Dog Ear Infections 101: Everything You Need to Know
Spring has sprung … and unfortunately, so have dog ear infections!
Ear infections are the most common health condition in dogs, and it’s estimated that 20 percent of dogs have some form of ear disease.
The risk of your pooch getting an ear infection drastically increases in the spring and summer months.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to protect your pup and keep him healthy, happy and ear infection-free this season.
Keep reading for the dirt on Dog Ear Infections 101: Everything You Need to Know.
4 Clues That Fido Is Facing An Ear Infection
A little detective work on your part will likely uncover if your dog is suffering from an ear infection. (Your dog’s veterinarian is, of course, the definitive resource.)
#1. Look at Your Dog’s Ears
A normal dog ear should be light pink with a little bit of pale yellow wax. If the ear is red, inflamed, hot to the touch or contains excessive wax or debris that resembles coffee grounds (a sign of ear mites), chances are the ears are infected.
#2. Smell Your Dog’s Ears
Granted, this isn’t the most glamorous part of being a pet owner, but it’s a surefire way to tell if there’s a problem brewing in your dog’s ears. A strong musty smell is a sign of yeast overgrowth, and bacterial infections can also cause a funky odor.
#3. Cue in to Their Body Language
If your dog normally loves head pats and rubs behind the ears but is suddenly shying away, this could be your dog’s way of telling you his ears are infected.
#4. Watch for Head Shaking or Scratching
Infected ears are usually itchy ears! If you see your dog head shaking and scratching more than usual, that’s his way of saying, “I need a little help here!” Read more about the signs of dog ear infections.
Why Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?
- Allergies. Spring isn’t all tulips, daffodils, and longer days. It’s also the start of allergy season! This can be miserable for us humans, as well as for our four-legged friends. In fact, allergies are the #1 cause of canine ear infections. As your dog spends more time exploring the Great Outdoors, pollen, grass and other allergens can attach to the face and ears, leading to an ear infection.
Did you know? Dogs with food allergies are even more prone to ear infections. According to the American Kennel Club, 80 percent of dogs with food allergies will develop ear inflammation.
- Water Play. Does your dog love to swim or run through the sprinklers? This can put your pup at risk for ear infections. That’s because water can easily get trapped in the ears, due to the unique “L” shape of a dog’s ear canal. This warm, moist environment creates the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria growth. All dogs who spend time in the water can get ear infections, but the risk is even higher for floppy-eared breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Basset Hounds and Labradors.
- Abundant Ear Wax. Excessive ear wax is a cause of ear infection, and when a dog’s ears are infected, their bodies will produce even more wax to try and fight the infection. This works against them, often making the infection worse.
- Ear Mites. These pesky parasites most often affect young puppies or dogs who buddy up with outdoor cats. Ear mites feed on the wax and oils inside a pet’s ear and leave behind debris that looks like black coffee grounds. Ear mites create major itch, and it’s the wounds from all that scratching that can lead to ear infections.
- Medical Issues. A variety of medical conditions, from hypothyroidism to foreign objects lodged in the ear, can cause ear infections. Be sure to keep those regular checkups at the vet to make sure your pup is healthy.
Dog Ear Infection Treatment: What to Do
If your dog is showing signs of an ear infection, you’ll want to take action right away by scheduling an appointment with the veterinarian. The specific course of treatment will depend on the cause of the ear infection. For instance, ear infections caused by yeast are treated differently than those caused by bacteria or mites.
It’s important to follow treatment instructions exactly, otherwise you could find yourself right back in the vet’s office with a repeat infection. Not fun for your wallet and definitely not fun for your pet.
Warning: If you try to let it “run its course,” you could make the situation worse. Dogs with ear infections tend to excessively scratch at the ears to find relief from the itch. This can cause cuts and abrasions in the ear, which can be painful and make an existing infection more severe.
Some dogs get ear hematomas from vigorous head shaking and scratching. Ear hematomas are pockets filled with blood that form on a pet’s ear flap. While hematomas can sometimes heal on their own, the result can be the appearance of “cauliflower ear” due to the blood not reabsorbing evenly throughout the ear.
Most alarming, ear infections that spread to the inner ear can cause permanent hearing loss, serious eye problems, facial paralysis, and problems with balance and coordination. All of these things can be devasting to a dog’s quality of life.
Prevention Is Your Best Measure Against Dog Ear Infections
Towel off. Dry both sides of your dog’s ears after water play. This will discourage yeast from brewing in the ear.
Rule out food allergies. Eighty percent of dogs with food allergies tend to suffer chronic ear infections. Some of the most common food allergens are beef, wheat and dairy products.
Signs of a food allergy:
- Ear inflammation
- Licking the feet
- Tummy troubles like excessive gas or diarrhea
A few things to keep in mind about food allergies: Most dogs are allergic to more than one thing, and they can suddenly become intolerant of a food they’ve eaten for years. To figure out your pet’s allergies, you’ll need to do an elimination diet.
Step way from the tweezers. Contrary to popular opinion, plucking your dog’s ear hair will not stop ear infections, and can actually cause irritation and redness, making the ear an inviting place for an ear infection to happen. If you’re concerned about your dog’s ear hair, talk to the vet or groomer.
Keep the ears clean. This is the best way to prevent ear infections. But look before you leap. Overcleaning or using a subpar ear cleaner can actually encourage ear infections. Check out these 5 tips for cleaning your dog’s ears.
Dog Ear Cleaner: Avoid the Ouch!
Even if you’re the queen (or king) of DIY projects, it’s not a good idea to concoct a home-made ear cleaner. Ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and rubbing alcohol can sting and burn already inflamed ear tissue. Also, most home care solutions are formulated with as much as 50 percent water. Since water trapped in the ear is a main cause of ear infections, this can be counter-productive to the dog’s ear health.
Many store brand ear cleaners also contain alcohol and other harsh ingredients that can sting delicate ear tissue. That’s why veterinarians and groomers use and recommend Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner. It’s 100% free of alcohol and fragrances, which means a burn-free, soothing experience! Instead, it’s formulated with the exclusive ingredient Oxygene®.
Safe, gentle and non-toxic, Oxygene® quickly neutralizes odors and bacteria, soothes itchy and irritated ears, and removes wax buildup, dirt and mites, leaving your dog with clean, fresh-smelling ears. No other pet care line has it!
And, Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner is different than other cleaners because there’s no need to hassle with the extra step of rinsing – great news for dog owners who are already a bit intimidated by the idea of cleaning their pet’s ears.
Listen to what your dog is telling you and keep those ears clean. Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner is here to help!
P.S. Get those tails wagging and share this post with your fellow pet parents.