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Ear Infection in Dogs

Ear infection in dogs is a chronic issue for many breeds, and can turn serious if left untreated. In this post, our Clemmons vets explain the types of ear infection and how they are treated and diagnosed, as well as what can happen if one is left untreated.

Ear Infection in Dogs

It's fairly common for dogs to get ear infections, and you'll know if your dog starts to show symptoms; they may start to whine, shake their head, and/or scratch their ear, and you may see wax buildup or discharge. But what if they don't have any symptoms? And what happens if an infection goes untreated?

Today we answer a number of questions our patients have asked us about ear infections in dogs. Did you know there are actually three types of ear infection in dogs? They include:

Otitis Externa (Outer Ear)

Outer ear infection in dogs is also known as “infection of external ear canal” or “otitis externa”. This is one of the most common types of infections seen in dogs.

Otitis Media (Middle Ear) and Otitis Interna (Inner Ear)

Outer ear infections can often lead to infection in the middle and inner ear. These can be very serious and sometimes cause vestibular symptoms, as well as facial paralysis and deafness. That’s why it’s important to detect outer ear infections early and make every effort to prevent infection.

Which dog breeds are prone to ear infections?

Some breeds may be more prone to ear infection due to the shape of their ear canals. These breeds include those with floppy, large or hairy ears such as Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels, though ear infections may happen in any breed.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs

While some dogs will be asymptomatic aside from the buildup of wax and discharge that appears in the ear canal, others will display serious symptoms. When it comes to severe ear infection in dogs, you may notice serious symptoms such as:

  • Itchiness
  • Pain
  • Scabs or crusting in the ears
  • Swelling or redness in the ear canal
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Dark discharge
  • Odor

    Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs

    Due to the L-shape of their ear canal, dogs’ ears tend to hold more fluid than ours, leaving them more susceptible to ear infections.

    Ear infections are usually caused by a yeast, bacteria, or a mix of both.

    These factors may contribute to ear infections:

    • Moisture, which creates an environment for yeast and bacteria to thrive, causing bacterial ear infections in dogs
    • Wax buildup
    • Allergies (food sensitivities or skin diseases)
    • Injury to the ear canal

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    Ear infections in dogs warrant a visit to the veterinarian as soon as you can reach one. You’ll want to get the ear infection treated quickly not only to alleviate pain and discomfort, but to prevent the infection from spreading to the middle or inner ear.

    Be prepared to tell the vet about your dog’s medical history, recent activities, ear infection symptoms, diet, grooming or swimming. Your vet will then perform a physical examination, including inspecting the ears.

    A medicated ear cleanser will be used to clean your dog’s ears and a topical medication prescribed for at-home use. In severe cases, oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. While most uncomplicated infections resolve within 1 to 2 weeks, underlying conditions or severe symptoms may take longer or lead to chronic ear infection in dogs.

    In cases of severe chronic disease, your vet may recommend surgery to remove the ear canal, which would eliminate diseased tissue and prevent infection from recurring.

    What happens if ear infections in dogs are left untreated?

    If your dog is displaying signs of ear infection, seek treatment from a qualified vet right away to ensure it does not develop into a serious issue. Lapses in treatment can lead to recurrence in infection, so be sure to finish the full course of treatment. As mentioned earlier, untreated outer ear infections can lead to more serious middle and inner ear infections.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

    Do you suspect your dog may have an ear infection? Contact your vet as soon as possible. At Animal Hospital of Clemmons, we provide preventive and emergency veterinary care for cats and dogs in Clemmons and greater Winston-Salem.

Ear Infection in Dogs | Clemmons Vet

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