Ear Infections in Dogs

Chronic ear infections in dogs should be treated as soon as they are detected, because left untreated, they can result in permanent damage and hearing loss. Minor ear infections can often be treated with medication, while severe ear infections will require medical intervention by a veterinarian.

A dog’s middle and inner ear are equally susceptible to infections. The inner ear controls a dog’s sense of balance and hearing and a dog with an inner ear infection will lose its sense of balance and all or most of its hearing. If left untreated, the infection can progress to the dog’s brain and cause serious damage.

An inner ear infection in a dog is usually caused by the spread of an existing outer ear infection into the inner ear. The dark, moist environment of the inner ear can cause bacteria to multiply in the ear canal. When foreign objects or ear mites enter into a dog’s ear and the dog scratches that ear, you can almost be sure an infection will develop. Hormonal imbalances, allergies, and tumors are also known to cause ear infections. It is also possible for ear infections to be inherited from a dog’s parents and passed from generation to generation.

Dogs with droopy ears are more prone to developing ear infections than are dogs with perky, upright ears.

Symptoms of inner ear infections in dogs include:
* Odor from the ear canal
* Inflammation in the ear canal
* Violent shaking of the head
* Scratching the head and ear
* Bloody discharge from the ear
* Pain in the ear
* Drooping eyelids
* Loss of balance and coordination including circling

A veterinarian can diagnose an inner ear infection in a dog using x-rays of the head and an examination with an otoscope, an instrument incorporating a light and a magnifying lens used to examine the eardrum and the external canal of the ear.

The dog will have to be anesthetized to allow the vet to flush out the wax and other buildup within the ear before using the otoscope. If the ear drum is then found to be infected, discolored and full of fluid, a definite diagnoses of an inner ear infection is assured. The dog may not have an infection of the outer ear but if it has an inner ear infection, it will have an outer ear infection as well.

If the inner ear infection is mild it can be treated with antibiotics administered orally or by injection. Many vets will also prescribe a topical anti-fungal cream along with antibiotic ointments. For chronic or more severe infections, the middle ear has to be flushed out and then treated. It may also be necessary to cut open the ear drum to drain it of fluids.

Preventing inner ear infections requires that you feed your pet a healthy diet and see that it gets regular grooming to ward off ear infections. Early diagnosis and treatment of outer ear infections will also help prevent any inner ear infections.

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