When to take a dog with an ear infection to the vet – head shaking
If your dog suddenly starts whining and scratching at her ears, sometimes hard enough to make them red and raw, she may have a common canine health problem—an ear infection. An ear infection is a common condition in dogs, especially those with floppy ears, such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels. It's estimated that about 20 percent of dogs have some form of ear disease. Believe it or not, yeast and bacteria, not EAR MITES, are the most common causes of ear infections in dogs.
What are signs of ear infections?
Ear canals are very sensitive, so the symptoms of infection are often clear, including:
• Scratching of the ear or area around the ear
• Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
• Odor in the ear
• Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
• Hair loss around the ear
• Rubbing of the ear and surrounding area on the floor or furniture
• Head shaking or head tilt
• Loss of balance
• Unusual eye movements
• Walking in circles
• Hearing loss
If your dog is showing any of these signs, it is important to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible, not only for your dog's comfort (these conditions can be extremely painful) but to also prevent spread to the middle and inner ear.
Be prepared to provide your vet with as thorough a history as possible. Your vet will want to know the following:
• Duration of any symptoms—pain, swelling, discharge, odor
• What your dog has been eating
• If your dog has any allergies or other conditions
• If your dog is on medication
• How often you clean your dog's ears
• If you've trimmed hair from the ears
• Recent activities such as baths, swimming, playing in a field, visiting the groomer
• History of ear infections (Is this the first one, or have there been others? When did they occur? How were they treated?)
The vet will conduct a thorough examination. The exam may include:
• Visual assessment looking for such signs as redness, crusts, swelling, blood
• Gentle palpation of the ear to assess level of pain
• Examination with an otoscope, which can look into the ear to identify foreign objects, impacted wax buildup and debris, ear mites, or eardrum damage
• Taking a swab of your dog’s ear discharge and looking at it under the microscope
• Biopsies and X-rays, for extreme or chronic cases
• The vet may have to sedate your pet to perform some or all of the above
How veterinarians treat ear infections in dogs
In the office, your vet may thoroughly clean your dog's ears. Sometimes this may require sedation. The veterinarian may prescribe a topical medication or systemic antibiotics, that you may need to continue administering at home. Finally, your vet may prescribe something for pain and inflammation for your pet.
Uncomplicated cases can take about 7 to 30 days to resolve but some may take months, and others may be chronic. Follow your vet's directions to the letter. Lapses in treatment might lead to a recurrence. It's extremely important to complete the full course of medication, even if it appears as if the ear looks better halfway through.
How to clean your dog's ear
• Squeeze ear cleaning solution into the ear, filling the ear canal. You can’t use too much.
• Put one finger in front of and at the base of the ear flap, and put your thumb behind and at the base.
• Gently massage the ear canal between your finger and thumb. A squishing sound tells you that the medication has gone into the horizontal canal.
• Insert a cotton ball into the ear canal and soak up stinky brown ear wax-laden excess liquid from deep within the canal.
• Repeat flushing as necessary, replacing saturated or soiled cotton with new, until the ear is dry and clean.
• Wipe any residue from the inside of the ear flap.
• Discard all used cotton. Never re-use anything from one ear on the other.
Cotton-tipped sticks may be useful in cleaning the folds on your dog’s ear flap, but don’t use them in the ear canal. You might inadvertently push debris deeper into the canal and pack it at the bottom.
How Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?
• Check your dog’s ears regularly for abnormal discharge, odor and/or redness.
• If your dog’s outer ear appears dirty, clean gently with a cotton ball dampened with a solution suggested by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can make recommendations on how frequently you should clean your dog’s ears.
• After baths and swimming, be sure to dry your dog’s ears thoroughly.
• If your dog has excessive hair in the outer ear canal, it should be removed. A groomer can do this, or you can ask your veterinarian to show you the proper technique for removing the hair.
Sources: AKC.org, WebMD.com