Ear infections are one of the most common medical issues that occurs in dogs. This is especially true for dogs with floppy ears during the warm weather months. Ear infections are most commonly caused by moisture that gets trapped in the ears. The moist environment is a breeding ground for infectious organisms. The most common one being yeast. Air is unable to circulate through the ear canal of floppy eared dogs, thus creating that moist environment.
Ear infections are easiest to take care of in the early stages. Symptoms include redness, odor, excessive scratching at the ear, or tilting the head to one side. Ear infections can occur in one or both ears. As the infections progresses you will also begin to see a discharge. This discharge can be a oozing pus or dark brown/black waxy build-up.
Ear infections are easily prevented by ensuring that you clean the ears with a drying solution on a regular basis; again, especially in floppy eared dogs. During the winter, make sure you clean the ears each time the dog has a bath. This makes sure that the ear canal is dry after the moisture from the bath enters the ear canal. During the summer, you should clean the ears approximately every 2 weeks. Again, this is to make sure that they remain dry. If your dog is a swimmer, then the ears should be cleaned out after each swim.
There are several causes for ear infections. As I stated, the most common cause is moisture in the ear canal. However, ear infections can also be caused by a foreign object (such as a tick or grass seed) in the ear. They can also be caused by allergies. The skin in the ear is the most tender skin on the dogs body, so this is often where we see the inflammation of an allergic reaction manifest itself. The most common allergies to cause ear infections are flea allergies and food allergies.
So, the most important treatment is prevention; especially, if you have a floppy eared dog. This is accomplished with regular ear cleanings with a drying agent. There are several good ear cleaning solutions available. You can also use a mixture of 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 warm water dispensed with a bulb syringe (like the ones used on babies). This is not as effective as the commercial cleaning solutions, but can be used if you are on a budget.
If your dog is showing the symptoms mentioned above, then it is important to take it to the vet, so that a diagnosis of the underlying issue can be made. If it is their first ear infection, then it is most likely due to moisture trapped in the ear and a 10-14 day regimen of ear medication will clear it up. However, if your dog has been having reoccurring ear infections, then you are most likely looking at a bigger problem. So, it is important to have a diagnosis. Chronic ear infections are much harder to treat and the sooner you get a diagnosis, the better chances of successful treatment.