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Ear Infections

If you’re reading this, chances are that at some point you have had a dog with an ear infection. Otitis (ear inflammation) is one of the most common causes of veterinary visits. In fact, after vaccines and skin allergies, ear infections are the next most common reason that pet owners bring their dog to the veterinarian. Because this is such a commonncondition, lots of myth and misinformation has developed around ear disease. In this discussion, we will first start with the basics of ear disease, and then discuss some of the misconceptions about otitis.nThe most common symptoms of otitis are scratching the ears, head shaking and smelly discharge in the ear canal. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to diagnose an ear infection by examining the ears and sampling the debris in the ear canal. Ear infections can be verynpainful, so sometimes your vet may recommend sedation or anesthesia to perform a thorough examination of the ear canals. It is important to consult your veterinarian beforenputting anything in your pet’s ears!nDogs usually develop ear infections due to yeast or bacteria. These microorganisms live in the ears and on the skin of mammals and normally do not cause problems. A normal ear canal is actually very resistant to infection, so something has to ‘go wrong’ for infection to develop. Rather than listing all of the different conditions that can lead to otitis, we will discuss acute (‘one time’) otitis and chronic (ongoing or recurring) otitis.nAcute otitis is the most common form of otitis. Dogs with acute otitis will typically respond well to a medicated ear drop from your veterinarian and the infection will not recur. Dogs with floppy ears or dogs who swim frequently may be more likely to developnthese simple infections. Often there is not an ongoing disease predisposing them to recurring infection. Dogs with chronic otitis are the dogs where the ear infection returns a few weeks or months after initially treating it. Your vet will often first treat these dogs the same as dogsnwith acute otitis. The biggest difference is that further investigation needs to be done regarding the underlying cause of ear infection. The most common causes of chronic otitis are allergies, hormonal abnormalities, excess oil production and disorders of skin formation (seborrhea). Dogs with chronic otitis require a short term plan and a long term plan; the short term plan involves eliminating the infection that is present, and the long term plan involves preventive maintenance to ensure that infection does not recur. Again, always discuss these treatments with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend referral to a veterinary dermatologist who specializes in skin and ear disorders.nWhen ear infections are allowed to continue without treatment, changes can occur to the ear canal including narrowing of the ear canal, scarring and even bone formation (calcification). Many of these changes are irreversible and may require surgery to correct. Thus, for dogs with chronic otitis it is vital to be proactive and prevent infections before they develop! Article By: Dr. William Oldenhoff DVM,DACVD