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Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs


Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Floppy eared dogs are prone to ear infections

When an ear infection strikes man's best friend, there will be some distinctive symptoms that cannot be ignored. An ear infection, indeed, may be so annoying to deal with that it is not unusual for dog owners to promptly schedule a vet appointment just to spare their canine companion from another miserable day. While an ear infection may be bacterial, viral, or due to the presence of yeast or ear mites, the series of symptoms are always the same.

Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs may affect the outer ear canal (otitis externa) or the inner middle ear (otitits media). Infections affecting the outer canal are generally less severe than the infections affecting the middle ear. However, left untreated outer ear canal infections may spread to the middle ear, creating complications. Following are signs of both types of ear infections in dogs.

Scratching

Dogs affected by ear infections tend to feel discomfort in their ears and may therefore scratch and paw at their ears. In some cases, dogs may even rub their ears against furniture or the floor. Many times, the scratching may be continuous, becoming quite frustrating to watch. This may lead to tissue damage and a complication known as ''aural hematoma''.

Head Tilt

Ear infections are quite painful and often dogs will exhibit a distinctive head tilt. This is done in an effort to try to remove from their ears something that is bothering them. In some cases, there may be something trapped in the dog's ears (like a fox tail) however, this is a typical symptom of ear infection.

Foul Odor

In some cases, the dog's ears when affected by an ear infection will assume quite an unpleasant odor. This may be due to a bacterial or yeast infection. This odor should go away once treatment has started.

Discharge

Infected ears may also produce a higher than normal discharge. The discharge may appear dark, resembling coffee grounds when affected by ear mites,or may be yellowish brown. The discharge is the ear's way of protecting itself and attempting to get rid of the foreign invader.

Aural Hematoma

As mentioned earlier, the constant head shaking and scratching may cause visible swelling of the ear flap. This complication is known as aural hematoma and it is caused by bleeding from the ear's blood vessels which fills up the dog's ear flaps making them look like big marshmallows.

Vestibular Disease

When the middle ear is affected, dogs may exhibit signs of vestibular disease. Such signs include lack of coordination, dizziness, back and forth eye movements, circling and falling to one side. Such symptoms are often confused for a stroke. Middle ear infection can be a complication of dogs with a history of recurrent and untreated ear infections.

Most cases of ear infections will go away with ear drops and a round of antibiotics. However, some dogs may be prone to repeated ear infections such as dogs with droopy ears like Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds. Ear cleaning, the use of cotton balls when bathing and a thorough inspection of the ears is key to keeping this problem at bay.

The Best Ear Infection Over-the- Counter Treatment for Dogs

  • Zymox for Dogs with Ear Infections
    Dog owners dealing with dogs affected by recurrent ear infections may very well know what a frustrating ordeal this can turn out to be. Indeed, perhaps there are not many medical maladies as frustrating as...

© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 02, 2012:

It's hard to say without seeing it. It could be a tick, skin tag, dirt, or an infected area. If the ear area is swollen it could also be an aural hematoma.https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dogs-swollen-ears

Kim on May 01, 2012:

My dog just loss his appetite these few days. Yesterday night I found out that his left ear got red and there's a brown lump or particle in it. Is that ear infection? After his bath I use ear gel to remove his stubborn stain in his ear and I assume I clean it too hard and hurt his ear. Please help! What can I do?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 15, 2012:

thank you, he makes the hub on dog ear infections look nice!

rachel mcferran on March 15, 2012:

this is a cute dog !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

BIG DOGGY on February 04, 2011:

There is another remedy for ear infections and ear mites. Its called Dr.Dogs Ear Oil. A friend told me about it I tried it and it works great!! you can get it at www.drdogs247.com I hope it works for you as good as it did for me =-)

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on January 26, 2010:

Great article, when my dog starts scrating her ears I know it is time to pull those hairs out. Or she will get an infection. Thank you so much for loving the wonderful children.


What Causes Yeast Infection of the Ear?

A dog’s ear canal plunges downward and then away from the ear opening (it is shaped like a “L”). That gives yeast a favorable environment in which to grow. If your dog swims or is bathed frequently, trapped water or debris in the ear canal can lead to yeast infections. Allergens like pollens, mold, dust, feathers, cigarette smoke, cleaning products, and certain foods can also lead to ear infections in a dog.

A dog's outer ear extends from the outside of the earlobe to the ear drum. An infection in this part of the ear is called otitis externa. An infection in the middle ear -- otitis media - typically develops in association with an outer ear infection. Then once the middle ear is infected, the infection can spread to the inner ear, where it will affect the dog's sense of balance and position. An inner ear infection can also cause deafness. Catching and treating an infection early, while it's still in the outer ear, will help prevent more serious middle and inner ear infections.

Yeast infections can also show up elsewhere on your dog’s skin. When one does, it causes the skin to become scabby, reddened, or crusty. with a foul odor.

Continued


DOG EAR INFECTIONS

What causes ear infections in dogs? Usually, an underlying factor, such as allergies or immune disease, is responsible. Unless that underlying factor is identified and properly treated, the ear infection is likely to return. That’s why it’s important to visit your veterinarian as soon as you suspect your dog has an ear infection.

How do I know if my dog has an ear infection?

Ear infections can cause significant discomfort for your dog. A dog in pain will shake its head and scratch its ears trying to relieve that discomfort. Be on the lookout for signs of ear infection in your dog. 1 If you notice any of them, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

Left untreated, inflammation in the ear can lead to potential hearing loss and balance problems for your dog. It can also cause progressive changes in the ear canal that make the ear more susceptible to bacterial and fungal overgrowth and can result in chronic ear disease. 2

Pain is not always easy to identify in dogs. In addition to scratching or rubbing the ears, a dog in pain from an ear infection may become lethargic or withdrawn, display a loss of appetite, or become moody or irritable. 4 If you notice an behavioral changes in your dog that concern you, contact your veterinarian.

References: 1. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed August 7, 2020. ‌‌2. Bajwa J. Canine otitis externa: treatment and complications. Vet Derm. 201960:97–99. 3. Paterson S. Discovering the causes of otitis externa. In Practice website. Available at: https://inpractice.bmj.com/content/38/Suppl_2/7. Accessed August 7, 2020. 4. Allweiler S. Types of pain. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/pain-management/types-of-pain. Accessed September 9, 2020.

Common signs of an ear infection include frequent scratching or rubbing of the ears, discharge from the ear, redness or swelling of the ear canal, and odor. 1 If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

References: 1. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed August 7, 2020. ‌‌2. Bajwa J. Canine otitis externa: treatment and complications. Vet Derm. 201960:97–99. 3. Paterson S. Discovering the causes of otitis externa. In Practice website. Available at: https://inpractice.bmj.com/content/38/Suppl_2/7. Accessed August 7, 2020. 4. Allweiler S. Types of pain. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/pain-management/types-of-pain. Accessed September 9, 2020.

Yes, ear infections may occur in either one or both ears. 1

References: 1. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed August 7, 2020. ‌‌2. Bajwa J. Canine otitis externa: treatment and complications. Vet Derm. 201960:97–99. 3. Paterson S. Discovering the causes of otitis externa. In Practice website. Available at: https://inpractice.bmj.com/content/38/Suppl_2/7. Accessed August 7, 2020. 4. Allweiler S. Types of pain. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/pain-management/types-of-pain. Accessed September 9, 2020.

Some dogs are prone to ear infections. These include dogs with allergies, dogs with long or floppy ears, and dogs that like to swim or get wet. 1 In addition, an underlying condition, such as allergies, can cause ear infections. In fact, allergies are the number one cause of ear infections. 3 Your veterinarian will collect a detailed history to help uncover any underlying causes of your dog’s ear infection and to properly treat your dog to help keep the infection from recurring.

References: 1. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed August 7, 2020. ‌‌2. Bajwa J. Canine otitis externa: treatment and complications. Vet Derm. 201960:97–99. 3. Paterson S. Discovering the causes of otitis externa. In Practice website. Available at: https://inpractice.bmj.com/content/38/Suppl_2/7. Accessed August 7, 2020. 4. Allweiler S. Types of pain. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/pain-management/types-of-pain. Accessed September 9, 2020.

Your veterinarian will be able to uncover the primary reason for your dog’s ear infection and recommend a treatment plan specifically designed for dogs, and your dog in particular.


How Can I Treat My Dog's Ear Infection?

First and foremost, head to the vet. Your vet will need to see your dog's infection to know how to best treat it. Dr. Hendricks urges his patients not to buy over-the-counter medications. In his experience, if you try these methods first before taking your dog to the vet, you will likely just create a bigger problem. It's important that your veterinarian see what the specific problem is, prescribe what they need to, then do a recheck a week or two later, he explained.

After we took our dog to the veterinarian and administered his prescribed antibiotics, he started feeling better after about two days. He was symptom-free and back to his playful self. We took him back in to see our vet one week later, and things were thankfully clearing up just fine. Now I know exactly what signs to look for, and I'll be sure to give my veterinarian a call if I see him acting peculiar right away. A hard but valuable lesson learned.


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