Ear infections in dogs are very common, especially this time of year because of allergies. Environmental or food allergens cause inflammation within the ear canal in allergic pets. The inflammation causes changes within the canal that promote bacterial and yeast overgrowth and infection. Signs of an ear infection include inflammation, itching, pain, swelling, odor, and brown or yellow discharge. Pets usually come into the clinic because they are shaking their heads and scratching at their ears.
If you notice any of these signs, please schedule an exam for your pet. We will examine the ears by looking down into the ear canals and assessing the ear drum. If necessary, a sample of the ear discharge will be taken and stained so we can look at it under the microscope to check for bacterial and yeast infections. Once an infection is diagnosed, the proper topical treatment will be prescribed. This only treats the secondary infection, so for dogs experiencing chronic ear infections, strategies to address the underlying allergy or other primary disease will be discussed. Even though allergies are the most common cause of ear infections, ear conformation (long, pendulous ears, narrow canals, or large amount of hair), water in the ear from grooming or swimming, and thyroid problems can cause ear infections too. We always keep these in mind when evaluating your pet!
So how do we treat ear infections? Ear drops, systemic medications, hypoallergenic food, therapeutic laser, ear flush/wipes for ear canal health, and addressing underlying causes are among some of the treatment options available for ear infections. Treatment is customized for each individual pet!
Today we will be discussing Otitis Externa; one of the most common reasons that a pet is brought into the clinic for being sick. Otitis externa is an infection or inflammation of the external ear canal. The clinical signs include shaking the head, pawing or scratching at the ears, debris (aka goo) inside the ears, and sometimes a bad smell coming from the ears.
When a pet is suspected of having an ear infection, the veterinarian will use an otoscope to look down inside the ear canal. We can see inflammation, discharge, blood, and can more easily access the severity of the infection. Often times a sample of is taken and checked on the microscope to determine if the dog or cat just has dirty ears or if there is yeast or bacteria involved. Rarely, a pet may have ear mites. We can also diagnose this via microscope at the clinic.
How does a pet get an ear infection? There are many breeds that are predisposed to infections because they have long, floppy ears. Floppy ears are great for trapping debris inside the canal, little to no air flow can get inside, and they provide a great environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive. Many dogs that go swimming seem to be predisposed to ear infections as well. Dog ear canals are shaped like an L, the water is trapped and bacteria and yeast have a party, they love a moist ear canal!
What happens if your pet has an ear infection? Once we diagnose an infection, we will clean the ears out and prescribe a topical medication to be used at home. There are many different medicines on the market, and we choose based on the organisms present in the ears, ease of use, and duration of use. Mites can also be treated with a topical medication as well. Rarely, we might also prescribe an oral antibiotic if the infection is serious. We recommend returning in two weeks for a recheck to be sure the infection has been resolved.
Cats and dogs with recurrent ear infections can be helped tremendously by cleaning the ears out periodically with an ear solution made for cats and dogs. This is also useful for dogs that swim frequently.
If you think your pet is showing signs of having an ear infection, give us a call in Springfield at 217-529-4499. Or if your pet is at risk of developing ear infections, contact your veterinarian about preventative measures you can take now to avoid having to treat an infection in the future. Our mission is to provide high quality, compassionate veterinary care with a personal touch. We strive to maintain a friendly and comfortable environment for pets and owners and are committed to building strong, respectful, and honest relationships with our clients. Through teamwork, we are dedicated to ensuring the best care possible and treating pets as if they were our own.