A Magical Ear Ache: Treating Dog Ear Infection

Treating Dog Ear Infection

A couple of years ago, Bravo-Dawg began scratching his ear, and yelping if bumped on that side—even tilting his head that direction. I suspected he had a painful dog ear infection. Magic had his share of ear infections, so 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, unlike the L-shaped pet’s ear canal. Debris and moisture can become trapped in the foot of that L, creating a perfect percolating environment for nasty agents to set up housekeeping. Some dogs invite you to rub their itchy ears with moans and growns.

Dog ear infections just like canine hot spots also quite often develop due to allergies.  If your dog has seasonal allergies, you’ll need to be extra vigilant. When dogs enjoy hot water games like hose tag, getting water inside the ears can predispose to earache and dog ear infection.

ear infection

Bravo’s ears hurt him when infected.

KEEPING DOG EARS HEALTHY

Now, you can offer home treatments and first aid for general cleaning of the ear infection. 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.

It can help to “air out” the ears of drop-ear breeds. A clothespin or binder clip that grasps the long fur on ear tips behind the head can help. Or use a soft elastic hairband to hold them wrapped around the back of the head. A half-hour period once a week may be all that’s needed to keep them healthy and prevent ear infections.

Dog ear infections

Vet examining drop-eared dog with an otoscope to check for ear infection.

COMMON DOG EAR INFECTIONS

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.

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 balance, 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!

Different Ear Infections Require Different Ear Treatments

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 was 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.

aging dogs

Magic also suffered a severe ear infection a few years ago.

MAGIC’S DIAGNOSIS

My pets never do things halfway. I’m grateful that my dogs adore their veterinarian, and Bravo didn’t require sedation for the culture. Basically, a sample of the “goop” was collected and examined under the microscope.

A few years earlier, my aging dog Magical-Dawg also developed an ear infection that 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

Pseudomonas easily becomes 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. After the first two days of treatment, Magic already felt better. He stopped crying and flinching when we touched his ear.

Unfortunately, pseudomonas infection improves with treatment even if not all the bacteria is killed, stopping treatment usually means a resurgence of infection—this time, the bacteria is resistant to the treatment. The ear medication was given daily for at least two weeks, and at his checkup, that had taken care of Magic’s ear infection.

BRAVO’S EAR INFECTION TREATMENT

Bravo’s infection wasn’t nearly so involved, thank doG. His ears were flushed, and medication was infused deep into the ear canal. A wonderful benefit of modern treatments is that no follow-up drops were needed. This one-time infusion knocked out the hokey-pokey dance deep inside his ears.

To me, Magic’s gorgeous “prick” ears are one of his most striking features. Bravo’s “drop” ears are equally endearing. But aside from good looks, keeping my “baby-dog” feeling fine is priority one.

Not to be outdone, Karma-Kat also had an ear issue, and developed an aural hematoma. That’s when the ear flap fills with blood from bruising, most often the result of scratching at an itch caused by infection. But Karma’s came from something else–read about Karma’s hematoma here!

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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