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Ear Infections and Dogs

Posted in Ears on Feb 16, 2010

Photo by Jenna Krabacher. Haleigh, the dog in the photo, used to have ear infections. Read how Haleigh got rid of her ear infections at the end of this article.

By Dr. Kimberly Luce , DVN

Some dogs are prone to ear infections and there are many causes so sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what the problem is.

In fact, most ear infections or problems are actually not a primary illness, but are a consequence of another illness, such as allergies to food or air allergens like pollen, dirty moist ears, floppy ear anatomy that traps moisture  (after a bath, a swim, or a rainy day), immune suppression or other problems.  Dirty, moist ears that you don’t see into, or underlying allergies, are the most frequent causes.

Many dogs have ear problems chronically, and home care may be the mainstay of treatment to keep your dog’s ears healthy.  Unfortunately, some dogs require surgery to “cure” their chronic discomfort.  This can be a very good solution, but may be avoidable with good home care and cleaning techniques. Often, dogs with recurrent ear problems see the vet frequently. Medication may be required, and the dogs are clearly very uncomfortable.

Common symptoms include scratching at the ears, shaking the head, rubbing the ears or head on the ground, an unpleasant odor, whining, or not allowing their beloved owner to touch the ear!

Ear infections typically occur because

1. Moisture remains in the ears and can allow bacteria and yeast to thrive. Preventing the accumulation of moisture and keeping the ear canals dry can help reduce the severity and frequency of chronic ear infections and may even prevent them.

2. Dogs with floppy ears are most likely to develop ear infections because their ears cover the ear canal, which traps the moisture from a rainy day, humidity or a good swim. These breeds need special attention. You should lift any type of dog’s ears frequently and look at the ear “flap” (pinna) and the external canal. It should appear pink, clean, have mild or no debris or discharge, and feel comfortable when you touch or rub the ear.
Treatment of ear problems can involve many complex diagnostic tests, medications, and home care.  This can be very frustrating, and often, adequate home care can prevent the necessity for medication or testing. Ear care at home is usually fundamental to the prevention, control, and care of problem ears.  Keeping the ears clean and dry is very helpful, and can be done safely with proper technique and specific products that are labeled for use in the ear.  Other products or remedies can actually damage the ear, and hearing, severely.  Only products that are labeled for use in the ear should be used to clean and care for the ears.
A great home care kit is the EAR AID.  These products are designed to work together to gently clean ears and treat abnormal populations of bacteria and yeast, and may be very helpful for your dog’s ear problems.

Keep your dogs ears clean with specific ear cleaners, dry with drying agents and be sure to lift the ear flap every week and look inside the ear them for dirt, excess wax or early problems.  If keeping the ears clean and dry at home is not enough, see your veterinarian.

Dr. Kimberly Luce graduated from the North Carolina State College of veterinary Medicine in 1994.  Since then she has worked in general practice, emergency and critical care, and with board certified specialists in a variety of fields such as Internal Medicine, Surgery, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Neurology, Radiology and Acupuncture.  Her passions are critical care and pain management, and her broad knowledge base give her a special , holistic and comprehensive point of view of her patients.   She currently resides in Santa Monica, CA with two chihuahuas, two cats, two baby turtles and a betta!  Her favorite grooming products are the happytails ear wipes and the Dry Dog Instant Clean.

My baby girl had horrible ear problems. They would itch and she would get infections in them all the time. The medicine the vet gave us had a strong, medicinal odor and she hated it. She would run every time she saw the bottle.  So I ordered the ear wipes by happytails to see if it would help.Her ears are really bad and I truly did not expect much but I had to try something.To our wonderful surprise after about a week of daily cleansing her ears look wonderful! They do not bother her at all and you would never know she had such problems with them. And she does not run from me when it’s time to clean her ears!  The pads have a very soothing smell that we both love and I am so grateful I found your products. Thank you so much!”

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