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Dog Ear Infections

An ear infection is a common disease that occurs in dogs and is caused by a variety of factors, from mechanical ones, such as the presence of various foreign bodies, to more serious bacterial and fungal diseases. About 10-15% of dogs experience this problem during their lifetime. Ear infections can be short-lived and can be cured very quickly, even at home. But in more serious cases, it is necessary to first identify and then eliminate the primary cause of the infection. In this article, you can learn all about the causes, symptoms and types of ear infections, whether your dog belongs to breeds that are more prone to this problem, and what you should do if he has an ear infection.

Signs of Ear Infection in Dogs (Symptoms)

Dogs that have ear infections usually start to shake their heads, scratch their ears with paws, or rub them against the floor and other objects.

When you lift the dog’s ear you can notice that the skin, cartilage, and auditory canal are red due to the inflammatory process. The width of the ear canal is reduced because the production of cerumen (a waxy substance produced in the ear for the purpose of lubricating the ear canal) in the ear due to the inflammatory condition is intensified. The unpleasant odor is also present.

The rest of the typical symptoms that you can very easily notice in a dog with an ear infection are:

  • Yellow or bloody discharge from the ear
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Scratches and hematoma on the affected ear
  • Pain when opening the mouth
  • Refusal of food due to pain when chewing
  • Weight loss and apathy
  • Whining and depression
  • Fever (usually in chronic cases)
  • Finding any of the ectoparasites visible to the naked eye (ear mites or ticks)
  • Tilting the head to the side where the ear is sore
  • Scabs or scales on the surface of the ear shell that can occur on the outside and inside
  • Balance disorders (circular walking, unstable gait, vertigo and falling)
  • Involuntary eye movements (nystagmus) on the side of the affected ear
  • A damaged or perforated eardrum
  • Hearing loss that can be temporary but also permanent

The most noticeable symptom of all is the large amount of earwax or cerumen. When we wrap the earlobe, we can notice the consistency and color of the cerumen. Based on that, we can approximately determine the cause of the inflammation and the duration of the process in the ear.

Normal earwax colors vary in a couple of shades depending on when the dog’s ears were last cleaned. Fresh earwax is sticky and varies from white, through yellow, to orange. The older earwax is the one of dark orange color or varies from orange to brown; it is sticky and firmer. A pale orange shade of earwax indicates that it is old, dry and that the ears have not been cleaned for a long time.

Shades of cerumen like yellow to green, green, red (bloody), gray and black are a sign of an urgent reaction. The yellow-green hue tells us that it is an infectious condition; a green with a stench also indicates problems of an infectious nature, probably of bacterial or fungal origin. Cerumen that has traces of blood or is all red probably indicates a flea bite or some trauma that caused bleeding and maybe even pierced the eardrum. Gray color indicates the excessive presence of dust and dirt, and black color indicates the presence of excessive wax production, presence of ear mites, or scabs that are black and color the wax.

If you want to know more about the causes, types, and how are ear infections in dogs being diagnosed, keep reading. But if your dog has the symptoms we described and you want to know what to do next, skip to the “Dog Ear Infection Treatment” section.

Types and Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs

There are three types of ear infections that occur in dogs. All three of these types affect different parts of the ear, so they are divided as follows:

  • Otitis externa: This is an inflammation of the outer part of the ear canal and it is the most common type of otitis that occurs due to an ear infection in dogs. About 15% of all dogs encounter this problem at least once in their lives. The causes include the presence of foreign bodies in the ear, ear mites, bacterial and fungal infections and many others. It can occur in one or both ears. The dog is very sensitive to pain when trying to touch his ear and shakes his head in an attempt to reduce pain; there is a noticeable discharge that is usually purulent and drips from the ear, so the hair around the ear is glued and moist. We can notice that the dog rubs his ear from the floor, and an unpleasant odor can also spread from the ear. When we lift the ear, we can notice that the skin, cartilage, and auditory canal are red due to the inflammatory process that takes place in them.
  • Otitis media: This is an inflammation of the middle part of the ear canal. It occurs when inflammation of the outer part of the ear (otitis externa) lasts a long time and turns into a chronic form. There are many causes that can lead to rupture of the eardrum, and the most common are: the action of a sharp object, very loud sounds, tumorous masses (polyps), and a very sudden change in atmospheric pressure when climbing or descending from different altitudes. Due to the rupture of the eardrum, bacteria from the environment can more easily reach the middle and inner part of the ear. The action of bacteria causes severe pain, hearing loss, and inflammation of the inner ear. Perforation of the eardrum can be visually noticed in the form of bloody or purulent discharge from the ear and redness of the ear canal. Also, tumorous masses such as polyps can cause otitis media, and the consequences are very severe.
  • Otitis interna: This is an inflammatory process of the inner ear and it occurs in cases where the eardrum is punctured and harmful agents, most commonly bacteria, penetrate deep into the auditory canal. Also, there are many dog ​​ear cleaners that can act abrasively to the eardrum and lead to an inflammatory condition. Inflammation of the inner ear will be most easily noticed if the dog chews slowly and shows any signs of reluctance or pain during these movements. Due to inflammation, the lymph node on the side of the affected ear is swollen and painful to the touch, and it can happen that the dog has an urge to vomit. Although in rare cases, internal otitis can cause changes and imbalances in the work of the part of the brain that is responsible for heart rate and respiration.

The causes of ear infections can be various, and the method of treatment depends on how the infection occurred. Most of the things that can cause an ear infection are:

  • Foreign bodies: The most painful form and the easiest to treat are infections caused by a foreign body; but if it has perforated the eardrum, it becomes far more serious. Herbs like the so-called “mouse barley” have spikes that can be very easily tucked in and tangled in the hair, and with movements and scratching, it gets stuck in the skin and can cause abscesses. This happens especially in long-haired breeds of dogs. Once tucked into the ear canal, it is difficult to remove without the help of a veterinarian. The dog usually shakes its head in an attempt to expel the foreign body from the ear and intensely scratches the ear. All these movements, instead of throwing out the spike, push it even deeper towards the eardrum. It can then pierce and create an even bigger problem.
  • Trauma: It can occur due to many causes but tissue damage with sharp objects, perforation of the eardrum due to rough cleaning of the ears, and severe blows to the head are the most common causes of trauma. Also, the action of a foreign body in the ear, such as getting deeper into the ear and piercing the eardrum with a pointed piece of grass, can lead to trauma that makes it an ideal medium for bacteria and other microorganisms to enter the inner ear. This happens when the owner himself tries to remove a spike of grass from the dog’s ear, fails and pushes it even deeper into the ear. If something similar happens to your dog, it is best to take him to the vet so he can handle it safely.
  • Food intolerance and allergies: Intolerance to some type of food or some allergens from nature, such as pollen and substances found in some plants can lead to allergies. These allergies are manifested in the form of redness, rashes, scars and scabs on the ear skin. In most cases they are of unknown origin, so such conditions are called atopic dermatitis. In 80% of dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis, some form of otitis due to an ear infection will also occur. Dermatitis causes the dog to intensively scratch the ear or rub it on the ground, causing the inside of the ear shell to be swollen and red. It is necessary to take the dog to the vet to find out as soon as possible what is the cause of the allergy and how to treat it.1https://vetfolio-vetstreet.s3.amazonaws.com/mmah/c3/13385c822e43abb02491daa96c21ce/filePV0509_WEB_Bloom_EarDisease.pdf
  • Anatomically congenital problems: These are mostly related to the weight of the ears if the dog has long, loose ears or a narrowed ear canal. Hanging and heavy ears enable longer moisture retention, and it is an excellent medium for the survival and spread of bacteria and fungi. It can also happen that a large number of hairs are naturally found in the ear canal, which makes it difficult to clean the ears and makes it difficult for the dog to hear normally. Narrowing of the auditory canal can also be caused by various types of tumors and polyps. These issues can be prevented by excluding dogs that have these abnormalities from breeding, and in case they do occur, surgery can help.
  • Water retention in the ear: Water retention in the ear can be caused by some problem of an anatomical nature. Long drooping ears that overlap the ear canal falling over it prevent water from escaping and create moisture that favors the development of fungi. Excessive hairiness of the ear can lead to the retention of droplets on the ear hairs, as well as a wide ear canal. Also, frequent cleaning and moistening of the ears without sufficient drying can lead to this problem. You need to check and clean your dog’s ears often, especially if he belongs to a long-haired breed or a breed with lowered ears.
  • Endocrine disorders: The most common problem occurs with thyroid hormone imbalance due to too little or excessive secretion of its hormones (hypo or hyperthyroidism). Decreased thyroid function can lead to various changes in the skin such as dehydration, which damages the epithelium and leads to disorders in keratinization (arming in the basal layer of the epithelium). This process can lead to the appearance of chronic inflammation of the skin of the ear (seborrhea), and this enables easier penetration of bacteria through the skin. Medications that the veterinarian will prescribe to your dog after a thorough examination, to control hormone secretion, can eliminate this health issue completely.
  • Autoimmune diseases: They can lead to various skin lesions and diseases. One of such diseases is a skin disorder in which bubbles (bullae) begin to form, the so-called Pemphigus foliaceus. The bumps are reddish in color; over time, they become swollen and wrinkled and this causes the skin of the ear to crack and become damaged, which is an ideal medium for further penetration of infectious agents. The treatment of autoimmune diseases consists of combining some types of medications prescribed by a veterinarian after a detailed examination of a dog. The success of the treatment depends on the commitment to maintaining the therapy and the dog’s organism
  • External parasites: Parasites such as ear mites, ticks, and Demodex canis cause ear skin irritation, itching, scratching, bleeding, skin drying, and formation of the black secretion in the form of crumbs and scabs, which is an excellent medium for the penetration and reproduction of infectious agents. Regular use of antiparasitic products in the form of collars, shampoos, powders, and ampoules is required if you take your dog for walks and if he comes in contact with other dogs and people.
  • Various infectious agents: In case of infectious diseases (canine distemper) or infections with bacteria, fungi, or yeasts, an ear infection can occur secondarily (as a consequence). Bacteria that are normally found on the skin and mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, ears, and digestive tract can begin to multiply rapidly and become harmful to the dog due to imbalance in the body. That is the most common cause of ear infections in healthy dogs. Therefore, it’s very important that you follow the mandatory vaccines against infectious diseases and take your dog to the vet for regular check-ups.

Hunting dogs are prone to fungal diseases of the ears because most of them have lowered and heavy ears. They like jumping into the water and fungi are known to love moisture, so you have to clean and wipe your dog’s ears regularly, especially after bathing.

Dog Ear Yeast Infection

Once a dog becomes infected with a fungal infection, it is very possible that it will reappear in the future because it is recurrent (has a tendency to come back) if the owner doesn’t adhere to prevention measures.

Fungi cause the thickening of the mucous membrane of the ear canal, increased secretion of cerumen and a narrowing or complete blockage of the auditory canal, which significantly complicates the application of drugs. Along with cerumen in the ear canal, there is a purulent discharge with a very unpleasant odor.

All signs of inflammation, such as heat, redness, pain, and swelling, also appear in the ear canal, and with congestion and moisture, this contributes to the prolongation of the infection into a chronic course. It is the cause of enlarged polyps if they are present, and sebaceous glands, which are another of the many aggravating circumstances in treating this condition.

The dog scratches intensely and shakes his head trying to eliminate the cause of pain and imperfection in the ear. Often, this scratching is the cause of the formation of pyodermas that damage tissue.

Dog Ear Yeast Infection Home Remedy

If the dog has a yeast infection in the ear, the best preparation that can be used for cleaning is a mixture of apple cider vinegar mixed with water in a 50:50 ratio. After this, it is necessary to dry the ear well.

Lukewarm olive oil can also be used to clean the ear. Also, hydrogen peroxide mixed in the same ratio with water can be used to clean the ear because it has strong antiseptic effects and has been proven to kill yeast.

A homemade mixture of coconut oil and garlic also kills the fungus. Two cloves of garlic are placed in melted coconut oil, then the mixture is cooled and poured into the ear. Two to three drops are poured into the ear and then the base or root of the earlobe is massaged to spread the liquid to all parts of the ear. This home preparation has not given any harmful effects so far.

Also, oregano oil has an antibiotic effect and is known to slow down and even stop the growth of fungi. Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) mixed with 100% natural aloe vera juice can also be used as a product for cleansing and treating an infected ear, and it has antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral effects.

However, the organism of any dog is different and it may happen that some of the listed natural remedies have a different effect in different dogs. You should definitely consult a veterinarian before using them on your dog.

Diagnosis of Dog Ear Infection

In order to make a correct diagnosis, you need to explain to the veterinarian all the activities, symptoms and changes you noticed in the dog before coming to the clinic: when they appeared, how long they have lasted, whether the dog is taking any medications or has allergies to medications or foods the dog eats, by which preparations you normally clean your dog’s ears, and whether you have bathed, combed or plucked his hair lately and if so when and whether he has ever had an ear infection before.

After taking the anamnesis and history of the disease, a clinical examination begins. Sometimes the dog has to be sedated if the pain in the ear is too great. The outer part of the ear is examined first, and then the inner and auditory canal. Parasites are mostly visible to the naked eye, or the presence of black crumbs that represent crusted blood or scabs may indicate their presence.

The inside of the ear is examined with an otoscope, and if specific signs of inflammation are found, such as heat, redness, edema (swelling) and pain, with a change in the normal color of the cerumen and an unpleasant odor, the diagnosis can be confirmed in some cases.

In order to detect perforation of the eardrum and damage to the structures of the middle ear, an otoscope and a detailed examination of the ear are required, so the dog must be taken to a veterinarian. There are three perforation detection tests:

  • Saline test (slightly warmed solution made of sea salt and water is poured into the ear and waits for air bubbles to appear)
  • Fluorescein test (this is a special dye that is poured into the ear canal to check if it gives any color if it comes out, for example, through the nose)
  • Myringotomy (is the process of taking sterile fluid from the middle ear to determine the presence of certain bacterial or fungal cultures in a sample)

A microscopic examination of the ear swab may then be performed if the otoscope cannot clearly confirm the diagnosis. Microscopic examination results in a cytological finding that indicates which causative agent is not visible to the naked eye but is present: fungi, bacteria, or parasites. In this way, it is possible to determine the type of infection.

The cytological sample is taken from the shavings of the skin of the ear from where the presence of external parasites can be seen or with a tape glue to which the scabs and blood are glued.

Bacterial infections in combination with fungal infections are most often found in cases of ear infection. If it is a bacterium, an antibiogram is usually done after these tests, so as not to give systemic therapy that may not act so targeted on the cause, while the antibiogram determines exactly the antibiotic that will work best.

Sometimes it is necessary to do X-rays, a CT and/or an MRI to determine the severity of the problem and the therapy that will be used for implementation. It is most often performed if the dog has experienced severe trauma (strokes).

Dog Ear Infection Treatment

Initially, the ear needs to be cleaned in order for any drug applied topically to work. The agents used in rinsing and cleaning the ears are called cerumenolytics. You can also clean the dog’s ears at home by pouring cerumenolytic into the ear, waiting 15 minutes and then gently wiping the ears over the skin with a cotton ball.

In case of otitis interna, the dog is given intravenous electrolyte replacement because he is unable to take food and water due to disorientation.

Allergies of an unknown etiology (origin) lead to long-term otitis in dogs. They can cause a strong narrowing of the lumen of the ear canal by acting on the skin of the inner part of the ear. As a result of the fact that it thickens over time, the dog’s hearing decreases. Then the dog must be constantly taken to the veterinarian so that the hearing is not permanently damaged, while systemic therapy is carried out in the meantime. Systemic treatment is lengthy and can take up to a few months. It is based on the use of oral medications, most commonly antibiotics.

It is also useful to introduce vitamin C into therapy, because in addition to improving the state of the immune system, it stimulates the work of the adrenal gland, which ensures good hearing through the action of its hormones.

Ectoparasites, most commonly ear mites, cause bleeding on the earlobe, resulting in scratching by the dog. These small bleedings can lead to the appearance of hematomas; the only therapy for this is surgical treatment, which must be reported within seven days of their occurrence. Otherwise, it will grow with connective tissues and the ear shell will shrink. To get rid of ectoparasites, preparations are applied topically to the ear and they give good results in treatment, but they must also be applied to all other animals that are in contact with the infected dog. The treatment lasts for about a month.

It is advisable to limit the movement of your dog so as not to cause additional damage to himself due to uncoordinated movements, because it is very possible for him to hit various objects and cause additional trauma on himself.

Surgical procedures are performed only on the recommendation of a veterinarian and in exceptional cases where the infection with bacteria or fungi has affected the bone around the ear (osteotomy of the bulla), or if a tumor has developed with the aim of removing it. In this case, the removal of the ear canal and its structures can be performed, and the procedure is called “total ear canal ablation” (TECA).

If there is no penetration of bacteria into the bone tissue, and the accumulations of pus are large, it can be drained. These needs are decided by the veterinarian based on the severity of the condition.

Dog Ear Infection Medicine

When cleaning the ear, some dogs need to be sedated. After cleaning the ear canal with antiseptics and cerumenolytics, corticosteroids are prescribed as a systemic part of the therapy that the dog needs to use for up to a month, depending on the condition.

Corticosteroids usually based on prednisone are used independently in cases when the cause of the ear infection is an allergy. They have a systemic effect, as do certain antibiotics that must be given orally in severe cases. Corticosteroids have a lot of side effects that do not necessarily manifest themselves in all dogs, because they work by suppressing the normal defense response of the immune system. In this way, they can slow down or prevent healing.

Ketoconazole, itraconazole, and miconazole-based antifungal drugs are produced in the form of ointments or creams and are used topically, smeared on the ear. If bacteria is present, then oral antibiotics (based on enrofloxacin, amoxicillin, and cefpodoxime) can be prescribed. All these therapies last on average from three to six weeks, and in that period, the problem can usually be successfully solved.

Irreversible changes in the ear and surrounding tissue that lead to nerve damage require surgical procedures performed according to the recommendation of a veterinarian to allow manure to drain from the auditory canal. Such lifelong changes that occur in the ear canal are never corrected and present severe neurological problems, where in addition to tilting the head to the side of the affected ear, complete hearing loss and lifelong incoordination of movement can occur.

In the past few years, the Finns have managed to make a solution based on the plant Picea abies, or Norwegian spruce, using its resin in preparation. They found that after only one day of contact with Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which is otherwise the most common cause of ear infections of all bacteria, it led to a negative ear swab.2https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/health-news/canine-otic-rinse-product-inhibits-the-growth-of-resistant-mrsp-bacteria-claims-a-new-research

Ingredients from the resin that act by killing the bacterium are a yellow discharge from the coniferous tree-rosin and p-coumaric acid, which has an anti-inflammatory effect. This is very positive news because for a large number of infections, antibiotics are constantly prescribed and slowly, one part of bacteria gets so used to them that it can become resistant.

Dog Ear Infection Drops

The most effective way to treat otitis caused by an ear infection is through topical medication (in the ear). There are different types of ear drops that are used locally with a wide range of action. Most of them contain ingredients that have an anesthetic and anti-inflammatory effect. These ingredients are most commonly chlorhexidine, procaine, lactic and salicylic acids, propylene glycol, paraffin oil, isopropyl alcohol and phenazone.

Some of these ingredients have anti-inflammatory effects such as phenazone and some anesthetics such as procaine. Propylene glycol acts to prevent the effects of fungi and bacteria. Of the natural ingredients, they most often contain: almond oil, propolis, acetic acid, water, tea tree oil and vitamin E.
If it is a more serious condition, which is not solvable with these products, the veterinarian prescribes antibiotic drops that are prescribed for the treatment of the dog’s ear, depending on the results of the antibiogram. The drops are very easy to use at home; they usually come in small dark bottles with a dropper, so it is very easy to carry out the dosing. They are used for up to two months and then control follows.3https://www.michvma.org/resources/Documents/MVC/2018%20Proceedings/noxon_06.pdf

Antibiotics for Dog Ear Infection

There are topical antibiotics that are applied directly to the ear and oral antibiotics that act systemically on the whole organism, eliminating the primary cause.

The choice of antibiotics to be used depends on the type of infection and the cause. It is best to first do an antibiogram after a detailed clinical examination, if it is a bacterial infection, in order to more easily diagnose the condition and determine adequate therapy. This is very important, because giving broad-spectrum antibiotics has a less targeted effect on the causative agent than using the right one. They are most often prescribed in combination with corticosteroids and antifungals.
Oral antibiotics from the penicillin group are the safest and most widespread, and thus the most used in cases of ear infections. In cases when the eardrum is not damaged, topical antibiotics most commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat an ear infection are based on tobramycin, gentamicin, and neomycin, and otherwise, antibiotics based on fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins are prescribed.

In case of otitis interna, oral antibiotics based on enrofloxacin, marbofloxacin, and clindamycin are prescribed. Treatment of otitis interna lasts approximately four to six weeks, and in some cases up to eight weeks, because only then is visible progress in the action of antibiotics and the restoration of balance.4https://inpractice.bmj.com/content/inpract/38/Suppl_2/17.full.pdf

Antibiotics based on polymyxin B are prescribed in cases where the ear infection has given symptoms to the eye as well. However, some dogs may cause side effects, such as the following:

  • Prolonged ear infection
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Tearing
  • Ear swelling
  • Rash
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Breathing problems

Antibiotic therapies that have been prescribed too often over the years, especially for such conditions, have led to the emergence of resistant bacteria. It would be best to do a cytological smear, and based on the antibiogram, to use the most effective antibiotic if it is a bacterial infection. It is necessary to follow the instructions of the veterinarian for the duration of the therapy and if any of side effects listed above occur, contact him immediately.

Home Remedy for Dog Ear Infection

Home remedies are very good in preventing ear infections in regular maintenance of ear hygiene and rinsing, but you should start using them on your dog only after you consult a veterinarian, so no allergic reaction or worsening of the health condition occurs.

Apple cider vinegar mixed with water in a ratio of 1:1 can usually be used to clean the ears from a home pharmacy.

The same ratio of solution is made from 3% hydrogen peroxide and lukewarm water. Used alone, hydrogen peroxide is abrasive to the skin; however, diluted like this and used by a few drops is ideal for cleaning cerumen from the ear.

Also, a solution of 2.5 grams of table or sea salt in 100 ml of warm water is used in the form of a few drops that are instilled into the ear and the dog’s head should be tilted for a few minutes to remove impurities.

Baby oil can be used in an identical way, dripping a few drops inside the ear, or burying a few drops on a cotton ball and then gently cleaning the dog’s ear canal and earlobe.

Olive oil is a good kitchen preparation that can be used to decompose and expel cerumen from the ear. A few drops of olive oil from a bottle a day will help the dog to literally “float” all the impurities from the ear.

Various herbal drops are also good because they have a very similar effect in treatment to prescription drops. They help restore damaged mucous membranes and skin of the ear to normal. Drops made on the basis of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), marigold (Calendula officinalis), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), and green tea are intended to soothe the inflammatory condition, and can be used both locally and orally.

Chamomile also has antiseptic properties, but also analgesic due to its ability to soothe and relax. St. John’s wort also has an antibiotic effect. Marigold can also be used in the form of a tincture, and such can be bought in health food stores where 5 to 10 drops are diluted in a cup of warm water, and applied to the dog’s ear by dripping or on a cotton ball.

Mullein (Verbascum spp.) is a plant which has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory effects in the treatment of skin and lung diseases and the preparation of ointments used in the treatment of eye diseases.

There is another plant that can be prepared in the form of drops, the so-called witch hazel (lat. Hamamelis virginiana), which has a soothing effect on the skin irritated by insect bites and scratches. It reduces swelling and relieves pain resulting from irritation of the bite site or trauma by any agent. It does this by narrowing the surface of the skin or mucous membranes (astringently) by drying out, so it is great for use in dogs that wet their ears a lot. Of course, it can be used in dogs, but only whose ears are without injuries, so as not to create an even bigger problem when drying the skin of the ear.

A mixture of coconut oil is also used in the form of drops (2-3 drops), dripping into the diseased ear and then gently massaging the root of the earlobe so that the oil spreads evenly inside and reaches all the structures. To make a mixture that will kill fungi and thus eliminate the infection, it’s necessary to add two heads of garlic to 30 ml of coconut oil, which is gently heated, left to cool and used later.

Yogurt can also be used for ear infections (if they are not caused by bacteria or fungi). It is a probiotic that has a role to support the growth of good microorganisms, so it performs the same role in the ear.

Oregano oil is a natural antibiotic preparation that is normally used to soothe various inflammatory conditions, can be mixed with aloe vera and is used both locally in the ear and orally.

Grapefruit is used to prepare an extract from its seeds (GSE) that acts against a wide range of infectious agents (viruses, bacteria, and fungi). It can be used in combination with aloe vera for cleaning the ears and for treating infections (10 drops), but also orally in food as an immune support for the body (up to five drops).5https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/5-home-remedies-for-dog-ear-infections/

Herbs that calm inflammatory processes and their signs can successfully replace the administration of corticosteroids, which can otherwise have bad side effects and thus worsen the condition of the dog. Some of the mentioned herbal preparations have an antibiotic effect, so it can be said that herbal ear drops and oils can successfully help in the treatment of ear infections in dogs caused by bacteria or fungi.

Dog Breeds Prone to Ear Infection

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to ear infections due to the anatomical structure of the ears, the position and length of the ear canal and other factors. Long and heavy ears, as well as their frequent wetting, retain moisture longer and pose a higher risk of inflammation and infection.

The desire to soak and constantly jump into the water is expressed in Labradors and Golden Retrievers, and hunting dogs. This group also includes dogs that are prone to skin diseases that can cause pain and unpleasant changes in the skin of the outer part of the ear canal.

Dog breeds prone to ear infections:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Chow-Chow
  • Shar-Pei
  • White Terrier
  • Basset Hound
  • English Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle
  • Lagoto Romanjolo

The last two races have problems with increased hair in the ear canal. Cockers and Bassets have long and heavy ears, and Shar Pei and Bulldogs are narrower than other breeds of dogs, and such ear shells make ventilation difficult and retain moisture for a long time.

Another predisposing characteristic occurs in the Cocker Spaniel, and that is that the surface of the auditory canal has a higher concentration of glandular tissue than in other breeds of dogs.

All the above anatomical forms of lice in dogs and the problems that occur with the ears can lead to the creation of an excellent medium for the development of fungi and bacteria in the ear shell that are difficult to eradicate.

Prevention of Ear Infection in Dogs

The best prevention of ear infections is to maintain regular hygiene of your dog’s ears and regular check-ups, especially after walks. Long-haired dogs tend to get various weeds entangled in their hair and with movements such as scratching, scratching and shaking their heads, if the weed is very close to the ear, it just travels deeper into the ear canal and causes a bigger problem.
In dogs with lowered ears, especially hunting dogs, it is necessary to pay special attention to cleaning and drying the ears after bathing or jumping into the water. Also, maintaining the hygiene of the space in which the dog resides is very important.

Cotton wipes are best for cleaning the ears. The sticks should not be used because they do not give a good insight into how deep you pushed the stick into the dog’s ear, which can unknowingly lead to accidental perforation of the eardrum, which you would not want at all.

Odor from the ear, as well as the discharge, can be very easily noticed, and if you feel that it is unpleasant and that the discharge is of an abnormal color, it is advisable to take the dog to the vet immediately.

You can also notice ectoparasites with the naked eye and react in a timely manner. Don’t panic if you’ve treated your dog with some antiparasitic and yet spotted ticks or mites. This can happen, and you need to consult a veterinarian to repeat the treatment of the dog or perhaps change the preparation you used. Also, regular vaccinations and keeping your dog’s immunity healthy greatly contribute to the prevention of various ear infections in dogs.

However, it is certainly better to prevent the occurrence of ear infections than to treat them, and regular ear hygiene and rinsing up to maximum three times a week with preparations recommended by a veterinarian certainly help.

Conclusion

Ear infections in dogs can appear at any age. Their severity depends on the cause of the inflammation or infection. A detailed history and symptoms noticed by the owner are crucial for veterinarian in making a correct diagnosis. Frequent head shaking and scratching of the ear with the paw are the first signs of disturbance in the dog’s ear. 

The anatomical structures and organs located near the ear are very sensitive, so when it comes to even the slightest injury, it will have a significant impact on your dog’s behavior and health. Maintaining ear hygiene is very important, but the dog’s diet and general health are even more important. In conditions of any infection, the organism can successfully defend itself sometimes on its own, and sometimes only with the help of home treatment, but this is only when the immunity is strong enough for its antibodies to destroy the pathogen.

Antibiotics or antifungal drugs are prescribed in cases where the cause of the inflammation of any part of the ear is bacteria or fungus. After a few weeks of their use, the first results of healing appear. If the ear infection is caused by the presence of a foreign body in the ear, a tumor or the action of a parasite, you need to take the dog to the veterinarian so that he can eliminate the primary cause and then deal with the consequences of the cause.

Natural remedies have a good effect in treating the ear infections at home and can help a dog significantly if he is not allergic to any of them. Therefore, consultation with your veterinarian, and above all regular maintenance of your dog’s ear hygiene is half of the battle. 

Most ear infections in dogs can be successfully cured without any special procedures; surgery is needed only in rare cases. To avoid complications, it’s important to take the dog to the vet if you notice the symptoms mentioned in the section “Signs of Ear Infection in Dogs (Symptoms)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Dog Ear Infection

How to Treat a Dog’s Ear Infection?

An ear infection in a dog is most often treated with antibiotics and antifungal drops prescribed by a veterinarian. Very good effect in the treatment and even ear diseases caused by some infectious agents (bacteria and fungi) have given natural herbal drops and mixtures that have a natural antibiotic and antibacterial effect. To learn more about treating ear infections in dogs, please check “Dog Ear Infection Treatment

How to Treat a Dog Ear Infection Naturally?

Coconut oil in combination with two heads of garlic dipped in it is heated and cooled and such a preparation can be used as a natural antifungal. Oregano oil has a natural antibiotic effect and can be used in various types of inflammatory conditions caused by bacteria. Grapefruit seed extract can also be used to fight bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is necessary to mix a few drops of this extract in a little 100% natural aloe vera juice and such a preparation is used to clean and protect the ear from harmful infectious agents. All these preparations can be given orally (usually in food) and topically, in order to improve the immunity itself, but also locally remove unwanted pathogens. More about natural remedies for ear infections in dogs can be found at “Home Remedy for Dog Ear Infections“.

How to Treat a Dog Ear Infection Without a Vet?

The ear canal must first be cleaned with one of the purchased ear cleaning solutions, and the best solution for home remedies for this purpose is apple cider vinegar with water. It is preferable to use gauze or a cotton swab for cleaning because sometimes cotton balls can leave pieces of cotton wool behind. Avoid using earplugs in your dog as you may inadvertently go too deep and pierce the eardrum. If you want to calm your dog down a bit before cleaning, you can give him some of the natural herbal preparations or teas in the food to reduce the pain in his ear and make it easier to apply the medicine. Herbal drops are most commonly used in treatment. A certain number of drops are poured into the ear and it is gently massaged into the root of the ear.

How to Clean a Dog’s Ears With an Infection?

You can clean your dog’s ears at home with purchased solutions and oils, but you can also make them very easily at home. They are easiest to make solutions of apple cider vinegar and water in a ratio of 1:1, or in the same ratio of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water. Hydrogen peroxide and wax dissolve cerumen in the ear; it is necessary to let them stand for 10-15 minutes and then to rinse the ear with water and tilt the dog’s head to drain the water and contents. However, this is done if you know for sure that the eardrum is not perforated because peroxide can make the condition worse. If the eardrum is cracked, it is better to use cleansing oils like baby oil and olive oil, and not to push the cotton wool too deep into the ear. If there is a foreign body in your ear like some weed try to remove it if it is available to you, but if you see yourself pushing it inwards even more, do nothing more without the help of a veterinarian.

How do Dogs Get Ear Infections?

Dogs can get an ear infection in a variety of ways, and one of them is when they come in contact with other dogs that are suffering from an infectious disease or that have ectoparasites that can spread to your dog. Canned and carbohydrate foods cause an increase in the number of fungi in a dog’s body which can also lead to a fungal infection in the ears as well. Such a diet can lead to allergies and intolerances which can also be the cause of infection. Frequent bathing of the dog and jumping into the water can retain moisture in the ear and lead to a fungal infection, and some shampoos that do not suit the mucous membranes of the ear can act abrasively on it. In any case when bathing a dog, it’s best to use mild shampoos that are based on natural ingredients, such as Pup Science 5-in-1 Pet Wash. Excessive ear cleaning, a weakened dog’s immune system, exposure to various chemicals, excessive hairiness in the ears, and long and heavy ears can lead to infection. Also, various chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases and stress can contribute to the development of an inflammatory condition of the dog’s ear.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has an Ear Infection?

Your dog will let you know clearly if he has any ear changes. First there may be an increased discharge, pus, an unpleasant odor from the ear, the dog will shake his head to get rid of the discomfort, and a foreign body in the ear you may even find but it is always better for the vet to react in that case. If you try to touch the ear the dog will not allow it, it will move away from you and will scratch the ear with its paw or rub it off the surface. If the pain is severe, the dog may start whining. You will notice that he has difficulty opening his mouth, refuses to chew and refuses food. A fever may also occur. If you look at the earlobe and the canal you will see that it is red, perhaps swollen and the ear is warm due to inflammation. To learn more about treating ear infections in dogs, please check “Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs (Symptoms)“.

Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic (DVM)
Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic is working as a field veterinarian and in a small animal ambulance in Sarajevo. She has a deep knowledge of toxicity in dog food. She has successfully completed a large number of seminars in her special fields. She is a proud mom of 11-years old labrador retriever “Bonny”.

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