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Ear Infection in Dogs

Ear Infection in Dogs

Ear infections are a chronic issue for many dog breeds, and they can turn serious if left untreated. In this post, our Lexington vets describe different types of ear infections and how they are diagnosed and treated.

Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections are fairly common in dogs and you’ll likely notice quickly if your pup begins to display symptoms. Common signs include excessively scratching their ear, whining or shaking their head, and discharge from the ear.

But what if the symptoms aren't visible or your dog's ear infection is left untreated? 

There are three types of ear infections in dogs with different affects and, in certain cases, different treatments.

Otitis Externa (Outer Ear)

Also called the “infection of the external ear canal" or “otitis externa," outer ear infection is one of the most common types found in dogs.

Otitis Media (Middle Ear) and Otitis Interna (Inner Ear)

Middle and inner ear infections typically occur when outer ear infections are left untreated. These can turn very serious and sometimes lead to vestibular symptoms, in addition to deafness and facial paralysis. That’s why it’s critical that outer ear infections are detected early, and that every reasonable effort to prevent infection is made.

Which dog breeds are susceptible to ear infections?

Certain breeds with larger, hairier or floppier ears may be more prone to infection due to the shape of their ear canal. Some classic examples are Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles. However, ear infections can happen in any breed of dog.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs

Aside from wax buildup and discharge in the ear canal, some dogs will not show any symptoms of ear infection and in others, serious symptoms can appear. Serious symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Redness or swelling in the ear canal
  • Crusting or scabs in the ears
  • Odor
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Head shaking
  • Dark discharge

Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs

Dogs have an L-shaped ear canal, which is what makes them more vulnerable to infection. Bacteria, yeast or a mix of both are able to stay inside the canal and fester more easily in dogs, which is why regular gentle cleaning of the ear is important for all dogs. Other factors that can contribute to ear infections include:

  • Injury to ear canal
  • Allergies (skin diseases or food sensitivities)
  • Moisture, which creates an environment where yeast and bacteria thrive, causing bacterial ear infections in dogs
  • Wax buildup

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you notice your dog displaying any symptoms of an ear infection, you will want to seek out veterinary care immediately. This is crucial to alleviate your pup of any pain or discomfort they're experiencing and to stop an outer ear infection from becoming a middle or inner ear infection. Prepare to brief your vet on your dog’s medical history, symptoms, recent activities, grooming and diet. The veterinarian will then perform a physical examination.

A medicated ear cleanser can be used to clean your dog’s ears, before the vet prescribes a topical medication for at-home use. Oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for severe cases.

While most uncomplicated infections will clear up within 1 to 2 weeks, severe symptoms or underlying conditions may lead to chronic ear infection or take longer to be resolved.

Surgery to remove the ear canal may be recommended in cases of severe chronic disease. This would eliminate diseased tissue and prevent infection from recurring.

What can happen if my dog’s ear infection is left untreated?

Your vet will need to treat your pooch right away if they are showing signs of ear infection. Left untreated or tended to inconsistently, ear infections can become more severe and lead to serious issues.

If antibiotics are prescribed, ensure the full course of treatment is completed, even if your dog’s ear infection looks as if it’s cleared up before the antibiotics are finished. It is important that your dog finishes all of the prescribed antibiotics in the time frame given to you at the beginning! 

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 think your dog may have an ear infection? Contact our Lexington animal clinic today to book an examination.

Emergency Care

Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for advanced diagnostic appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

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