Canine Ear Infections: A Nuisance And A Danger For Your Furry Friend
Has your dog been shaking his or her hear head or rubbing it on the floor or ground? Has he or she been scratching her ears incessantly or are the ears red and inflamed or have a foul odor? Summer is a prime time for ear infections, and if you notice any of these signs, your pup may be a victim.
Inflamed ears or ear infections have many causes. They can be due to food or environmental allergies, which change the ear environment or cause severe itching that causes trauma to the ear. Moisture in the ear from bathing or swimming can create an environment for yeast and bacteria, especially in breeds with long floppy ears that trap the moisture. Some are caused by foreign bodies such as foxtails or plant awns—the little sharp grasses that stick to your dog's fur and can get into your pup's ears. If not removed, they can work themselves deep into the ear and cause irritation and sores that allow bacteria to grow. Infections or inflammation can also be due to tumors or ear mites.
If your dog is shaking his or her head or scratching the ears, take a look. Are the ears red and inflamed? Are there dark, crusty scabs or red sores? If so, it's important to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. A foreign body or infection can work its way into the middle and inner ear causing damage to the ear canal and perhaps penetrating the ear drum, which can cause hearing and equilibrium problems
Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look deep into your furry friend's ear to determine the cause and extent of the infection. If the culprit is an embedded foxtail or grass awn, it will need to be removed—often requiring sedation. The doctor may also swab the infected ear and look at it under a microscope to determine the microorganism causing the infection so it can be treated with the correct antibiotic. He or she will then clean the ear and provide you with antibiotics and cleaning solutions so you can continue treating your pup at home.
If you live where there are lots of weeds and tall grasses or visit such places when with your dog, you'll probably come in contact with foxtails and other sharp grasses. You can reduce the probability that the grass will cause an infection if, after each outing, you check your furry friend thoroughly. If you find one in the outer ear canal and can remove it without getting deep into the ear, carefully remove it. If it is deep in the ear canal, never try to remove it yourself, as you can push it deeper in and perhaps rupture the ear drum. Also check your dog's fur and between the toes, as foxtails can bury themselves most anywhere and cause problems.
Also, when you bathe your dog or take him or her swimming, dry the ears thoroughly so they aren't a ripe environment for bacteria. On top of that, check periodically for scabs and brown residue, which can be signs of ear mites.
For more information, contact a local veterinarian.