Chronic Ear Infections and Allergies
If your dog is prone to chronic ear infections, then you’ll want to discover the cause so that you can prevent them. In some cases, regular cleaning once or twice a week clears up the problem while in others, it’s not so simple. In these latter cases, it often turns out to be allergy-related. Your dog may have environmental allergies, such as to pollen, or food-related allergies, such as to chicken, soy, or beef. We'll work with you as a team our goal will be to track down allergens and provide your precious pup with relief.
If you have any concerns about your dog's ears, please contact your family vet. Breed disposition, lifestyle, and allergies can all contribute to the development of ear infections, and we're here to help you with both treatment and prevention.
Ear Discharge - pets
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.
In the photographs below, unless otherwise noted, the dog is facing with her nose pointing to your right.
Variations on these instructions exist.
Ear cleaning and medicating can be messy so cover good clothes and work on a surface that is easy to clean.
Most dogs do not like having their ears cleaned. Some dogs will happily sit in your lap or on a table while you clean or medicate their ears but many require some form of restraint.
One method to restrain the dog is to place her/him on a table. Stand on the side of the table opposite to the ear you are medicating in the photograph the right ear is being medicated.
Drape your right arm over the dog's shoulders. Wrap your left arm around the head and neck and use the finger tips of the left hand to push the ear flap back and up to expose the inner surface of the ear.
If the dog tries to stand, lean your upper body over his/her shoulders to prevent him/her from rising.
If your dog is too wiggly, try laying him/her on his/her side. Reach over his/her neck with your left arm and firmly grasp the elbow of the leg closest to the table. Always hold the leg close to the elbow, NOT close to the toes.
Keep your left elbow on his/her neck to prevent him/her from picking up his/her head. Use the fingers of your right hand to pull back the ear flap to expose the inner side of the ear. If the ear flaps are long, you can tuck the ear flap under your left elbow.
Holding the medication bottle in your right hand, place the prescribed number of drops of medication into the ear canal.
It is easier to perform this procedure if you have a helper.
The ear has 3 major parts:
- outer ear
- middle ear
- inner ear
The outer ear consists of the ear flap (also called the pinna) which can be upright (a prick ear) or floppy. The ear flap funnels sound into the ear canal. Unlike humans that have a very short ear canal, dogs have a long narrow ear canal that makes almost a 90 degree bend as it travels to the deeper parts of the ear.
The outer ear cannel is separated from the middle ear by a thin membrane called the eardrum or tympanic membrane. The ear drum is very fragile and can be damaged by ear disease or during ear cleaning. The middle ear consists of 3 small bones, an air filled cavity called the bulla and a thin tube (the eustachian tube) leading from the bulla to the back of the mouth.
The inner ear connects to the brain and contains nerves and centers for balance and hearing. The following picture shows a diagram of the right ear as it appears if you are looking at the dog's head from the front. A CT scan of the head is pictured on the right.
Dogs have many more ear problems than cats. Dogs with heavy floppy ears have the most problems with ear infections. Some breeds have lots of hair in and around the ear canal which causes them to develop ear infections. Dogs that spend lots of time in the water also are prone to developing ear infections.
Dogs with skin allergies may have ear problems as part of the allergy.
The outer ear flap is usually covered with fur.
If the ear is itchy, scratching may result in hair loss on the ear flap or at the base of the ear. Severe scratching may also lead to tears at the edges of the ear. Ear damage may lead to bleeding between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap a hematoma. The ear flap is swollen, warm and painful.
The inner side of the ear should be a healthy pink color. A small amount of black discharge may be observed.
Ear infections may result in:
- head shaking
- ear scratching
- rubbing ears on the floor or other surfaces
Ear cleaning can be accomplished with the following supplies:
- ear wash solution
- cotton balls
- a tweezers or hemostat to pluck hair
- q tips may be used if used properly
Ear cleaning solutions contain various chemicals and may contain drying agents. Check with your veterinarian regarding which product to use and how often to use it. Excessive ear cleaning can be damaging to the ear.
If the "non-furred", inner side of the ear flap contains lots of fur at the opening to the ear canal, a few hairs at a time can be plucked. Lots of hair at the opening to the ear canal reduces air flow into the ear. Good air flow is important to maintaining a healthy ear.
The ear wash solution is squeezed into the ear canal. A few drops of ear wash should be applied to the inside of the ear flap and then the tip of the ear wash bottle should be inserted a few millimeters into the ear canal, to place some of the wash solution down the ear canal. Be careful not to tightly force the tip of the bottle into the ear canal as forceful squeezing of the bottle with the bottle wedged into the ear canal could rupture the ear drum.
The dog will usually shake its head as soon as the wash is inserted into the ear, shaking out much of the solution.
Massage the base of the ear to distribute the wash solution throughout the ear canal. Dogs usually like this part.
Use cotton balls to remove discharge from the inner side of the ear flap.
You can also use q tips to clean the inner side of the ear flap
Ear Discharge - pets
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for dogs’ vet visits. Unlike the human ear canal, which lies horizontally, the canine ear canal is mainly vertical, making it the perfect trap for moisture and foreign bodies.
As you can imagine, the combination of warmth and trapped moisture deep inside your dog’s ears creates the ideal environment for bacterial and yeast infections to flourish. An ear infection can also develop due to the presence of ear mites, allergies, and excessive hair and wax.
Ear infections are often extremely painful and need to be treated by a vet to prevent permanent damage to the middle ear and ear canal, which could leave your dog with significant or total hearing loss.
Here are the 5 most common signs that your dog has an ear infection:
- Scratching the ears and head.
- There is a foul-smelling, yellow, brown or bloody discharge.
- The ear is red and swollen.
- Your dog is rubbing its head against furniture, shaking its head or holding it at an angle.
- A loss of balance and/or walking in circles.
If you see any of these symptoms, you need to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Especially because these symptoms can be a sign of something more serious. Of course, prevention is better than the cure, so it pays to keep your pet’s ears healthy.
Tips to prevent ear infections
- Look inside your dog’s ears regularly for any irregular odour, discharge or redness.
- Clean dirty inner ears gently with a thick cotton ball and a solution designed for dogs. Your vet will be able to advise you on how often you need to do this and the best product for your dog.
- Make sure you dry your pet’s ears thoroughly after swims and baths.
- Watch for excessive hair in your dog’s ears. Get it trimmed by a groomer or ask your vet to show you how to trim it at home.
At South Eastern Animal Hospital, we can advise you on the best way to keep your dog’s ears healthy to prevent the pain and expense of infections. Contact us for more information.
Treat Your Dog’s Ear Infection
Ear inspections in dogs most commonly make an appearance during the summer and winter months. If you suspect an infection of any kind, visit Germantown Vet for diagnosis and treatment. Our trained veterinarians will look into your pup’s ear canals with a special tool called an otoscope to diagnose the cause of the brown discharge. We’ll also check for secondary infections that may have developed.
We can usually begin treatment for your dog’s ear infection right away. First, we gently clean your dog’s ears to remove the brown gunk in your dog’s ears. Then, we apply the first dose of eardrops designed to treat the underlying cause. We’ll show you how to administer the medication so you can continue treatment at home.