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How to Spot Ear Infections in Dogs

The unique structure of a dog's ear can contribute to frequent ear infections. In this article, our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets list potential causes of ear infections in dogs and discuss what you can do to help prevent this painful condition from occurring. 

Why do dogs get ear infections so often?

The shape of a dog's ear canal is a contributing factor behind their increased risk of ear infections. A dog's ear canals are shaped differently than a human's, which leaves them prone to different types of ear infections. While you may adore your dog's long, floppy ears, they may increase his risk of infection. Ditto if your pup loves to swim, since moisture can become trapped in the ear and help foster the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. 

While ear infections may be common and bothersome, your veterinarian can detect them early and may be able to help you prevent them altogether. Left untreated, ear infections in dogs can quickly progress, resulting in symptoms such as balance and coordination issues, pain, and in severe cases, facial paralysis. 

Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs 

While bacterial ear infections are the most common, other potential causes of these conditions in dogs can include:

  • Ear mites
  • Trauma
  • Foreign objects lodged in the ear
  • Tumors or polyps
  • Yeast
  • Fungus

The three parts of the ear that can become infected are:

  • Otitis (outer ear infections) affects the outside of the ear. 
  • Otitis media (middle ear infections) affect the dog's middle ear. 
  • Otitis internal (inner ear infections) affects your dog's inner ear. 

Common Symptoms of Ear Infections 

Anyone who has ever had an ear infection knows that the resulting pain can be brutal. If your dog displays any of the following signs of an ear infection, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination for your pup.

By having your four-legged friend examined right away, you'll give your vet the chance to diagnose the issue and start treatment sooner, which can reduce the risk of complications. Bacterial and fungal ear infections in dogs can each present their own symptoms, but these will be similar to the ones described below. 

Typical signs of an ear infection in dogs include:

  • Yellow, brown, or bloody discharge 
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at or bubbling the ear 
  • Tilting head 
  • Odor emanating from the ear 
  • Redness inside the ear
  • Scabs or crusts just inside the ear 
  • Swelling of the ear 

Severe ear infections can cause the following symptoms:

  • Loss of balance or coordination 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles 

How to Treat Ear Infections in Dogs

Once the exam is complete and your dog has been diagnosed with an ear infection, the vet will offer a treatment plan including antibiotics. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a topical medication and instruct you on how and when to apply it to your dog's ear at home.

While the speed at which your dog recovers depends on how quickly treatment began, the symptoms typically begin to clear up in a week or two. If your dog's ear infection is more severe or is caused by an underlying health condition, treatment may be more challenging and may take months to resolve. In many cases, more severe cases result in chronic ear infections in dogs or repeated ear infections over the course of the pet's lifetime.

You should always follow your vet's instructions exactly as given. This will help your dog to recover quickly and lower the risk of secondary conditions. Not finishing prescriptions, or stopping treatment before the infection has completely cleared can lead to a recurring infection that becomes increasingly difficult to treat.

If your dog has been diagnosed and treated for an ear infection you should schedule a follow-up visit with the vet. While it may look as if the infection has cleared there may still be traces of infection that are difficult for owners to spot. If you do not see treatment through as prescribed it can lead to a reoccurrence of the infection and serious complications.

Preventing Ear Infections in Dogs

Our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets believe that prevention is always better than treatment when it comes to ear infections. The key to preventing ear infections is to keep your dog's ears clean and always dry them after they've been in water.

Speak to your primary care veterinarian about the best cleaning solution for your dog's ears. Take the time to gently clean your dog's ears every week, and dry them every time they get out of water.

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 our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets today to book an examination.

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Holland Veterinary Hospitals in Hattiesburg and Wiggins are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all animals. Get in touch today to book an appointment with our experienced vets.

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