Ear Infections in Dogs: What You Need to Know
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The ear is divided into four parts:
- Pinna - the part outside the head
- External ear canal
- Middle ear - found on the inside of the eardrum
- Inner ear - consists of tubes and nerve structures that transmit sound to the brain. The inner ear also helps control your dog’s balance.
Ear inflammations are common in dogs and have many causes. Dogs, like bloodhounds, with droopy ears and/or a great deal of hair, like the English sheepdog, in the ear canal seem to have the most problems with ear inflammations. These characteristics plus the warm and enclosed nature of the ear canal provide an excellent environment for infectious agents that cause inflammation.
Bacteria, fungi and ear mites are common causes of ear inflammation in dogs. Allergies, seborrhea, an underactive thyroid gland, trauma, foreign objects (such as plant seeds) and tumors also cause ear inflammation.
Most cases of middle ear and inner ear inflammation are caused by bacteria that pass through a ruptured eardrum. One cause of a ruptured eardrum is overzealous cleaning of the ear canal. Throat infections may also cause middle ear inflammations.
Diagnosis by your Veterinarian
Examination of your dog’s ear canal and eardrum by your veterinarian with an instrument called an otoscope helps determine the cause. If the ear is very painful, your dog may need to be sedated for a thorough exam. Other tests include: microscopic examination of earwax; ear cultures; thyroid hormone studies; X-rays; surgical biopsy.
Most ear inflammations can be treated successfully once appropriate diagnostic tests are completed by your veterinarian.
Treatment and Home Care
Ear issues must be treated persistently and specifically, depending on the diagnosis. In some cases, treatment may need to be continued for six weeks or longer.
In most cases your veterinarian will need to clean your dog's ear and remove the hair from the ear canal before treatment will be effective. The use of medications to dry your dog’s ears can be helpful. More aggressive treatment, such as surgery, may be recommended for severe cases.
Home care usually includes administering medications directly into your dog’s ear canal according to your veterinarian’s instructions. Failure to properly administer ear preparations could lead to chronic inflammation, so be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.
If your dog has an ear issue, your veterinarian may suggest a change in your dog’s food. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic hypoallergenic dog food to help limit exposure to potential allergens. Such dog foods may include Hill’s® Prescription Diet® brand dog foods.
Unless recommended otherwise by your veterinarian, gradually introduce any new dog food over a seven-day period. Learn how to transition your dog gradually to a new dog food.