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How to know if your dog has an ear infection?

Dog ears are incredibly unique, from their various sizes to their internal shape. Unfortunately, this can lead to more frequent ear infections. Here, our emergency vets in Lacey discuss how to know if a dog has an ear infection and when they may need veterinary care.

Why do dogs get ear infections so often?

The shape of a dog's ear canal is one of the leading reasons behind their increased risk of ear infections. Dogs' ear canals are shaped differently than humans', leaving them prone to these conditions. Suppose your canine companion loves to swim or has long, floppy ears. In that case, they will be even more susceptible to ear infections since moisture can become trapped in the ear and create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.

While they may be more common, there are methods of preventing these issues. The key is preventing them as quickly as possible to avoid further issues. Left untreated, ear infections in dogs can develop quickly and result in symptoms such as balance and coordination issues, pain and, in severe cases, facial paralysis.

The Causes of Dog Ear Infections

While bacterial ear infections are the most common, there are other potential causes, such as:

  • Yeast
  • Fungus
  • Ear mites
  • Foreign objects lodged in the ear
  • Trauma
  • Tumors / Polyps

The three parts of the ear that can become infected are:

  • Otitis external (outer ear infection) infections affect the outside of the ear.
  • Otitis media (middle ear infection) indicates an infection in the dog's middle ear.
  • Otitis internal (inner ear infection) is the infection of your pet's inner ear.

Signs of Dog Ear Infections

Anyone who has ever had an ear infection knows that the associated pain can be brutal. If your dog shows any of the following signs of an ear infection, contact your veterinarian immediately to book an examination. Having your dog examined as soon as possible can help treatment begin sooner, reducing the risk of complications. Fungal and bacterial ear infections in dogs can each present their own symptoms, but these will be similar.

The typical signs of an ear infection in dogs include:

  • Pawing or rubbing at the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness inside of the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Tilting head
  • Crusts or scabs just inside the ear
  • Swelling of the ear

For severe ear infections in dogs, you may also notice the following symptoms:

  • Indications of hearing loss
  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles

How are ear infections treated?

Once the exam is complete and your dog has been diagnosed with an ear infection, the vet will offer a treatment plan, including antibiotics. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a topical medication and instruct you on how and when to apply it to your dog's ear at home.

While the speed at which your dog recovers depends on how quickly treatment began, the symptoms typically begin to clear up in a week or two. If your dog's ear infection is more severe or caused by an underlying health condition, treatment may be more challenging and take months to resolve. More severe cases often result in chronic ear infections in dogs or repeated ear infections throughout the pet's lifetime.

You should always follow your vet's instructions exactly as given. This will help your dog to recover quickly and lower the risk of secondary conditions. Not finishing prescriptions or stopping treatment before the infection completely clears can lead to a recurring infection that becomes increasingly difficult to treat.

If your dog has been diagnosed and treated for an ear infection, you should schedule a follow-up visit with the vet. While it may look as if the infection has cleared, there may still be traces of infection that are difficult for owners to spot. If you do not follow treatment as prescribed, it can lead to a reoccurrence of the infection and serious complications.

How are ear infections in dogs prevented?

Our Lacey vets believe that prevention is always better than treatment regarding ear infections. The key to preventing ear infections is to keep your dog's ears clean and always dry them after they've been in the water.

Speak to your primary care veterinarian about the best cleaning solution for your dog's ears. Take the time to gently clean your dog's ears every week, and dry them every time they get out of water.

How can ear infections in dogs be prevented from spreading?

Are ear infections actually contagious? No, but parasites and ear mites can travel from one dog to another. These pests can cause a reaction that leads to an ear infection. Parasite prevention is a great way to reduce the risk of infestations.

When should you take your dog to a pet otoscope vet check?

Otoscopy is a diagnostic technique that uses a flexible tool with a camera and a light on the end to magnify the inside of the ear canal. This allows your vet to examine the inside of the ear for abnormalities.

These are recommended and performed if your dog begins to display any of the symptoms listed above, such as head shaking, swelling of the ear and discharge.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

If you think your dog is showing signs of a severe ear infection, please contact our Lacey emergency animal hospital immediately for urgent care.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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Contact (360) 455-5155