Ear infections are a common and painful condition for dogs. Around one in every 14 dogs suffers from one every year. Breeds and crossbreeds with droopy ears are more likely to get ear infections and this includes the poodle breeds and the spaniel breeds. They can occur in either ear or in both ears at the same time.
What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?
Ear infections are inflammation of the lining of the ear caused by an overgrowth of either bacteria or yeast. Dogs have a long ‘L’ shaped ear canal where dirt, moisture, and microorganisms can get trapped and cause infections. Also, there is usually an underlying disease or cause such as ear mites or allergies. Most infections initially affect the outer ear canal (otitis externa) but can spread to the middle and inner ear canal (otitis media and interna).
How to treat dog ear infections
Vets should assess all suspected ear infections in dogs. If they are not treated promptly they can lead to permanent deafness, facial paralysis, and problems with balance and head positioning. Treatments can include cleaning, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or surgery in severe cases. Ultimately, the underlying cause needs to be tackled.
Can you prevent ear infections in dogs?
Many ear infections can be prevented by drying your dog’s ears thoroughly after they have been swimming and after bathing. Keeping your dog’s ears clean is important and there are special dog ear cleaning solutions that can help with this. Discovering and treating the underlying cause of the infection is the best plan.
It is important that you promptly recognize the signs of an ear infection so that you can get your dog to a vet right away. Keep reading to discover the 14 signs that your dog has an ear infection.
Ear infections can make your dog feel that there is something irritating their ear so they try to get it out by shaking their head. All dogs shake their ears occasionally. However, if you notice that your dog is shaking their head more than normal, this is a common sign of a potential ear infection.
Ear infections can cause itchiness and pain and dogs deal with this by trying to scratch their ears with their rear paws. It can look quite violent and they may make a whining noise at the same time. Often dogs scratch the area under the ear or their cheek on the affected side as well as the ear itself. Dog nails are often quite blunt and don’t cause too much damage. Excessive scratching, however, will eventually cause sore skin and fur loss.
Dogs don’t have hands to rub or itch parts of their bodies that are uncomfortable so they often rub them against things. You may see your dog pushing the affected ear across your rugs or carpets. If this happens repeatedly and always on the same ear, it can indicate an infection.
Dark Discharge With Pus
Pus is an accumulation of white blood cells that your dog’s body has sent to fight the infection. It often looks like a dark, sticky substance coating the outer part of the ear’s lining. There may be traces of dark blood in it too. Pus produced in the ear canal works its way to the outside and will be visible at the entrance to the ear canal.
The mixture of pus, bacteria, yeast, and ear wax can be very smelly! You may notice an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s ears if they have an ear infection. It’s a good idea to get used to what a healthy dog’s ear smells like so you will be able to tell when something is wrong.
Redness and Swelling
Overgrowth of bacteria and yeast makes the delicate tissue lining the ear canal inflamed. This makes it look swollen and/or red. You will not be able to see very far inside your dog’s ear because it is ‘L’ shaped but you may see signs of this on the outer parts.
Crusty Patches in the Ear or on the Face
Damaged tissue can crust over as it dries out. Also, pus can dry out on the lining of the ear. Outer ear infections can cause crusting either inside the ear or even on the side of the face near the affected ear.
Cocking Head to One Side
Dogs may cock their head towards the affected ear when they have any sort of ear infection. They are probably trying to relieve the feelings of pressure and discomfort. A head tilt can be a sign of other conditions, so it is important that you get it checked out.
This is a symptom of the acute phase of an inner ear infection in dogs. Your dog may refuse to eat at all or vomit the food they have eaten. The problem is that vomiting is a potential sign of a lot of other conditions so your vet will be looking for other signs of an ear infection as well.
Inner ear infections can cause damage to the facial nerve in dogs. This causes saliva to drip out of the mouth and your dog will constantly drool. This will probably be more obvious out of one side of the mouth.
Dogs with damage to their facial nerve caused by inner ear infections have problems when trying to eat. You may notice that your dog drops their food as they try to eat it. They may have obvious difficulties using one side of their mouth.
It may seem strange that an ear problem can affect the eyes but it can! Damage to the facial nerve following an inner ear infection can cause dogs to lose the ability to blink. They may have ‘dry eye’, eye discharge, and drooping eyelids. In other dogs, their eyes dart back and forth.
Loss of Balance
The ear is not just for hearing! The middle ear controls balance and infections can cause dogs to walk around in circles or lean towards the side of the affected ear. Some even fall over. This is a sign that the inner parts of the ear are infected.
Dogs with ear infections can have a partial loss of hearing in the affected ear. If both ears are infected this could result in significant hearing loss. How can you tell that your dog is a bit deaf? They may stop responding to their name or familiar commands. Some dogs become unusually aggressive when they are startled. They may also be more sleepy or may start barking more than normal. Others stop barking altogether!
Summary of Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs
|4||Dark discharge with pus|
|6||Redness and swelling|
|7||Crusty patches in the ear or on the face|
|8||Cocking head to one side|
|13||Loss of balance|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Lunja/Shutterstock.com
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