Help! My dog has an ear infection.
Does your heart sink when the dog shakes their head?
If the answer is “Yes,” you are probably all too well aware this sign can indicate an ear infection. Two such innocent-looking words, and yet they signal discomfort for the dog and a pain in the pocketbook for you.
This article reviews the common causes of ear infections, what to do for dog ear infections, and how to prevent future problems.
What causes Dog Ear Infections?
Cause and effect.
When you understand what causes ear infections you’re empowered to prevent them. Here are some of the common causes:
- Drop Ears: Breeds such as spaniels with heavy, hairy ear flaps are walking incubators for ear disease. The lack of air circulation creates a microclimate that favors bacterial or yeast infections. Keep the inner surface of the ear flap clipped and flip the ear back when the dog’s asleep.
- Foreign Bodies: Running through the long grass is great fun, but increases the chance of a grass awn entering the ear canal. Once it migrates down the ear canal, it’s extremely irritating and hard to see. Check the ear flaps for grass awns after a walk.
- Dog Ear Yeast Infection: Dogs have a normal population of yeast living on the skin’s surface. However, a warm damp ear canal can act as a ‘yeast nursery’ which encourages them to grow unchecked. Improving the air circulation in the ear canal, and regular cleaning can reduce the risk.
- Allergies: Food and seasonal allergies can weaken the skin’s immunity to infection. For some breeds, such as Labradors, there is a strong link between recurrent ear infections and allergic skin disease. Trial a hypoallergenic diet and see the vet about controlling those allergies.
- Parasites: Ear mites – itchy critters! Enough said. Keep the ears clean. Many routine parasite preventatives are also effective against ear mites.
- Swimming: Water in the ear canal softens the skin, and predisposes it to bacterial colonization. Use earplugs or avoid swimming
- Skin Disorders: Skin conditions that cause the excessive production of grease, can feed ear infections. Fatty acid dietary supplements and good ear hygiene will help.
Dog Ear Infection Symptoms
It important to recognize the signs of ear infection in dogs early. An ear infection rarely clears up by itself. Instead, it’s likely to become well-established and may even track inwards to become an inner ear infection. Inner ear infections in dogs are difficult to treat and can become serious, so are best avoided.
Watch for the following signs. Whilst not all these symptoms are specific to an ear infection, they are all signals that the dog should see a vet.
- Excessive head shaking, ear scooting, or scratching
- A bad smell from the ear
- Pain around the ear or head
- A reddened or narrowed entrance to the ear canal
- Excessive discharge from the ear
- One ear looks different from the other
- A head tilt
- Going off food and restlessness
If you notice any of the above, have a vet check your pet.
How to Treat a Dog’s Ear Infection at Home
It helps to keep the ear canal clean, by using an ear cleaning solution made for use in dogs. This reduces the amount of debris in the ear, which bacteria, parasites, or yeast can feed on.
But if the ear is painful, there’s a discharge, or the dog has a head tilt, always see the vet. There’s often no substitute for looking deep into the ear canal and working out why the ear infection has happened.
Also, don’t risk getting bitten! The ear is so sore that the dog needs pain relief or anti-inflammatories before it can be properly examined.
What to do for dog ear infection: See a vet!
Don’t ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Chronic ear infections in dogs start off as a minor problem, which fails to resolve.
Preventing Ear Infections
Top tips for preventing a dog ear infection include:
- A regular ‘sniff’ test: Smell your dog’s ears at least once a week. A bad smell could be an early warning of infection
- Clean the ears: Only ever use a product sympathetic to the dog’s delicate ears. For dog’s prone to an ear infection, weekly cleaning can reduce the risk, plus help you spot the problem early.
- Aerate the ears: Floppy-eared dog? Try tying their ears back with a scrunchie and trimming the fur from the underside of the ear flap.
- Treat allergies: If your dog is constantly itchy or licks excessively, they may have allergic skin disease. Get the right treatment and this could prevent those pesky repeat ear infections
- Dry the Ears: If your dog loves swimming, use a good ear cleaner afterward, to displace the water that softens the skin of the ear canal
- Check for Foreign Bodies: After every walk, lift the ear flap and remove any objects about to enter the ear canal
- PetPace: Spot early symptoms of discomfort with a PetPace collar
How PetPace Prevents Dog Ear Infection
A PetPace collar is a comfortable device that constantly monitors your pet. It feeds data back to a smartphone app, telling you about the dog’s activity levels and whether they’re pacing or lying down; along with their heart and respiratory rate, and temperature.
This data is invaluable for predicting if the dog has a health problem brewing. For example, have you ever had an earache? Excruciating, isn’t it, and it stops you from sleeping.
In a dog, this discomfort shows itself as nighttime restlessness. So the dog shows symptoms at the time you are least likely to notice …when you’re asleep.
But the PetPace activity log will show patterns of unusual nighttime activity – your early warning something isn’t right.
In addition, PetPace tells you if the dog is feverish or off their food. PetPace gives your dog a voice to say, “I’m in discomfort,” so that you can take them to the vet before the problem is well-established.
By understanding the causes of dog ear infections and spotting the problem early, you can help stop the misery of earache.