Just as in humans, ear infections can be very painful and irritating to dogs. If untreated they can even cause hearing loss. The exact cause of an ear infection can be difficult to diagnose. Your vet may need to perform tests on samples from the ear canal to pinpoint the exact cause and determine the proper medication and treatment. If left untreated, surgery may be required to fix the damage so an early diagnosis is much safer and healthier for your pet.
Any breed of dog may get an ear infection. A dog's ear canal slopes downward so debris must move upwards, not straight out. Dogs like schnauzers who naturally have hair growing in the ear canal or dogs like cocker spaniels with heavy, pendulous ears are more susceptible to infections because the hair and ear traps moisture and wax inside the ear canal. Infections can be caused by an overproduction of ear wax triggered by skin allergies, ear mites, hair growth, or a foreign object in the ear. The moisture of this wax or of water from bathing or swimming is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and soon leads to an infection.
A dog with an ear infection would be seen frequently shaking or scratching at its head. A bad odor or black or yellow discharge may come out of the ear canal and the dog may tilt their head to one side if the infection has reached the middle ear. Most infections can be treated by a good cleaning from the vet and topical medications like ear drops. More resistant infections may need oral or topical antibiotics for treatment. Infections resulting from ear mites or another parasite will also require treatment to get rid of the parasite, usually as simple as the average flea and tick medication. Extreme cases or infections left untreated sometimes need a surgical opening or reconstruction of the ear canal to eliminate the infection.
Ear mites are very small parasites that can affect a dog or cat's coat. Despite the misleading name, they can be found anywhere on the pet's body, but they tend to prefer the warm, moist climate of the ears more. Similar symptoms are seen as in a regular ear infection, but tiny white spots can be seen on the dark waxy discharge in the ear. The mites can be seen much more easily under magnification and it is best to have your vet accurately diagnose an ear mite infestation to treat the condition properly.
The mites live their entire two month lives on a host. It takes a mite about three weeks to mature from an egg to an adult ready to reproduce and at that time, they can be easily spread to other animals in the household. Once an ear mite infestation is diagnosed, it is best to treat every pet in the house and even treat the dog's bedding and environment if the problem continues to reoccur.
Since the infestation can irritate the ear and cause extra wax production, moisture in the ear is increased and may lead to a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. Always see your veterinarian to diagnose any health problem. Keeping your pets current with flea and tick remedies
and other vaccinations can also help avoid other parasites like ear mites. As with most other common diseases, prevention is the key to a happy and healthy pet.
Ear infections & ear mites can be easily treated if caught early. Make cleaning and inspecting the ears of your dog part of your regular grooming routine and you'll be able to catch these problems early, as well as get the dog used to be handled and cleaned around the ears. Always keep the ear canal dry while bathing and during medication to avoid complicating the problem.