The dog ear is similar to human ears. There are three main components: outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer “flap” of the ear is called the pinna, and is the section of the ear that receives and traps sound waves. Some dogs have prick ears which stand erect all the time, some dogs have floppy ears, and others have ears that fold down most of the time but perk up when the dog is surprised or alert.
Healthy ears contain bacteria and yeast in an appropriate amount and ratio, but when these organisms get out of proportion it can result in infection. The outer ear is the most commonly injured or infected portion of the ear due to its exposure to dirt and foreign objects. Dogs prone to ear infections are those with moist ears and those prone to skin allergies. Some signs and symptoms of a dog ear infection include:
•Lethargy or depression
•Swollen ear flap(s)
•Stumbling or circling to one side
•Shaking the head and ears
•Scratching at one or both ears
•A bad odor in one or both ears
•Yellowish, brown, or black discharge
•Redness or soreness of the ear flap or opening of the ear
Diagnosing Dog Ear Infection
Veterinarians diagnose ear infections by first examining the ear, which you can do too. Look inside the ear canal for foreign objects, redness, inflammation, mites, and anything out of the ordinary. A vet may also take a sample of discharge from the ear and examine it with a microscope to evaluate if there is evidence of bacteria, yeast, or parasites.
Treating Dog Ear Infection
The first step is to clean the ear with a cotton ball and ear wash cleanser to remove any debris. Debris in the ear can prevent organisms from the treatment, so be thorough (but gentle) when cleaning the dogs ears. Many ear cleaning and ear infection treatments contain alcohol. Alcohol can cause painful stinging and inflammation in the ear, which does not promote healing. Avoid products with alcohol for a dog ear infection.
After cleaning the ears, you need a topical antibacterial or antifungal agent to clear up the dog ear infection. If the problem is ear mites, you will need a medication aimed at killing dog ear mites. To apply the ear treatment, hold the dog’s head firmly with one hand and use the other hand to squeeze the medication drops into the ear. To help the medication get down into the ear canal, gently massage the base of the dog’s ear for a few seconds. Then stand back! When your dog shakes his head the remaining medication will go flying.
Be sure to give all medication as suggested on the label, including times to treat per day and proper number of days. Even if the ear appears to be better, the infection can reoccur if your dog doesn’t get the full treatment.