Ear infections are a common medical issue that occurs in dogs. Ear infections are typically caused by moisture that gets trapped inside the ear canal. The moist environment is a breeding ground for infectious organisms, such as yeast and bacteria. Floppy-eared dogs are highly susceptible to ear infections, especially in the summer time. Since the ear flap covers the opening to the ear canal, air is unable to circulate, which creates a warm, moist environment for the infectious organisms.
Ear infections are easily prevented by cleaning your dog’s ears with a drying solution on a regular basis, especially floppy-eared dogs. During the winter, make sure you clean the ears each time your dog has a bath. This ensures 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 two 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.
Several good ear cleaning solutions are 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). Although not as effective as the commercial cleaning solutions, it can be used if you are on a budget. Note: It is important to have an expert show you the proper procedure for cleaning your dog’s ears before you attempt it at home.
Several factors can lead to ear infections. As I stated, the most common cause is moisture in the ear canal. Ear infections can also be caused by a foreign object (such as a tick or grass seed) in the ear. Additionally, they can be caused by allergies. The skin in the ear is the most tender skin on the dog’s 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 (See #37 Allergies in Dogs).
Ear infections are easiest to treat 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 infection progresses, you will also begin to see a discharge. This discharge can be an oozing pus or dark brown or black waxy build-up.
If your dog is showing the symptoms mentioned above, then you should to take him to a veterinarian, so that a diagnosis of the underlying issue can be made. If it is your dog’s 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. Chronic ear infections are much harder to treat. Therefore, the sooner you get a diagnosis, the better the chance of successful treatment.