It can present acutely or have a gradual progression, but otitis externa, otherwise known as an external ear infection, is an inflammatory process often exacerbated by the growth of yeast and bacteria in the outer ear canal of both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, there are some breeds that have a higher risk of developing ear infections due to their ear conformation such as heavy floppy ear pinnae or excessive hair in the canal. Some of these breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Poodles, Labradors, and Shih Tzu’s.
There are several factors that can promote the development of ear infections. Some of these include seasonal to year-round allergies, food allergy, and trapped moisture from swimming or bathing, In regards to allergies and how to treat the underlying condition please refer to a prior blog post found here > Itchy Dog?
Food allergies can develop in our pets early on in life. Often times a definitive diagnosis of food allergy is only obtained through a 12wk food trial after which point foods are reintroduced into the diet until clinical signs of itching are observed. When a pet experiences food allergies, they will clinically show chewing or scratching behavior toward their feet, face, ears or anus. With constant itching and scratching, the skin barrier is broken down and infection can ensue. Often this infection resonates in the ears and the pet will have a series of ear infections that never seem to completely resolve. Ultimately, treatment and prevention would include changing the diet to a non-allergic protein. The most common food allergy in dogs is to Chicken and Beef protein despite what marketing says about the “common” grain allergy. The veterinarians at The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt are very happy to discuss food options for your pet.
More commonly, ear infections occur during periods of time when there is excess moisture in the ear canal. This often occurs after periods of swimming or bathing. The moist, dark environment inside an ear canal is a paradise for opportunistic yeast and bacteria to reproduce and cause clinical signs of irritation, itching and scratching. To prevent the opportunity for an ear infection to develop, it is important to clean out your pets ears with proper ear cleaner after a bath or a period of swimming. This creates an environment that will oppose the development of yeast and bacteria and decrease the risk irritation and infection.
If your pet does show clinical signs of an ear infection, please seek out medical attention. Though most ear infections can be treated with a deep cleaning and proper medication, an external infection that goes untreated can move deeper into the ear. This can cause more serious signs of head tilt, vertigo, and require a more aggressive treatment. If you suspect your pet may be developing an ear infection or are interested in discussing proper ear cleaner, please do not hesitate to call us. We would love to help your pet stop and prevent the excessive ear shaking and scratching.