Canine ear infections

Some dogs are prone to ear infections, which are uncomfortable and even painful. Some common signs of an ear infection are head shaking, head tilting, ear scratching, redness, discharge from the ears, bad odour and swelling.

Dog breeds that have hairy ear canals, droopy ears, or have narrow ear canals are predisposed to ear infections, as bacteria and yeasts favour the moist environment that this creates. Ear mites, foreign bodies (such as grass seeds) and allergies (atopy) are common causes as well. With atopy, inflammation causes narrowing of the ear canal and more wax is produced. This wax accumulates and allows bacteria and yeast to further continue the cycle of inflammation and infection.

Treatment of an ear infection must address the underlying factors. Your vet is able to take a sample from your dog’s ears and look at it under the microscope to see what kind of infection it is (cocci, rods or yeast).

Most dogs require ear medications to be put into the ears directly. There are many options for ear treatments these days: twice daily, once daily or long acting medications infused by the vet, under sedation if need be.

Mild cases usually require 10 – 14 days of treatment, but more serious cases may need at least 3 – 4 weeks of treatment. It’s also important to complete a course as these guys seem much happier after only a few days of treatment but stopping at that point will only allow the infection to reestablish quickly as well as causing resistant bacteria to develop. A recheck at the end or during a course of ear medication is key to prevent recurrence.

By Eleanor Lam, 5th Year Veterinary Student, The University of Sydney

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