Ear infections in dogs: How to diagnose and treat them

Ear infections in dogs are extremely common. In fact, it is estimated that 20% of all dogs will experience an ear infection at some point in their lifetime. Not only are they painful and uncomfortable for your dog, but they need to be treated with urgency because left untreated, could lead to further infections and complications, or even deafness. Also, it’s horrible to see your pooch suffering. So, how do you know if your dog has an ear infection, and what do you do if one appears?

How to spot ear infections in dogs

Here’s how to spot an infection:

  • Horrid odour emanating from the ears
  • Vigorous shaking of the head
  • Constant scratching of the ears
  • Redness or swelling
  • Discharge

What causes ear infections in dogs?

Dogs’ ear canals are more vertical than humans, with an L-shape that tends to hold fluid, making the ear susceptible to infection.

However, infections are tricky to diagnose because they could be caused by a number of things. Most are caused by bacteria or yeast in the ear canal, or sometimes mites (most common in puppies). Allergies could also rear their ugly head (pun intended), resulting in an ear infection. Plus, just the nature of the ear makes them prone to infection; long, droopy ears (such as the Basset Hound) tend to collect moisture which is a prime breeding ground for bacteria; pointy ears (eg the German Shephard) are great targets for debris and allergens.

When should I go to the vet?

It is not advisable to try to treat ear infections at home and a trip to the vet for the correct diagnosis and treatment is recommended. Not only could you make the issue worse by treating it incorrectly, but you could damage the delicate ear canal. A veterinarian will examine your dog thoroughly, and take the necessary tests to confidently diagnose and provide the appropriate treatment.

Antibiotics are often prescribed, as well as a cleaning regime – sometimes surgery is necessary in extreme cases. Follow the vet’s treatment to the T, because often the ear will start to look better, but if you stop treatment the infection will recur, often worse than before.

How to prevent ear infections in dogs

The old adage applies; prevention is always better than cure.

A few tips to prevent ear infections:

  • A healthy dog’s ears will most likely take care of themselves. So make sure they eat a healthy diet and get their recommended exercise.
  • Keep the ears dry – dry the ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing.
  • Examine the ears weekly to check for any early signs of infection.
  • If the ears are susceptible to infection or your pooch insists on exploring every swamp and veld on his daily walk, then the occasional ear cleaning is beneficial. Just make sure to do it correctly. Click here for how to clean your dog’s ears properly.

 If you have any questions or concerns with regards to your pets, it is advisable to consult a registered veterinarian.

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