a Dog ear infection: Complete guide on identification, diagnosis, treatment and home remedies. - The Happy Puppers (Dog care, grooming, behavior and training)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Dog ear infection: Complete guide on identification, diagnosis, treatment and home remedies.

Dog ear infection: everything you need to know as a dog guardian




Dog ear infection is a pretty common condition. Around 20% of dogs suffer from some kind of disease which may affect one or both the ears. Ear infections are especially common in dogs with floppy ears like Cocker Spaniel and Basset hounds. 

In this article I am going to cover the following:

I.      Causes behind ear infection in dogs
II.     Types of ear infections seen in dogs, their symptoms and chronic case scenarios
III.    Other signs implicating towards presence of dog ear infection
IV.    Factors making your dog prone to ear infection
V.     Diagnosis
VI.   Treatment by the veterinarian
VII.  How to prevent ear infection
VIII. How to clean your dog’s ears at home
IX.    How to fix ear infection (home/natural remedies)
X.     Herbal remedies for mild ear infections
XI.    Homeopathic remedies for ear infections

Pin this article for later: 
The complete guide to ear infection in dogs
The complete guide to ear infection in dogs

I. Reasons behind ear infection in dogs

The ear canal in canines is more vertical compared to humans. It forms an L shape which has the tendency to accumulate fluid. This tends to make dogs more susceptible to ear infections. Mostly ear infections are caused due fungi (yeast) or bacteria or a combination of the two. During puppy hood, ear mites can also act as a source of infection.

II. Types of ear infection seen in dogs

The types of ear infection in dogs can be classified into mainly 3 categories:

1. Otitis externa
2. Otitis media
3. Otitis interna

Otitis externa infection: 

This is the most common type of ear infection observed in dogs. In this case, the inflammation affects the cell layer which lines the external region. This infection is personally seen in dogs having hairy or floppy ears like Old English Sheepdogs, Miniature Poodles, Bloodhound, Cocker Spaniels etc but can affect any of the breeds.


Signs and symptoms  of otitis externa

  • Head shaking
  • Pain in ear (pain symptoms in dogs)
  • Ear scratching
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Offensive odor emanating from ear
  • Blackish or yellowish discharge from ears

Chronic case scenario:

The ear may look thickened or crusty and the ear canals become narrowed due to the inflammation


Ear infections can be pretty painful for dogs
Ear infections can be pretty painful for dogs

Otitis media:

These refer to the infections occurring in the middle ear canal. Most often these infections arise by the spread of infection from the external ear. These can also occur as a result of penetration of the eardrum by a foreign object. Another possibility behind this infection is a spread of an existing infection from the bloodstream to the ears. 


Signs and symptoms of otitis media 

  • Ear scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Rubbing affected ear on the floor
  • Rotating the head towards the affected side
  • Pain in the ear
  • Inflammatory changes in outer ear canal
  • Recurrent inflammation in outer ear
Chronic case scenario: 
As the sympathetic (the part of autonomic nervous system responsible for the body's involuntary responses) and facial nerves pass through middle ear, a severe middle ear infection can lead to the following:
  • Drooping of eyelids
  • Constriction of the pupil
  • Eyeball sinkage into orbital cavity
  • Third eyelid protrusion
  • Facial nerve paralysis
  • Difficulty in maintaining balance
  • Closing of the ear canal (hyperplasia or stenosis)
  • Nystagmus (involuntary rhythmic eye movement) may also occur
  • In case the inflammation spreads to the brain, neurological symptoms might be observed

Otitis interna: 

Otitis interna is the inflammation of the inner ear. It is most often caused by a pre-existing infection. Most commonly the infectious agent is bacterial, although yeast (fungal) infection can also cause an infection in the inner ear. 

Irrespective of the breed of the dog, any dog suffering from chronic ear infection can lead to development of otitis interna in case the eardrum is damaged. This will allow bacteria to migrate to the inner ear and cause infection. 


Otitis interna is mostly caused by a pre-existing infection
Otitis interna is mostly caused by a pre-existing infection

III. Other signs to look for which might implicate towards an infection of the ear:

If your dog is suffering from vomiting or nausea, it may be a symptom that your dog is suffering from an acute phase of otitis interna. 

Furthermore, if the facial nerve suffers a damage due to the infection, your pup may start to show the following signs:
  • Development of dry eye
  • Difficulty in eating and dropping food
  • Drilling from side of the mouth
  • Eye discharge
  • Drooping of eyelids, nostrils and lips on affected side
  • Uneven pupil size
  • Inability to blink

IV. Factors which make your dog susceptible to ear infection

As per the AKC, the following factors make your dog susceptible to ear infections
  • Injury to the ear canal
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Buildup of wax in the ear
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Presence of foreign bodies
  • Allergies (50% of dogs with allergic skin and 80% of dogs with food insensitivities tend to develop ear infections)
  • Moisture which provides the perfect growth environment for bacteria and fungi.

Infection due to aural hematoma

In case your dog shakes his or her head too forcefully, it can result in an aural hematoma. In this, a pool of blood forms between the ear flap cartilage and the skin.

Infection due to ear mites (cynotis)

Ear mites also known as otodectes cynotis, are a type of mange. Even though ear mites are most commonly seen in puppies and kittens, adult dogs can also contact ear mites from infected cats or puppies. Ear mites tend to create a suitable growth environment for yeast and bacteria. 
Presence of ear mites can lead to similar symptoms as mentioned above:
  • Ear scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Blackish discharge
Ear mites mostly known to affect puppies can also affect adult dogs
Ear mites mostly known to affect puppies can also affect adult dogs
V. Diagnosis of ear infection in dogs

In case your dog is showing any symptom of ear pain or infection, take him or her to the veterinarian as soon as possible.  These conditions can be very painful for your dog.  Thus, the sooner he or she gets medical attention, the better. 
Be sure to let your vet know of the following details:
  • Duration of the symptoms
  • If your dog is on any pre-existing medications
  • Whether your dog has any allergies
  • Recent grooming activities like swimming, baths etc.
  • Any ear infection history of your dog
  • Recent diet of your dog
  • Whether you have plucked or trimmed the hair in your dog's ear.
Once the veterinarian has the complete history of your dog, he or she will begin the physical examination of your pup. In case, a deep ear canal examination is needed, your vet may recommend sedating your dog.  
The examination procedure may include:
  • Visual assessment to check for swelling, discharge and redness
  • Palpation to access the pain level
  • Microscopic examination of samples collected via ear swabbing to check for mites, ticks or microbes.
  • Ear sample culture
  • Examination of the ear with an otoscope to check the status of the eardrum and ear canal.
  • X Rays or biopsies in severe cases.

VI. Treatment by the veterinarian

First your vet will completely clean your dog's ears by using a medicinal ear cleanser
He may also prescribe an ear cleanser along with medication to use at home. Oral antibiotics like Amoxicillin and anti-inflammatory medicines may be needed in severe cases.
In case it's a simple ear infection, it should resolve itself within one to two weeks. However, if your dog is suffering from a chronic condition, if all other oral and external treatments have been unsuccessful, your vet may recommend a surgery like Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA). In TECA, the ear canal is removed, preventing the recurrence of infection. 
Always follow through on every recheck appointment. Do not stop the course of medication even if your pup seems to be doing better. If you fail to administer the complete course of medication it can lead to resistant infections in the future.

VII. How to prevent ear infection 

Prevention is always better than the cure. Mostly, excess moisture is the cause of ear infection in dogs. Always dry your dog's ears thoroughly post bath or swim. 
If your dog has a tendency of developing ear infections, try to identify and manage the underlying cause like allergy so that the infection can be prevented from occurring itself.


You need to be extra careful if your dog has a tendency to swim or is water loving
You need to be extra careful if your dog has a tendency to swim or is water loving
VIII. Clean your dog's ear at home:

Fill the ear canal with dog specific ear cleaning solution. 
Massage the ear canal from the outside
Wipe off the canal with an absorbent gauze. Do not use paper towels or cotton as they might leave behind fibre in the ear which can cause irritation later. 
You can use cotton swabs to clean the ear flaps (pinnae) but don’t use them for the ear canals.

IX. Why should you go for home remedies for ear infections?

Mostly your vet will administer drugs which administer the symptoms but not the underlying issue as to why the ear infection is occurring. They will prescribe antibiotics to your dog. Antibiotics tend to disrupt the natural balance of healthy bacteria in the stomach of your dog making him or her prone to other microorganisms.
In hard cases, your vet might prescribe steroids. Steroids suppress the immune system leaving your pup susceptible to other infections. Check out these other home remedies which can be used for treating a wide variety of dog health issues

X. Home remedies for ear cleaning and infections 

You can easily maintain good ear health by use of a mild herbal ear remedy once a month or in case your dog is swimming a lot or is suffering from seasonal allergies. However, if your dog is prone to allergies, the following natural remedies shall definitely help.

Camomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile has anti inflammatory, relaxing, sedative, analgesic as well as antiseptic properties which makes it the perfect candidate for soothing sore ears in case your dog has been rubbing or scratching them incessantly.

Dosage 
make chamomile tea, let it cool and add a few drops to your dogs ears.
If your pup is in pain, you can buy a glycerin tincture of chamomile and provide 0.25 to 0.5 ml per 20 lbs body weight, twice a day.

Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic can be added to your dogs diet daily to root out the infection from inside out. To add it to your dog’s diet, peel the cloves and crush the fresh garlic. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then add it to your dog’s diet. Check out this post for other benefits of ginger.

Dosage
⅙ tsp for a 5 lbs dog
⅓ tsp for a 10 lbs dog
½ tsp for a 15 lbs dog
⅔ tsp for a 20 lbs dog
1 tsp for a 30 lbs or more weighing dog

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Witch hazel can help to reduce the swelling in the ear canal and reduce the pain. This is also great for drying out ears if your dog tends to swim a lot. 

Dosage
A few drops should be enough to dry out the ears. However, if your dog has any sores or cute, refrain from using this remedy. The alcohol will hurt and burn the sore regions further.


Multiple home remedies are available for treating ear infection in dogs
Multiple home remedies are available for treating ear infection in dogs

Natural Soothing solutions for your dogs ear in case of an infection

Yoghurt
Use plain unsweetened yoghurt
Place some yoghurt into your dog’s ear canal with the help of a syringe to repopulate the region with the ‘good’ bacteria.

Calendula tincture
Buy calendula tincture.
Add 5 to 10 drops to ½ cup lukewarm filtered water.
Put a few drops in the ear with a dropper or sponge the ear with the solution.

Green tea
Boil 8 oz of water.
Add 2 green tea bags
Let it steep for a few minutes
Allow to cool till lukewarm temperature.
Syringe or sponge some into your dog’s ear canal.

Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is a very powerful antioxidant. It also contains antiviral, anti fungal and anti bacterial properties. 

For topical use, add 10 drops of the GSE to ½ oz of aloe Vera juice and clean the ears with it

For internal administration,add 3-5 drops of GSE to the food of your dog.

Oil of oregano
This is a natural antibiotic
Add 1 drop of oil of oregano to ½ oz of warm aloe vera juice. This mixture can be used either topically or added to your dog’s food (a few drops).

NOTE: These remedies will only help soothe the ear and the pain. These won’t make the infection disappear.


Soothing remedies are only a temporary solution. They should not be considered as treatment option
Soothing remedies are only a temporary solution. They should not be considered as treatment option
XI. Herbal remedies for mild ear infections in dogs

Vinegar and water mix
Mix 1:1 of apple cider vinegar with spring or filtered water. Apply it to the ear once daily for a period of few weeks.It must be followed by reduction in dosage to once a week for several months. 
Be sure to get the liquid into the ear canal by holding your dog absolutely still. You can either squirt (one dropper full) or pour the liquid into the canal. Following this, massage gently beneath the ear.

Mullein drops
You can either buy mullein drops or make your own.

To make your own:
Seal mullein flowers and leaves in a glass jar. Cover it with olive oil. 
To increase the effectiveness, add one or two garlic cloves per pint of oil.
Allow the mixture to sit for a couple of weeks.
Strain it and apply several drops of warmed oil to the ear canal everyday.

XII. Homeopathic remedies for ear infection in dogs
Choose a homeopathic remedy depending on the symptoms your dog is displaying. Start with a 30c potency.

Belladonna
Belladonna is to be used in case the ears are hot and inflamed. 

Pulsatilla
This remedy is to be used in case of acute flare ups. In case your dog is showing high sensitivity, redness and a yellowish discharge. 

Hepar Sulphuris
This is used for irritable dogs who do not like to have anyone touch their ears. 

Dosage
For homeopathic remedies, out 2 to 3 pellets directly into your dogs mouth. Try to not touch them with your hand.

Alternatively, you can put the pellets in a small amount of spring or filtered water. Stir vigorously and then feed it to your dog with the help of a dropper.

Administer the remedy every half an hour up to 3 doses, then wait to see if your dog feels better.

Conslusion:

So now you know all that is to know about caring your your dog's ears better. Keep checking them on a regular basis. If you feel there is any problem, consult your vet as soon as possible. It is always preferable to have a discussion with your vet before hand about ear infections and what to do in case of emergencies so that you are prepared in case the need arises.

PS:If you liked this post, please leave a comment. If you have any further questions, you can reach out to me on any of my social media channels or drop your questions in the comments below. I will be happy to reciprocate.

Pin this article for later:
The one and only article you need to understand ear infections in dogs
The one and only article you need to understand ear infections in dogs

14 comments:

  1. Aw, poor dogs! This can't be fun. I need to see if cats can get this too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is useful info since dogs cant talk. I will share this with my friend

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great blog. I learned so much thank you.

    ReplyDelete

  4. You have really dealt with many themes, all varied among themselves as useful and interesting to help and approach even better to our 4-legged friends.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is such an extensive guide. I'm not a pet person, but I definitely will share this with my friend who have doggies in their families. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a really helpful post now. Ear infection is very common in dogs these days.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good suggestion for dog owners, you have described it very well, the identification the cause behind the issue is more important to diagnose the matter and treat carefully…. (World in Eyes)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ear infections are super uncomfortable I can't imagine how a dog must feel suffering a ear infection thanks for identifying them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Our husky had some sort of infection while vets were closed due to COVID. We had to do a virtual appointment and go pick up antibiotics. She's feeling, and looking, so much better! This is very helpful information.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My girl Dav gets ear infections every spring and fall due to environmental allergies. It's something we've been dealing with for the 11 years that I've had her, so we're pretty familiar with it by now. While being extra diligent about keeping her ears clean helps to reduce the impact, each allergy season we pick up a cream from the vet that helps to clear up any flare ups that we see.

    ReplyDelete
  11. oh wow! this is really helpful for people who have dogs. i am planning to get my family a dog in the future and i will definitely come back to this blog post!

    ReplyDelete