When Magical-Dawg began scratching his ear, and yelping if bumped on that side—even tilting his head that direction—I suspected he had a painful ear infection. It’s the first one he’s had, and I knew this was something that needed veterinary care sooner, rather than later.
Dogs (and cats) are prone to ear infections because of the conformation of the ear itself. Human ear canals are straight. But the pet’s ear canal is shaped like an L. Debris and moisture can become trapped in the foot of that L, creating a perfect percolating environment for nasty agents to set up housekeeping.
KEEPING DOG EARS HEALTHY
Now, you can offer home treatments and first aid for general cleaning of the ears. Drop-eared dogs that love the water (Labradors come to mind) may benefit from “Swimmer’s Solution” to help keep ears healthy.
Mix 1 cup plain water with 2 cups vinegar and 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. The vinegar creates an acidic environment to prevent yeast and bacteria overgrowth, while the dash of alcohol helps cut through and dissolve wax (never use straight alcohol, that’d be way too harsh!). Swimmer’s Solution sprayed on the outside of the ear canal once or twice a week (or after swims or baths) can help with these dogs. But it won’t cure an active ear infection.
Be alert for smelly ears, or any discharge that’s light brown, yellowish or dark and bloody. Tenderness and especially head tilt should send you to the vet asap. Very serious infections can smell like chocolate or fermenting fruit.
COMMON DOG EAR INFECTIONS
A dark brown to black waxy runny material that smells rancid often is a yeast overgrowth, and quite common in dogs. Yeast overgrowth happens when the normal acidic pH of your pet’s ear is out of balanced, perhaps as a result of getting water inside from swimming or a bath.
Crumbly brown or black material inside the ear is more typical of ear mite infestation. These tiny spider relatives make ears itchy and sore when they crawl around inside the canal and bite to suck lymph from the tissues. Ouch!
Canine ear infections can be aggravating, painful, and hard to cure because there are so any different organisms that may be involved, either alone or individually. Treating with the wrong medication won’t be effective and could even make matters worse. Besides, when the dog’s ears are so sore and painful, dogs often won’t allow even a beloved owner to touch them.
Magic is such a good boy, he did let me look in his sore ears, and even gently wipe out what I could see with a cotton ball soaked with warm water. Honestly, I didn’t want to do much beyond that, because potentially it could mess up whatever diagnostics the vet would run.
My pets never do things halfway. I’m grateful that Magic adores his veterinarian, and didn’t require sedation for the culture. Basically, a sample of the “goop” was collected and examined under the microscope.
Magic’s ear infection contained no less than three nasty agents doing the hula deep inside his ear canal. Yeast, staph and a huge bucket-load of bacteria called pseudomonas aeruginosa. No wonder my poor doggy was in pain!
Pseudomonas is a nasty bug that easily become antibiotic resistant, and has even been found to live on soap and other antiseptics. Magic’s ear infection was at the tipping point for needing serious intervention (wow, that happened quickly!), so the veterinarian recommended bringing out the “big guns.” He prescribed a new ear medication designed to attack both fungal and bacterial infections (POSATEX ™ Otic Suspension) that contains Orbifloxacin, Mometasone, Furoate Monohydrate and Posaconazole. He was also given some oral antibiotics for a secondary paw problem that the vet said would also benefit his ears.
After the first two days of treatment, Magic already felt better. He stopped crying and flinching when his ear was touched. The ear medication will continue to be given daily for at least two weeks, after which he’ll be checked again.
The bad thing about pseudomonas infection is that if the ears improve but not all the bacteria is killed, stopping treatment usually means a resurgence of infection—this time, the bacteria is resistant to the treatment. So for that reason, unless convinced that Magic’s ears are completely back to normal, we’ll continue the meds as long as necessary.
To me, Magic’s gorgeous ears are one of his most striking features. But aside from good looks, keeping my “baby-dog” feeling fine is priority one.
Has your dog (or cat) ever suffered from an ear infection? How did you know? What treatment helped your pet? Do you have a routine ear maintenance routine? Do tell!
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