Has your dog ever been scratching and rubbing their ears after spending some time swimming? Are they shaking and tilting their head frequently? Spare your dog the needless suffering by learning about ear infections and how to avoid them.
Canine ear infections are very common, and certain breeds (dogs with long hanging ears) are predisposed to them. One in five dogs suffers from ear disease. The problem is more common during the warm months, when ear infections are reported to be 10 to 15 percent of all patients brought to veterinary hospitals.
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, call your vet. Prompt veterinary care is essential to avoid more serious consequences such as a ruptured eardrum, middle or inner ear infection, and hearing loss.
If you’ve been through this before, here’s how you make sure your dog won’t get another infection.
How to Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs
Steer clear of allergens.
Like us, dogs can react to any number of allergens, like pollen (grass, trees, and weeds), dust mites, molds, food (beef, chicken, fish, soy, etc.), and fleas (another reason to protect your dog with proper flea and tick prevention). Dogs that suffer from these allergies are predisposed to ear infections. This is due to the microscopic inflammation that allergies cause in the skin allowing overgrowth of bacterial and yeast organisms that normally inhabit the skin.
Regularly check their ears.
Look inside the ear to check for dirt, scratches, parasites, or discharge. Smell around your dog’s ears to sniff out any infection. There shouldn’t be any unpleasant odor. Remember, healthy ears don’t smell funky.
Keep your dog’s ears dry.
Yeast and bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, and many dog ears prove to be the perfect Petri dish. This is why excess moisture is a common cause of ear infections. If your dog is a swimmer or is bathed regularly, clean his ears as soon as possible after water exposure. Use cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent moisture from seeping in. Dog snoods or hoods can also work like bathing caps to protect their ears from stray water if your dog can tolerate wearing one.
However, avoid using drying agents on a regular basis. If there’s no ear problem to begin with, drying agents can dry out the ear too much.
Have their ears cleaned once a month.
Cleaning your dog’s ears at home can also help prevent ear infections. Lift up the earflap, then fill up the canal with a vet-recommended solution, or soak a cotton ball with solution and squeeze the liquid into the canal. Never use a syringe to push liquid directly into their inner ear. Instead, holding your dog’s ear closed, gently massage the liquid into their ear. After gently massaging the base of the ear for 20 to 30 seconds, your dog will likely shake their head, which helps absorb the solution. Use gauze to gently wipe the canal from the inside out. Avoid paper or cotton towels that leave fibers behind. Cotton swabs may be used to clean the outer folds. Just avoid poking them into your dog’s ear canal. It is too easy to inadvertently push debris deeper into the canal and pack it at the bottom.
Consult your vet if your dog’s ear is difficult to clean or if it contains a lot of packed debris. It may need to be flushed. Veterinarians use flexible catheters to squirt saline deep into the canal to remove the accumulated discharge. In some dogs, an anesthetic is required to perform this procedure.
No DIY cleaning if you suspect an ear infection. Only clean your dog’s ears when they’re healthy, according to a schedule recommended by your veterinarian.
The following supplements may be used as part of your strategy for preventing ear infections:
- Allergies. If allergies are at the root of your dog’s ear infections, a daily omega-3 fatty supplement can help. This supplement can reduce inflammation, which may lessen the risk of ear infections. Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil supplements, can decrease inflammation associated with skin allergies that often appear in a dog’s ears and feet.
- Immune system. A malfunctioning immune system can make your dog more prone to infections, so maintaining balance is essential. A probiotic supplement can balance the normal bacterial flora within the intestinal tract and promote an appropriate immune response.
- Gastrointestinal problems. If your pet also has digestive problems as is the case for many animals with chronic ear infections and allergies, gastrointestinal supplements can be helpful.
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, consult your vet immediately. Prompt veterinary care is essential to avoid more serious consequences such as a ruptured eardrum, middle or inner ear infection, and hearing loss.