Is your dog scratching it's ears? It could be an ear infection.
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
When a pet has an ear irritation, it could be due to an infection or another underlying reason. Common causes include pendulous, hairy ears, grass seeds, water retention after swimming or bathing, high humidity weather, other skin disease such as allergy (atopy) or infection, food allergy, hormonal disease (Cushings Disease, Hypothyroidism) or ear mites to name a few.
How we manage an ear case:
1. Diagnosis: The first step in diagnosis and then monitoring the progress of treatment is to take a sample from the ear and examine it under the microscope (we call this cytology) to identify the type of organism (bacteria, yeast, mite) that is causing the disease. We then use the most appropriate medication for the problem. Occasionally there is an infection which is known to be difficult to cure, and so we may request a culture and sensitivity test to determine the most appropriate antibiotic to use.
Most ear infections are cleared up simply with medication administered at home. However, in many cases, a full ear flush is needed to even examine the eardrum. For patient comfort, we recommend sedation for this procedure as the ears are sore and the instruments can be damaging if the pet jumps at the wrong time.
Two photographs of cytology samples taken from the infected ears. The photograph on the left shows an infection with rod shaped bacteria, while the one of the right highlights the presence of large numbers of yeast
2. Home treatment: After two weeks of home treatment, the ear canals are rechecked to be sure the infection is under control. In most cases this completes treatment but for stubborn cases, we must proceed to the next step. It is very important that home treatment is performed as recommended for 2 weeks, otherwise the infection will return. If home treatment is difficult, we have a long lasting treatment that can be instilled at the Veterinary Surgery one each week,
3. Chronic ear problems that recur. Some dogs have chronic ear problems in which the infection is not controlled by general medication or returns when general medication is discontinued. In these cases, the ear discharge should be cultured so that the precise organism can be pinpointed and treated specifically. Regular treatment at home with disinfecting ear washes should become part of the pet's grooming routine. Further testing may be in order to determine why the infection continues to recur. Allergy is the most common reason for recurrent ear problems but hormone imbalances can also be underlying causes.
4. What you need to do to get the best results from treatment:
a) you must treat the ear as directed for the duration of the treatment. You must use the entire bottle of medication.
b) you must return for rechecks (cytology) every 2 weeks until the ear is clear of infection. Failure to do this will almost certainly guarantee that the infection recurs.
c) You must use an ear cleaner weekly, and after bathing and swimming to reduce recurrence.