Ear infection, or “otitis,” is one of the top three reasons dogs see a veterinarian.
A variety of things can cause ear infections in dogs, but environmental and food allergies are the two most common underlying reasons.
Other causes include ear conformation, such as a narrowed ear canals, hair growing inside the ear, or a floppy ear – anything that traps moisture inside the ear canal.
Foreign objects inside an ear (like foxtail seeds), ear tumors, ear mites, and endocrine disorders can also be underlying causes of ear infection as well, but are much less common.
The pollen count in our area as been high this spring, and the same things that make our eyes itch and noses run affect our pets, causing similar symptoms, plus ear infections and itchy skin and feet.
How to clean your dog’s ears
Regular ear cleaning (once or twice a week) can go a long way in preventing ear problems in dogs that are prone to ear infection, and thus reduce veterinary visits. Ear cleaning decreases cerumin (ear wax) accumulation, as well as diminishes the pollen, bacteria, and yeast on the ear canals’ surface, helping prevent an ear infection. Gentle care must be taken when cleaning pets’ ears, as their ear drums are as thin as onion skin and can rupture, exposing the fragile middle ear.
Ear cleaners: Dos and Don’ts
Do not put anything in your pet’s ears if they already have an ear infection. Call us first for an appointment. For routine ear cleaning, choosing an appropriate ear cleaner is very important. Most ear cleaners sold online or in pet stores are not appropriate. We recommend ear cleaning and drying solutions that are:
- have a pH (acidity) adjusted to dogs’ natural pH level
- ceruminolytic (“wax dissolving”)
- do not interfere with ear medications, if they’re necessary
Many over-the-counter ear cleaning solutions do not fit the above criteria and may actually harm a dog’s ears. Water and hydrogen peroxide, which turns to water in the ear, are also not recommended for use as ear cleaners, as they leave moisture in an environment that needs to be clean and dry.
We suggest either Epi Otic Ear Cleaning & Drying Solution or Malacetic Ultra Ear Cleaning & Drying Solution. Both fit all the criteria and are available through our hospital.
If your dog already has an ear infection, we need to see him or her right away. Untreated ear infections are extremely painful, can become chronic if left unresolved, and cause permanent hearing loss.
After an infection is resolved, you can help prevent recurrences through effective, routine ear cleaning. Please give us a call at 206-323-4433 if you have any questions.