Your dog is scratching at his ears and shaking his head. With a sigh, you look at the inside of his ears and sure enough, all of the telltale signs of an ear infection are present. Ear infections are never very far off when you have a long-eared dog or when your dog loves the water more than land.
Did you know, however, that there are a long list of conditions that can also cause ear infections, and that no matter how many times you treat your dog, ear infections will just keep coming back over and over again if you do not find a better way to avoid them? Finding the cause may lead you to the important clues you need to be able to prevent repeated ear infections.
Identifying an Ear Infection
Aside from your dog scratching, pawing, or shaking his head, there are a few other symptoms that can help you determine whether your dog has an ear infection or not. Other symptoms might include:
Redness in the ear canal
Discharge coming from the ear
Causes and Prevention of Ear Infections
It can be a bit of a detective game to determine the exact cause, but here are a few reasons why your dog may be getting ear infections repeatedly to get you started.
Food and Environmental Allergies
Allergies are a common cause of ear infections for your dog. Some of the most common culprits are pollens (such as trees or grass), dust mites, molds, or some sort of food. Allergies can cause inflammation that can lead to infections. Approximately half of dogs with a skin allergy and 80 percent of those with food allergies will develop ear infections.
You can help to prevent ear infections caused by allergies first by avoiding the offending food or environmental allergen. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the culprits, but identifying and avoiding them is the best way to offer your pet relief.
It can be a bit more challenging to track down environmental allergens that food allergens. Think about when your dog has ear infections; is it at a certain time of year? This may help you to pinpoint what he is allergic to and help you take steps to avoid these allergens.
If avoidance is not possible, your vet can help you find an ear cleaning solution that will help to keep your dog’s ears clean and free of bacteria, which will help to cut down on ear infections. Use gauze and a bit of ear cleaner to remove any dirt and moisture while avoiding getting into the ear canal itself.
While the use of a cleaner may not stop all ear infections caused by allergies, using a cleaner in conjunction with avoiding the offending allergen as much as possible can at least reduce the number of trips you must make to the vet to treat ear infections.
Moisture and Excessive Wax Buildup
If you give your dog frequent baths, take him swimming, or he has long ears, moisture may be the reason ear infections plague him. The shape and size if your dog’s ears make them more prone to ear infections because water and wax cannot drain properly. Dogs’ ear canals have an L-shape that tends to trap water. Dogs with long ears are even more susceptible because their ears do not get the appropriate air flow to keep them dry and healthy.
The best way to prevent ear infections in these cases is to pay careful attention to the activities that result in water in the ear. If avoiding those activities is not practical, be prepared to help your dog out by using cotton balls and gauze to remove extra moisture and clean your dog’s ears following the activity that causes the problem.
In the case of flopping ears, frequent ear cleaning may be necessary, although some owners have found success by carefully moving their dogs ears up and away from their ear canals for a period of time each day. This increases the airflow and allows the ear canal to dry properly. Since all dog’s ears have different shapes and lengths of hair you should talk to your vet to see if this is an option and for suggestions about the best way to do this.
As long as you keep your dog’s ears dry and clean, it should help to prevent future ear infections. The efficacy of this treatment depends on a lot of factors such as where and when your dog is in contact with water, how long their ears are, and how often it is a problem.
Yeast or Fungus and Mites
Any type of bacteria, fungus, or parasite in your dog’s ears can cause ear infections. Yeast and mites are the most common of these. Mites in the ear are often one of the primary causes of ear infections in puppies. Mites feed on the waxes and oils in your dog’s ear canal and cause irritation and inflammation that can lead to ear infections. Yeast infections can be caused by a number of different factors, from allergies, to excess debris and water, to overuse of antibiotics. Yeast can cause sores and inflammation which can become infected.
In these cases, treating the parasites or yeast infections will prevent ear infections from returning. Your vet can provide you with the appropriate medications for taking care of mites. Treating yeast infections or other types of fungus will depend on what caused the overgrowth in the first place. Treatments for yeast infection usually include a prescription topical antifungal ointment such as miconazole or ketoconazole. Cleaning the ears will also be necessary in the case of mites or fungal infections. This can help to keep bacteria down and hopefully hope to prevent a secondary ear infection until you can get your dog to a vet.
The vet will also treat any secondary ear infections with antibiotics and possibly anti-inflammatories. Treating the fungus or parasite will likely bring an end to the ear infections provided that you complete all treatments and work to prevent the reoccurrence of the fungal infection or parasite that caused it in the first place.
Importance of Preventing Ear Infections
Recurring ear infections can cause hearing loss, which is a good enough reason all on its own to ensure that your pup does not continue to have problems with them. Keep in mind as well that repeated doses of antibiotics are not good for your dog either. Not only can it lead to yeast infections, making the spiral of ear infections even worse, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Both you and your dog will certainly be happier without the disruption to your lives and your pocket book will thank you as well.
Prevention, Inspection, and Cleaning
Preventing ear infections in your dog is as simple as preventing the causes, inspecting ears carefully for problems such as moisture, dirt, and foreign invaders, and cleaning them thoroughly as needed. Staying a step ahead of infections will ensure fewer trips to the vet, and less misery for your pet. Experts do caution that you should never over-clean your pet’s ears, pull hair out on your own, or try to treat ear problems at home. It is easy to aggravate problems as well as misdiagnose them, all of which will only make the issue of recurrent ear infections all that much worse.