Ear infections aren’t just a human problem—your pup can contract one, too. Anyone who’s endured an ear infection wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, let alone their loving dog.
Fortunately, proper ear care can reduce your dog’s risk of ear infections. Learn to recognize the symptoms and do what you can to stop infections from occurring in the first place to keep your pup comfortable.
Symptoms of a dog ear infection
The symptoms of an ear infection are pretty obvious. Dogs tend to shake their heads a lot, because infections create discomfort and quite a bit of pain. If you notice this behavior, it’s a sign that your dog is trying to relieve some of that discomfort.
You’ll also notice visible signs inside one or both of the ear canals. These may include redness, swelling, scratches, wax buildup or dark discharge. Dog ear infections are often accompanied by a foul odor, as well.
Dogs with an ear infection might show any or all of these symptoms. It’s best to schedule a vet visit, even if you only notice one sign so far. Unfortunately, some pups will display few or no signs of an ear infection at all. Owners who are concerned about their dog’s health should consult a veterinarian just to make sure nothing seems out of the ordinary.
Why ear infections require medical attention
Dogs with ear infections usually make a speedy recovery. Most infections of the ear canal are mild and heal within a week or two—assuming the infection was detected early and treated with antibiotics right away. If left untreated, however, ear infections can get worse and lead to irreversible health consequences. This is why vets advise pet parents not to treat ear infections at home or wait until they go away on their own.
Infections usually originate along the outside of the ear canal. At this stage, the infection is mild and easily treatable. If pet parents ignore the symptoms of an ear infection, it can spread to the middle and inner ear canal. That’s where the infection causes serious damage. Infections left to ruminate in these sections of the ear may eventually cause deafness, paralyzed face muscles and permanent loss of balance.
Tips for keeping your dog ears healthy and clean
The good news is, you can prevent dog ear infections by practicing a few healthy habits. Prevention will save you extra trips to the vet and save your dog from an irritable, itchy fate!
These four easy tips will put your dog on the right path towards clean, healthy ears:
- Dry the ears after swimming: For dogs, few things are more fun than taking a dip in cool, refreshing water. Summertime is for fun in the sun, but it’s also when vets see an uptick in ear infections. Dogs have vertical ear canals, which makes them prone to retaining moisture. To prevent an infection, gently wipe pool water away from your dog’s ears after they are done swimming.
- Clean them once a month: Even if your dog doesn’t enjoy swimming, you should still clean the ear canals on a monthly basis. This removes excessive ear wax and other debris that’s found its way into the ears. Squirt a dog ear cleaning solution into the canal and massage the ear back and forth from the outside. Use medical-grade gauze or cotton balls to wipe out the gunk and cleaning solution. Avoid wiping with paper towels or cotton swabs, since these fibers can irritate the delicate skin.
- Apply drying agents in moderation: Some breeds are more prone to ear infections than others. Dog breeds most at risk are those with long, floppy ears such as Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels and Great Danes. If your dog suffers from recurring ear infections, the vet may recommend a drying agent. When applied in moderation, drying agents keep the ear canals clean and dry. Don’t apply drying agents to a pair of healthy ears, as this can actually increase the dog’s risk of ear infections! Always check with your vet first.
- Conduct inspections at home: You might not always be able to prevent infections, but you can catch them as soon as they begin. The key to catching infections early on is checking your pup’s ears on a regular basis. Look for the symptoms mentioned earlier and schedule a vet appointment for even mild signs of skin irritation. When it comes to your fur baby’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Dog ear infections shouldn’t cause alarm. One in five pooches will experience an ear infection at some point in their life. You can help eliminate the risk altogether and spare your pup some discomfort by making these health tips part of your routine.