Ear infections in dogs.

This week I’ve decided to dedicate the article to one of the most irritating conditions dogs owners have to deal with- ear infections. I am deliberately writing infections in plural because this condition tends to be chronic and bother both the dog and the owner off and on over a period of years.

The ear is divided to three parts. Inner ear, middle ear and the external ear, which consist of the ear canal and ear flap. The most common infection is of the external ear, a condition called “Otitis externa”.

Some breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Retrievers, Terriers, and Shar-peis seem more prone to ear infections but they may occur in any breed.

Ear infection can be caused by either bacteria or yeast, some conditions promote ear infection such as moisture- especially in swimmers.  Anatomical factors such as narrow ear canal or presence of hair in the canal can also promote infection. Presence of foreign body leads to infection as well. Here in the Okanagan there is massive growth of spear grass, which tends to penetrate to dog’s eras and paws.

But did you know that Chronic/intermittent ear infection is usually a symptom of another underlying condition, which might be completely not related to the ears themselves? The main underlying cause for ear infections is actually an allergy. Dogs can be allergic to many things, but you will be shocked to know how many dogs are allergic to their food. Even if they have been fed with the same food for years, dogs might still develop food allergy as an adult.  Food allergy can be manifested by ear infection sometimes as a sole symptom. Another common symptom along with the ear infection is licking the paws.

Low function of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is also a common cause for ear infections.

You might spend years trying to treat your dog’s ears, but without treating the primary cause you will never be able to permanently cure the infection. If your dog is suffering from an on going ear issues get it checked by a veterinarian.

A Dog with ear infections is miserable. His ear canals are sensitive. He shakes his head often in an effort to get the debris and fluid out, and scratches his ears

The ears often become red and inflamed and develop an offensive odor. A dark brown or yellowish discharge commonly occurs. The infection can occur in either both or only one ear. The infection is a source of constant pain resulting in head shaking and scratching. However, that is not the only problem. Head shaking and scratching can also cause broken blood vessels in the ear flap, requiring surgery. Chronic ear infection can lead to thickening of the skin to a point that the canal becomes obstructed and a corrective surgery is required. Chronic ear infections can also get complicated by spreading of the infection to the middle and inner ear due to rupturing of the ear drum, this condition can lead to permanent damage.

If your dog is suffering from an ear infection take it to be checked by a veterinarian. The infection should be treated by local otic (ears) drops but chronic cases need to be approached in a wider manner. Consult you veterinarian about the various tests available for identification of underlying disease. Without proper diagnosis of the cause, treatments will not be completely successful.