Ear infections are one of the most common health issues dogs can get, and this is especially true in dog breeds with large and floppy ears including pugs, cocker spaniels, cockapoos and basset hounds.
In fact, this is actually one of the main reasons for my pug visiting the vets over the last 10 years!
According to the AKC, around 20 per cent of dogs suffer from ear infections. In this article, we take a look at every aspect of ear infections in dogs.
What are the symptoms of a dog ear infection?
While it can be common to show no symptoms of dog ear infections, there are several things you can look out for, with some of these being more obvious to spot than others.
- Scratching their ears frequently/Itchiness
- Wet sound when itched/massaged
- Head shaking
- The red and irritated outer ear
- Bleeding or swollen ear canal
- Hair loss around the ear
- Strong ear odor
- Walking in circles
- Hearing loss
- Balance loss
- Making high-pitched whines when scratching the ear
Another question is: Are dog ear infections painful?
When our dog suffers from an ear infection, one of the things he does is make high-pitched whines when scratching the ear, which indicates, ear infections in dogs, does in fact hurt.
Are dog ear infections contagious? Can they spread?
Dog ear infections Can Be contagious. Ear infections caused by yeast and bacteria are not contagious, whereas infections with parasites like mites are contagious. We’ll go into more detail in the next section.
What causes dog ear infections?
There are several reasons that can cause dog ear infections. These are put into three main categories.
Parasites including ear mites are a common cause of ear infections in dogs. These super small organisms can spread to and live in your dog’s ear canal. If not treated, ear mites can lay eggs and multiply very quickly.
Although dogs of any age can get ear mites, they are more common in puppies. The type of mites that cause ear infections in dogs is called Otodectes. With eight legs like spiders, they live under the surface of the skin.
So can ear mites spread to other dogs? Yes, ear mites are highly contagious and they can spread to other dogs in close contact. If you are wondering whether humans can catch ear mites from dogs & cats, you will be glad to know it is extremely rare.
Yeast & Bacterial infections
Dogs can get ear infections due to an overgrowth of yeast inside the ear. Several factors can lead to yeast infections, such as trapped water in the ear canal as a result of swimming or bathing. Lack of airflow can lead to creating wet & moist conditions inside the ear and this often results in causing a yeast infection.
This is also the main reason large & floppy-eared dogs are more prone to ear infections.
Some of the other causes of yeast infections in dogs include:
- Immune system disorders
- Excessive ear cleaning
- Wax buildup
- Side effects from medications
Fortunately, dog ear infections caused by yeast & bacteria are not contagious and cannot spread to other dogs or humans.
Dog ear infection treatments
You should take your dog to the vet as soon as you suspect he/she has an ear infection. Your vet will perform a careful physical examination on your dog’s ears, as well as looking at his/her medical history.
Your vet will want to know things like:
- How long the symptoms have been present
- Whether your dog is on medication
- How often you clean your dog’s ears
- What you use to clean the ears
- The food your dog has been eating
- Whether your dog is eating and drinking OK
- Whether your dog’s ear has been in contact with water – i.e. from swimming or bathing
The procedure and treatment can vary depending on what’s been found. In most cases, cleaning and subscribing of medication can be enough to treat the infection, however, they may decide to further test to get a more accurate diagnosis.
One of the treatments widely used by vets today to treat bacterial ear infections is BNT ointment for dogs, which consists of Enrofloxacin (antibiotic), Ketoconazole (prevent fungal growth) & Triamcinolone (anti-inflammatory).
How to prevent dog ear infections?
To prevent or minimize ear infections, there are several things you can do, such as making sure your dog’s ears are always nice and clean. It is recommended that they are cleaned regularly, at least once a month. There are a lot of options when it comes to ear cleaners for dogs.
It is also important that your dog’s ears are kept dry. You can use cotton balls to dry your dog’s ears after swimming or bathing. Finally regularly checking for dirt, excessive wax, discharge, injury and odor from inside your dog’s ears can make sure you spot the ear infections early. The sooner it is found, the easier the treatment will be.