger, more floppy ears have a tendency to trap the bacteria inside the ear canal, leading to an increased risk of ear infections. That includes breeds like Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels.
Dogs who like to spend time out in the wild, and especially swimming or playing in water, are also more prone to ear infections. Because of the shape of the ear canal, water can get trapped inside the ear along with germs and other debris, leading to an infection. Labrador retrievers are one of the breeds that are most prone to this type of issue.
Any dog that has issues with allergies can also have issues with recurrent ear infections. That can happen for two different reasons. The frequent itching and scratching that comes along with allergies can lead to infection, and allergies can also increase the amount of bacteria and/or yeast that can occur on the skin.
Remedies For Ear Infections In Dogs
There are a handful of helpful remedies for ear infections in dogs including identifying the likely sources that trigger the infection and working on reducing their exposure.
Here are a few of the best ways to prevent ear infections:
That may include things like supplements, baths, and even less frequent walks during allergy season. Keeping your dog’s ears as clean as possible if they’re swimmers is also important.
If you’ve adopted a dog that has those long, floppy ears, it can be difficult to really reduce ear infections from happening. In those cases, making sure that you frequently check their ears for early signs of infections, like odor or discharge, can at least help you catch an infection before it has a chance to get out of control.
Cleaning the ears regularly can also help keep the ear canal as free of fluid and bacteria as possible. Be ready for this to be a messy process, as dogs will naturally shake their ears when they feel the ear cleaning liquid inside of them.
Always use an ear cleanser recommended by your veterinarian, instead of an over the counter option, and never use q-tips. Once the liquid is in the ear, start by gently massaging the base of the ear (you will hear the liquid squish around - this is normal!).
After about 30 seconds, allow your dog to shake his or her head before gently cleaning the outer ear with gauze or a cotton ball. If your dog's ears are extra sensitive, use caution or let a professional handle it… dogs can bite when they’re in pain, even if they don’t mean to hurt you.
Seeing a Veterinarian
Ear infections in dogs require medical care from your veterinarian. Never attempt to help treat your dog’s infections by yourself at home. They will evaluate your dog and decide how severe his or her ear infection is, which will help them to decide what type of treatment they need as well.
However, after treatment, it will likely be up to you to complete any treatments that your vet has suggested. In some cases, that may require you to put medicated ear drops into their ears, which can be tricky especially if your dog is experiencing discomfort. If you’re having trouble, ask your vet for more direction and tips for making it as successful of an experience as possible.
In some cases, you may also have to administer oral medication. There are a variety of different tips and techniques to help this along, including using “pill pockets” that you can put the pill in to trick your dog into swallowing it, or adding the pill to cheese or peanut butter.
Ear infections in dogs can be frustrating and chronic, especially if you’re not sure what is triggering them. Identifying the common causes and triggers, and knowing what you may be getting into when it comes to treatment, can help you catch them before they can become more severe.