Otitis in dogs: what are the causes and how to treat it?

If your dog is suffering from otitis, it is best to consult your vet to determine the cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment. However, there are some tips that can be followed from home.

Otitis in dogs is a fairly common problem , especially in some breeds with large, drooping ears. In fact, due to their morphology, the ear area is poorly ventilated.

This condition can cause a lot of itching and discomfort to the animal . For this reason, it is important for dog owners to ensure regular cleaning of their dog’s ears.

Likewise, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian if an outbreak of infection is detected. In this space we present the possible causes of otitis in dogs and how to treat it.

Symptoms of Otitis in Dogs

The symptoms of otitis in dogs are quite obvious, so you won’t have a problem identifying them. Below we list the most common clinical signs of this pathology:

  • Dark discharge from the ear canal . The ears are stained with a sticky, sometimes brown and foul-smelling substance.
  • Signs of pain . Otitis can cause considerable discomfort to the animal and it is seen that it tilts its head to one side, which coincides with the affected ear. He can also change his behavior and become irritated or even aggressive.
  • He shakes his head . With these movements, dogs can shed some of the ear secretions.
  • Moderate or severe itching.  The dog scratches his ear continuously.
  • Inflamed ear canal . Commonly, it is detected by the veterinarian in the clinic with the help of an otoscope .

In light of these signs, it is important to see a veterinarian. In this way, he will be able to carry out an examination and identify the cause and type of otitis that the animal is suffering from. A quick detection will always facilitate the treatment and recovery of the dog.

What Causes Otitis in Dogs?

Otitis can have many different causes, and depending on the trigger, the treatment can change. For this reason, it is very important to go to the veterinary clinic to receive a correct diagnosis. Below we show you the most common reasons that generate canine otitis.

Infectious causes

There are multiple infectious agents that can slip into the dog’s ear. Among them, we find the following:

  • Mites . The proliferation of some mites can cause otitis in dogs. The main species that attack dogs’ ears are Otodectes cynotis , Demodex, and Sarcoptes scabiei . These invertebrates are characterized by producing a dark brown and odorous secretion.
  • Yeast and fungal infections . Malassezia fungus  naturally resides on the skin of animals, but its uncontrolled proliferation can cause an ear infection.
  • Bacterial infections . Bacteria of the genus Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas cause otitis in dogs and also produce a bad smell.

Presence of a foreign body in the ear canal

It is very common that the cause of otitis is an ear that went into the ear canal during a walk, in which case it will need to be removed. Don’t try to do this at home, as you may push it deeper into your ear. Your vet will remove it using the appropriate technique and tools.

Breed predisposition

External otitis is inflammation of the mucous membrane of the external auditory canal and is common in dogs with drooping and heavy ears.  In fact, the poor ventilation of the area favors the proliferation of bacteria and yeasts. It can also be common in dogs with small ear canals or with heavy fur on their ears, such as the Yorkshire terrier .

Other causes

In addition to the reasons previously described, there are also other causative agents that can cause otitis in dogs. Here are a few briefly:

  • Allergy . Otitis is usually related to allergy cases . In this case it can be accompanied by itching, redness, scabs and secretions.
  • Moisture in the ear canal . Humidity and temperature are key factors for the growth of microorganisms. Big ears retain more moisture, as they are more difficult to dry.
  • Diseases of various kinds . Endocrine diseases, reactions to toxic products or hypertrophy of the auditory tissue.

Treatments for otitis in dogs

If there is an otitis problem, the vet will clean the pet’s ear and can take a sample of the discharge. He will later examine it under a microscope to determine the agent causing the otitis.

Depending on the cause of the condition, antibiotics, acaricides, or antifungal ear cleaners may be applied depending on whether it is bacteria, mites, or fungi. The vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation or an analgesic to relieve pain.

Many of these medicines are available with a veterinary prescription. Then you need to buy them in the clinic or pharmacy with a prescription signed by the veterinarian.

In some cases, otitis can have complications and some dogs live with this chronic disorder for life. As a result, they need more frequent cleaning and check-ups at the vet. Sometimes, excessive scratching of the ear or excessive shaking of the head can cause internal bleeding in the ear, called otohematoma , which requires surgery.

Can otitis be prevented in dogs?

As a preventative measure, the pet’s brace should carry out regular ear cleaning to avoid relapse . As in many other cases, good hygiene is the best treatment.

Remember that ear cleaners are specific for dogs, so they can’t be used for people. Furthermore, to remove the remains that the ear cleaner leaves, it is not recommended to use the classic cotton buds, but a clean gauze.

The breeds of dogs at risk for otitis

Some types of breeds are more prone than others to this type of ear inflammation. Generally speaking, these are dogs that have drooping ears or smaller ear canals.

There are dog breeds more exposed to the risk of otitis . This is due to multiple reasons that have to do with their hygiene, their physiognomy and their behavior.

When we talk about otitis, we are referring to an inflammation that occurs inside the ear. It can be more external, that is, when it occurs in the eardrum. Or also of the internal type, which takes place when it hits the membrane and the various endings.

In both people and animals, otitis externa is the most common. It is a problem that should not be underestimated. If treated poorly, it can cause an even more serious infection, which could lead to hearing loss. Here are the dog breeds at risk for otitis.

Breeds at risk of otitis

Some dog breeds are more prone to ear infections. Generally speaking, these are dogs that have drooping ears or smaller ear canals.

This is the case with specimens such as the Cocker spaniel. The anatomy of his ears does not allow for adequate ventilation.

Too often the ear stays wet and the air does not circulate properly. A similar situation that we also find in the  Beagles  and the giant Dachshund.

Even the dogs with a lot of hair in the ears are predisposed to suffer from this disease, because they accumulate much secretion.

This situation can escalate into an allergic process or an infection.

Breeds such as the Yorkshire terrier , Collie,  German Shepherd and Belgian are more prone to ear infections. Therefore, if you have a dog with long hair or with very pronounced and drooping ears, you will need to pay more attention to the ear health of your four-legged friend.

Caring dogs more prone to otitis risk

The ‘ hygiene is essential in the most at risk of otitis dogs. Obviously, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian who will surely know how to clean your dog’s ears and which products to use.

It is worth remembering, in this sense, that although all pets must have clean ears, the way to do this is not the same for all dog breeds.

The first thing to do is to keep the area free from secretions, especially in dogs with abundant hair on their ears.

The use of swabs or cotton swabs  is not recommended as they can cause internal injuries . Cleaning should be external: no further than your fingers can reach.

The predisposed to otitis dogs should be washed less frequently . A deep bath, once a month, is enough.

The rest of the time you can wash the body, without wetting the animal’s head.

It is also important to keep the home environment dry, avoiding excessive humidity . For example, taking your best friend to the beach is dangerous if you know they tend to have ear infections.

Try to choose less humid locations for your excursions and walks.

If any of these symptoms are present, the dog should be examined by a specialist . The condition of the ear will be checked with an otoscopy (examination of the external ear canal and eardrum membrane).

Secretions will be analyzed by cytology . In more complex cases, they will be performed: scraping, cultures, biopsy or x-ray.

The treatment can last from 21 to 30 days . Generally, the vet will prescribe topical and oral medications.

Do not try to cure your dog’s otitis by yourself: contact your doctor only, because self-medication could be particularly harmful, as well as ineffective.

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