The Gunky Ear - How to treat ear infections in pets
At Far North Vets in Kaitaia a common and sometimes frustrating condition we see relatively often is an ear infection. Ear infections can be complex in nature and difficult to treat.
Some dogs are more prone to ear infections than others:
* Dogs with a lot of hair in the ear canals
* Dogs with long floppy ears
* Dogs that go swimming a lot
* Dogs and cats who suffer from other allergies
* Dogs and cats who fight a lot
* Some breeds of dogs and cats will be born with ear canals that are narrower than normal
Setting up an ear infection requires a few things to happen at the same time:
* The bugs: All ears and skin in general are covered in a layer of normal bacteria and yeast. It is these bacteria that are the source of infection rather than bugs from other sources. The only time this would not be the case is when an animal is bitten
* Moisture and Heat: are essential in allowing bugs to grow. So when you get excess fluid trapped in the ear. The heat of the dogs body will cause a warm moist environment to grow
* The Obstruction: Everyone normally assumes that the culprit of an ear infection is a grass seed or dirt or ear mites which is true of some cases however the number one culprit is HAIR. A dog with hairy ear drums will have a greater chance of capturing and holding moisture in their ear drum. The hair also allows easy access for foreign bodies to track into the ear.
* Swelling: Whether it be from rubbing its head on the ground, shaking its head , the result of a bite wound swelling in the ear drum causes the canals to narrow meaning that there is less chance of drainage for anything that might make its way internally.
The signs of an ear infection include:
* Head shaking
* Rubbing its face on the ground
* Pawing at the face or ears
* Head tilted to one side
* Visible signs of pus in the ear canal
* Hotspots on the face near the ear
* +/- a wet dog smell
Given how much is going on it makes sense that we need to see your dog to determine what is causing the problem.
The general protocol Far North Vets use when treating infected ears is:
* Full clinical examination and examination of the internal ear with a speculum
* If no foreign body is found I start on a suitable first line antibiotic ear drop
* If a foreign body is found we will attempt to remove it but some cases will require sedation
* If the ear is too swollen to pass the speculum I will place the animal on a short course of oral steroid and use a first line antibiotic ear drop.
* This will work for most cases, any cases not showing improvement in 5 days of start of treatment are encouraged to come back for revisit at which time swelling will hopefully be reduced and we can have a better look
* Antibiotic resistance is a major issue when treating ears meaning a lot of the first line treatments may not work. Any case not responding to treatment or animals with repeated cases of ear problems should have a sample collected from the ear to test for what bugs are in the ear and what antibiotic kills that bug.
* Any animal who has been seen more than 3 times for ear problems especially in a short space of time should have a conversation with their vet about surgery. As mentioned earlier some animals are born with narrowed eardrums or their eardrums narrow due to chronic inflammation from allergies etc. These dogs will never cure no matter how many drops you put down. Therefore surgery which opens up the ear canals is the only thing that will make them pain and symptom free. Surgery can be very expensive so this option needs to be carefully considered.
Dr. Brian Fogarty MVB
Far North Vets and Pets Kaitaia