Dog ear infection is one of the most common conditions seen by a veterinarian. In most cases the problem is otitis externa, or infection of the outer ear canal, which is caused by bacteria developing in a moist ear.
In humans, this condition is called swimmer’s ear because it often develops when water is trapped in the ear. In dogs, it tends to occur most frequently in breeds that have floppy ears or long, hairy ear canals where the hairs can easily trap moisture after a swim, a bath or even a walk in the rain. Bacteria breeds in this warm, damp environment causing infection.
It is also possible for a dog to develop a bacterial infection in the inner ear. Inflammation of the ear may also be caused by a yeast infection or by ear mites, which affect puppies in particular.
It is easy to spot a dog with an ear infection. The dog will be constantly trying to rub the ear, which will be very sensitive. It may shake its head a lot to try to shift the fluid that is collecting inside. You may see signs of redness and swelling if the dog allows you to look into the outer ear. A vet will examine this more closely with an instrument called an otoscope.
Canine otitis externa often causes a dark or yellow discharge that smells bad. For this reason, this infection is sometimes called stinky ear syndrome.
In most cases, a dog ear infection will be treated with antibiotic ear drops. The vet will usually show you how to administer the medication. As with antibiotics for humans, it is important to give the medication at regular intervals and to complete the full course.
When applying ear medication to a dog you normally have to hold the ear up straight and apply the medication with a dropper. Dogs’ ear canals are L shaped, and the infection is normally located in the horizontal section, so the medication must travel all the way down the vertical section to reach it. Once this is done, you can allow the dog to shake its head. This will help to distribute the medication and dislodge any blockage in the ear.
If a dog repeatedly gets ear infections, there may be an underlying cause that should be investigated. For example, the dog may have an allergy or hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). If an ear infection is treated without tackling an underlying problem like these, the infection will usually clear up during treatment with antibiotics but then reappear soon after the treatment stops.
Some dogs develop chronic ear infections. This usually happens when either the infection or an underlying cause goes untreated. In this situation, the ear canal may become almost completely closed, or the eardrum may be penetrated by the infection. Surgery is often required to correct these problems.
There are many different bacteria that can cause an ear infection in dogs. It is also possible for the same symptoms to be caused by some object being trapped in the ear, or even a tumor. Therefore it is best to see a veterinarian who will investigate the cause, analyze the discharge if any and prescribe the appropriate treatment for dog ear infection.