Ear infections are very common in dogs though cats can be affected. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone than other breeds. There are two types of infections; Otitis externa of the outer ear canal and Otitis media of the middle ear. Most ear infections can be successfully treated.
Otitis externa is very common in many dogs and some cats. Bacteria and yeast are most often the cause of the ear infections. Other contributing factors are constant moisture in the ear, an accumulation of wax, thick and matted hair, allergies, autoimmune and generalized skin diseases, any kind of debris or foreign body, and a tumor or ear drainage. An Otitis media is usually a result from the spread of infection from the external ear.
When an infection is present, the ear will appear red, feel warm to the touch, possibly swollen and have an odor to it. Your dog may show signs of discomfort by favoring the ear, tilting it’s’ head to one side or the other, constant shaking of the head and scratching at the ear. An ear infection is very painful for your pet.
If you are very in tune to your dog’s behavior and well-being, you may be able to suspect the onset of an infection before professional medical attention is needed. However, if your dog is suffering from a painful ear infection, your veterinarian will perform certain tests and cultures on the ears to determine the cause and type of infection. A full exam with an otoscope will be performed to view the ear canal for any abnormalities, foreign objects and troubles with the ear drums. Your veterinarian will also do a culture or cytology of the ear by getting a sample of the inner ear and looking through the microscope for organisms causing the infection. An x-ray may be taken as well. Once your doctor has made a definitive diagnosis, the treatment will be prescribed.
Once you know the type of infection you are dealing with, begin by cleaning the ear properly. Use a cleaner purchased at your nearby pet store. Start with restraining your dog. If it is a difficult task, hold your dog and wrap in blanket or towel with only the head exposed. You may need a helper.
Use a cotton ball, gauze or soft cloth and moisten with ear cleaner. Gently rub all dirt, wax and debris from the entire ear lobe. A moistened cotton swab can work better to clean between each fold and cartilage within the ear.
Apply a few squirts of cleaner within the ear canal and tenderly close the ear flap and rub/massage the ear from the outside at the base to help the cleaner soften any inner dirt and debris. Clean the inner ear with cotton balls or gauze sponges to remove the excess cleaner and debris. Avoid using the cotton swabs which could damage the ear drum. If you do not have ear cleaner, there is an inexpensive solution you can make at home that can also clean the toughest alkaline organisms within the ear. Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar and use for regular ear cleanings.
Cleaning the ear regularly can prevent the onset of an infection. However, if you are aware that the ear is infected and inflamed, it will be necessary to visit your veterinarian for medication to clear up and cure the infection. Administer as directed along with the cleanings per your doctor’s orders. For further information and details on ear infections, go to: Otitis Externa in Dogs, Ear Mites in Dogs, and How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears.