The 3 Ways To Fix Your Dog’s Ear Infection

Written by Austin S.
Published: May 29, 2022
© iStock.com/didesign021
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Ear infections (otitis) are among the most prevalent medical problems dogs are susceptible to. And they can be highly uncomfortable for your pet. There is almost nothing more disturbing for a pet owner than the possibility that their dog has an ear infection.

The dog’s ear canals are hooked, like an L or a J, and can easily accommodate bacteria, trap debris, and extra moisture. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help identify an ear infection and treat it so that your dog is as comfortable as possible. 

This article will educate you on different dog ear infection symptoms. You will get better at this by working with your veterinarian and implementing a proper ear-care routine.

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The 3 Types Of Dog Ear Infections

Otitis is an ear inflammation. Otitis is classified into three types based on the location of the infection in a dog’s ear. The eardrum follows the ear canal in a dog’s head, then the middle and the inner ear. 

These are the different forms of otitis;

  • The Otitis interna: an inner ear inflammation that can lead to neurological damage.
  • Otitis media: a middle ear inflammation.
  • Otitis externa: an ear canal inflammation.

Ear infections can be chronic (reoccurring) or acute (with sudden onset). Infection in one or both ears is also possible in dogs.

However, otitis externa is the most common ear infection because it affects the most exposed part of the ear. According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, about 16.5% of dogs will experience otitis externa. 

Causes of Dog Ear Infections

A variety of factors can cause ear infections in dogs. There is usually an underlying issue that allows the protective barrier of a dog’s ear to malfunction. When the ear environment becomes moist or inflamed, bacteria and yeast can easily overgrow and cause infection.

Below are some of the common causes of a dog’s ear infection:

  • Cancer
  • Food allergies
  • Ear injuries 
  • Environmental allergies
  • Polyps (fleshy growths inside the ear canal)
  • Mites and other foreign entities that enter the ear (foxtails, grass awn)
  • Excessive moisture because of swimming or bathing
  • Hypothyroidism and other endocrine disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases (lupus, pemphigus, and vasculitis)

An aural hematoma can form when a dog is in pain, scratching, and excessively shaking. This is seen in the earflap or pinna, where ruptured blood vessels leak blood, causing clotting and painful swellings. These issues can make the ear canal vulnerable to yeast and bacteria infections.

how to treat a dogs ear infection
Cleaning the dog’s ears with ear wipes helps relieve itching and reduce odors.

©iStock.com/venusphoto

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Ear Infection

While on the journey of helping your dog recover from an ear infection, you must first recognize the signs and symptoms:

Excessive Scratching Or Rubbing

Dogs who can’t sit still because they rub their ears or paw at them against things have an ear infection. Some dogs may avoid direct contact with their ears to ease the distress and instead jerk or shake their heads.

Redness Or Inflammation Around The Ears

When you examine your dog’s ears, you may notice that they are hot to the touch. Redness, aggravation, and swollenness around the infection site are visible signs of an ear infection. Ear inflammation combined with fluids or drainage (especially in black, green, or yellow discharge) is usually a signal to take your dog to the vet.

Scabs, Crusting, Or Active Bleeding Near The Ears

You may notice both active and scabbing blood around your dog’s ear canal. This will result in hair loss around the ear. If you notice any of these abnormalities, take them to their veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Gait Or Balance Abnormalities

The inner ear is critical for our sense of proprioception, balance, and orientation in dogs. When the fluids in the inner ear are infected, the communication between the brain and the sensitive micro-hairs lining the ear canal is hampered. 

This may manifest in your dog as poor balance, stumbling, and decreased physical activity.

Eating Problems

The dog’s ear and other primary sense organs are so closely related. Because of this, the symptoms of their ear problems may manifest as problems with the eyes and jaw. 

When dogs have an ear infection, they may drool excessively from one side of their mouth. They may also struggle to chew, drop food frequently, or avoid food entirely because of the pain. You might also notice dry eyes, difficulty in blinking, or a difference in pupil sizes. 

Veterinary Consultation

Most ear infections do not heal on their own. Hence, they require medical attention. Your veterinarian is trained to treat the affected ear better during your appointment. 

This may require sedation to clear the build-up and debris causing your dog’s ear. It may need other tests on your pets to know other underlying factors, such as;

Ear Cytology

Ear cytology is a test that involves swabbing your pet’s ear to see if bacteria or fungus caused the illness.

Culture or Sensitivity Testing

This is about creating an ear culture to detect the particular bacteria strain causing the infection and know the effective way to deal with it.

Blood Test

Ear infections can sometimes result from a more serious underlying problem that requires a blood test. Your veterinarian may perform a blood test to deal with the hormone issues or endocrine illnesses as causes of your dog’s ear infection.

X-rays And Scans

In worse cases of infection, such as otitis interna and otitis media, your veterinarian may need to take a CT scan, an X-ray, or an MRI of your dog’s skull.

Initial cleaning and‌ one of these tests should be able to diagnose the origin of your dog’s ear infection.

The 3 Ways to Fix Your Dog’s Ear Infection

In treating your pet’s ear infection, we stated ‌earlier that you need the help of a vet. There are three significant categories of treatment for this:

Topical Treatments 

Ointments, cleansers, and eardrops are the most commonly used topical medications for treating ear infections. While symptoms may appear in the superficial layers of ear tissue, ear medication will be administered deep into the ear canal to be effective.

Oral Treatments 

Oral treatments such as steroids, antibiotics, or antifungals may be prescribed for ear infections emanated from microbes. These medications will boost your dog’s immune system and the ability to fight internal infections.

Surgical Treatments

Deep-seated and chronic ear infections may need an aggressive treatment plan. Your veterinarian may advise you to have surgery to remove corroded tissue inside your dog’s ear.

Sometimes, dogs with chronic ear infections may need a total ear canal ablation, which involves removing the entire ear canal to access the root of the infection. It implies that your dog’s ear infections are serious enough that their hearing ability has already been compromised. 

At this point, ear canal ablation will not enhance their hearing ability. However, it will ease a great deal of pain.

how to treat a dogs ear infection
Veterinarian examines the dog’s ear. If the infection persists, it is best to get professional help.

©iStock.com/Natali_Mis

Ear Infection Products For Dogs

If you’d want to care for your dog’s ear infection, your veterinarian will want to start your pet on pain and infection relief medications. Natural remedies, oral antibiotics, and antibiotics inserted in the ear are all examples of medications. 

Natural Remedies

Some medications may increase the risk of hearing loss in pets. Hence, natural remedies are a safer alternative to many ear medications. When your pet has an itchy ear infection, treat it with Zymox with Hydrocortisone for a week or two before using another ear medication. If the condition worsens, consult your veterinarian right away.

Zymox Pet King Brand Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone (4 Oz.)

  • Relieves ear infections, inflammation, and redness in all ages of pets.
  • The gentle, no-sting formula helps ease painful ear infections caused by fungi, germs, and yeast.
  • With 1% Hydrocortisone for itch relief, the solution is a safe, natural alternative to oral medication.
  • The patented LP3 Enzyme System aids in the removal of ear secretions and the maintenance of healthy ears.
  • A cleaning routine is recommended for pets with chronic otitis externa and for routine ear cleaning.
  • Cleans ear canal: remove debris and excess wax.
  • Neutral pH formula with patented anti-odor technology improves the smell of ears.
  • Solution without irritation: sensitive skin tolerates it well, and it is safe to use with other ear preparations.

Topical Antibiotics

Some pets are allergic to antibiotics, particularly topical neomycin. Antibiotics such as gentamicin and amikacin can help pets with bacterial ear infections. But they are not safe unless the eardrum is intact. 

If your pet’s ear worsens because of antibiotic treatment, stop the medication and contact your veterinarian.

Mometamax Otic Suspension

  • Reduces pain, redness, and swelling
  • Mometasone reduces inflammation quickly without causing adrenocortical suppression.
  • Effective against dermal yeast infections caused by susceptible yeast strains

Otomax Otic Ointment for Dogs

  • Protects against a wide range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.
  • A potent and safe corticosteroid that reduces inflammation.
  • Proven to be effective against the most common ear yeast isolate.

Oral Antibiotics

Quinolone, clindamycin, and azithromycin are oral prescription antibiotics if bacteria in your pet’s ears invade the cells.

Clindamycin HCl (Generic) Oral Drops for Dogs

  • treat bacterial infections such as skin infections and oral cavity infections
  • Potent for anaerobic bacteria.
  • Proven to be effective against protozoal infections.

Conclusion

Prevention, as with most infections, is always preferable. Excess moisture is a common source of ear infections, so dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after swimming and bathing. If your dog has a history of recurring ear infections, identify and treat any underlying causes.

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how to treat a dogs ear infection
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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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