Itchy, Smelly Ears? Think Infection!
Just like people, dogs can, and often do, get ear infections. Some dogs are lucky (if you can call it that) and only get a one-time ear infection, perhaps after going swimming. Others are less fortunate and are predisposed to chronic ear infections, which can lead to intense itching or even pain if severe.
How do you diagnose an ear infection?
A thorough history of your dog’s daily routine is important:
- Has this happened before?
- Did he/she go swimming or go to the groomers recently?
- How long have you noticed the signs?
These details help determine the timeline of this infection, and the likelihood of its recurrence once successfully treated.
What breed of dog is prone to ear infections?
Generally speaking, floppy eared dogs such as Cocker Spaniels are considered “frequent flyers” for ear infections.
What does a veterinary exam look like for a dog ear infection?
- Look in the ears with an otoscope to assess the level of inflammation and if the ear drums are intact.
- Take a sample of the debris from within each ear to examine under a microscope and to culture for bacteria to determine what exactly, is growing in there.
A treatment plan will depend upon these results. There are many ear medications available, but they should be targeted to your dog’s specific problem.
If your dog has a yeast infection, an antibacterial medication will not treat it effectively.
What if the dog’s ear infection is bacterial?
- Determine which type of bacteria it is causing the infection.
- Collect a sample of the debris within the ear canal
- Possibly send the culture out to the microbiologist for identification of the bacteria
- Test for antibiotic sensitivity to guide the medication choice
These additional steps are generally reserved for more severe or persistent cases, but are invaluable to guiding treatment when the ear infection is persistent or recurrent.
Depending on the amount of debris within the ear canal, an ear flush may be necessary to remove debris within the ear canal and next to the ear drum. At times this must be done under a brief anesthesia.
How do I take care of my dog’s ear infection after they are home?
- Treatment can be as simple as a daily medicine being instilled into the ears and / or a medicated ear flush to remove debris.
- An anti-inflammatory steroid medication may be added for comfort to relieve the itching and inflammation.
- More severe infections involving bacteria may be started on oral antibiotics as well, to get the infection under control as soon as possible.
Generally speaking, most ear infections are dramatically improved, if not resolved, in 1-2 weeks of appropriate treatment. A recheck swab of the ears is recommended at the end of this period to confirm that the infection is resolved.
What if my dog has reoccurring ear infections?
In some dogs, we may recommend a weekly ear flush with a drying agent to help prevent future infections from forming.
Overall, most dogs do very well with basic treatment.
The moral of the story is: if you are noticing redness, a bad smell, and/or debris in the ears or your dog is shaking its head and/or scratching his ears, get it checked out sooner rather than later.
Your dog will certainly thank you!