What is Otitis Externa?
Because of the shape of the ear canal, your canine may be prone to this condition as debris can gather here quite easily. The outer layers of cells in the external ear can become red and inflamed causing irritation, swelling, or even a discharge. On further inspection, you may notice a crumbly deposit in the ears of your dog, or may notice that your best friend is showing signs of discomfort by shaking their head or whining when given an ear rub.
Otitis externa occurs in the outer ear canal of your dog’s ears. It is a common condition noticeable by your pet excessively trying to scratch his ears.
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Symptoms of Otitis Externa in Dogs
- Discharge from the ear – it may smell if it is a yeast infection
- Whining or signs of pain when given an ear rub
- The external ear is red and inflamed
- Scratching or rubbing of the ears
- General irritation
- Shaking of the head
- Scaly, flaky skin
- Otitis Externa occurs in the outer ear and is one of the easiest types of infections to treat.
- Otitis Media occurs in the middle ear, just behind the eardrum; it is less common but just as annoying to your dog
- Otitis Interna occurs in the inner ear where the canal meets the brain and the vital nerves for balance and hearing (otitis interna is the worst out of all three because of its location to vital nerves)
Causes of Otitis Externa in Dogs
- Dogs with long floppy ears or thick hair within the ear may be more prone to this condition
- Allergies to some environmental irritants such as mold, dust and some foods
- Bacterial or yeast infections
- Infection through your dog breaking the skin during scratching their ears
- Flea bites (some dogs are hypersensitive to bites from fleas )
- Excess water in the ears, especially if your dog swims a lot
- Seeds or other objects trapped in the external ear
- Ear mite infections
Diagnosis of Otitis Externa in Dogs
There are many causes of ear infections and it is not enough to take a wait and see approach, and hope your dog will self-heal. There may be an underlying condition causing it. A trip to your veterinarian will give you (and your pet) peace of mind. A full examination of the ear will be required and if your dog is nervy or snappy because of pain, the veterinarian may sedate him to allow a deep probe into the ear. Samples of the inflamed tissue and discharge, if any, will be taken to analyse the cause. Your dog’s caregiver may use a tool called an otoscope to look deep into the ear to identify any obstruction, growths or foreign objects such as tree seeds that have found their way in. This tool will also allow your veterinarian to see any injury within the ear and will provide a clear picture of what is causing your pet such aggravation.
Treatment of Otitis Externa in Dogs
Once the cause has been established, treatment can begin. Often your veterinarian may clip away the long fur around the area and the fine hairs in the ear canal. Doing so will assist treatment and allow air in to heal the area. A thorough cleaning of the ear will be required, although if it is badly infected your dog may need a general anesthesia. The medications given provide not only a healing of the ear, but also a coating of the damaged tissue to provide protection.
If middle ear infection is suspected your dog may receive medication to take orally or have an injection to assist the healing. Antibacterial medications will help overcome bacterial infections while ear mites should be treated with a topical antibacterial and antiparasitic drug to ensure complete clearance of infection. You will need to keep a check on your dog’s ears and continue cleaning and treating them for as long as your veterinarian advises.
Recovery of Otitis Externa in Dogs
Recovery is carried out at home and it depends on the extent of the infection as to how long it will take. Your dog may be a bit sensitive to having his ears cleaned, but if you are gentle, talk to him while you are doing it and reward with a treat, he may begin to cooperate. In a lot of cases, it will take two to three weeks of continued care and use of the medication before improvement happens. After healing it is recommended that you do a regular checking of the ears to prevent it from happening again.
Ask your veterinarian to show you the correct way to clean your dog’s ears, as you must be careful not to push debris any further into the ear canal. He will show you how to clean the ear and how to apply medicated drops, gently massaging your dog’s ears to assist the effectiveness of the drops. If your dog is a keen swimmer, check that his ears are dry after the exercise and use a drying agent to avoid moisture build-up, which is a breeding ground for bacteria. Preventive care is the best option; it only takes a few minutes to do a quick check once a week and your dog will love the extra attention.