Bacterial ear infections are a relatively common ailment in dogs, especially dogs with long, floppy ears. The floppy ears create an ideal environment for bacteria growth, since the ear canal is covered by the ear flap. This makes the ear canal dark, warm, with limited air flow — an environment that’s perfect for growing bacteria.
Dogs with cropped or erect ears can also develop ear infections. In fact, ear infections tend to be more common in pets who have skin sensitivities, food allergies and a compromised immune system (e.g. a dog who is on prednisone will have a suppressed immune system, making him more susceptible to opportunistic infection.)
Dogs who suffer from ear mites are also more prone to infection, as are dogs who don’t get regular ear cleanings! Wax and dead skin cells can accumulate in the ear canal, creating an environment that’s ideal for growing bacteria.
The Symptoms of an Ear Infection in a Dog
The following signs are typically seen in a dog with an ear infection:
- Frequent head shaking
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Inflammation in the ear canal
- Pawing the ears
Your dog may also appear depressed, less playful and generally unwell. In the case of a severe ear infection, your dog may stop eating and drinking. He may whine or shiver due to discomfort. Some pets may develop a fever.
Ear infections can be extremely painful, so prompt treatment is vital! Frequent ear cleanings — at least once a week; more frequently if you have a dog with long, floppy ears — serve as an opportunity to monitor your pet’s ears for signs of an infection.
Bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect an ear infection. Cleaning your dog’s ears can serve to eliminate some of the discomfort associated with the excess discharge and it will reduce the dog’s chances of developing an aural hematoma, but it will not cure the infection and it will not eliminate the pain.
If you fail to get prompt antibiotic treatment for your pet, it can result in permanent hearing loss. The infection can also spread to other parts of the dog’s body. So it’s important to bring your dog to the vet in a timely manner (e.g. within 12 to 24 hours.)
Pet owners may also wish to learn about the symptoms of a yeast infection involving your dog’s ears.
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