Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
The canine ear canal, with its horizontal and vertical layout, predisposes certain dogs to ear infections because the debris accumulated in earwax and skin oil must work its way upward, instead of straight out. This debris feeds the fungi and bacteria that normally live in the ear canal and breeds painful, itchy ear infections.
For dogs that love to get in the water to play and swim, the extra moisture in the ear can mean chronic ear infections that, if left untreated, result in deafness, balance issues and constant pain.
So what can a responsible pet parent do when your dogs can’t seem to stay out of the water and you don’t want to curtail their fun? Learning what causes infection, getting a proper veterinary diagnoses and treatment, then preventing any further disease with regular ear cleaning at home helps keep your pooch healthy and safe while still allowing for the summertime activities you both love.
What causes my dog’s ear infections?
There can be any number of reasons your dog has an ear infection, ranging from an abundance of yeast, to an invasion of bacteria or mites, to trauma, allergies or hereditary issues.
Dogs with heavy, floppy ears, like the beagle and the cocker spaniel, are prone to infections due to excess moisture buildup. Additionally, cockers, poodles and the Maltese – just about any breed with an excess of hair in the canal – tend to be primed for ear infections unless their ear hair is regularly plucked during grooming.
What symptoms should I watch for?
It’s fairly easy to tell if your dog has developed an ear infection. If you notice any of the following signs, veterinary treatment is recommended to alleviate the problem: scratching or rubbing of the ears; excessive head shaking; red, inflamed ears; black or yellowish discharge; offensive ear odor; constant head tilting; pain upon handling of the ears; or behavioral changes, such as depression or irritability.
What kind of treatment is available?
Veterinary treatment typically relies on antibacterial or antifungal eardrops, depending on the diagnosed cause of your dog’s ear infection, and may require several treatments daily. Your veterinarian may also prescribe systemic antibiotics or corticosteroids to deal with any lingering skin infections and inflammation. These drugs often take several weeks to become effective and, over time, can lose their efficacy if your dog’s ear infections are chronic.
Is there a way to prevent ear infections?
The best way to prevent your pooch from cultivating an infection is by starting a regular, at-home ear-cleaning regimen. You can buy ear cleaning solutions from your veterinarian, but those products typically contain an assortment of chemicals that become less effective over time, and they can be cost-prohibitive when used regularly.
An all-natural, organic formula with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties may be just the answer to your problem. A few drops in each ear every week can break down any waxy buildup, which can become a breeding ground for infection. Additionally, if you look for a solution containing essential oils and organics such as comfrey, calendula and arnica, you’ll ease any itching and discomfort caused by inflammation, and repel any water that gets into the ear while swimming or bathing.
For the dog that loves to swim (or the dog that is frequently bathed), look for an ear cleanser with gentle, drying properties. A formula consisting of essential oils and aloe softens ear wax and sanitizes ear tissue, while the touch of alcohol helps dry any moisture in the ear. Lavender, eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil in the solution relieves swelling or redness, and promotes the healing of infected skin.
What always works for my dogs is using Ear Clear before a bath or swim. It’s a viscous serum that actually repels water. After swimming (or a bath), try putting in Ear Cleanser, which will help to dispel any water that may have found its way into your dog’s ears.