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What you need to know about otitis externa and ear infections in dogs

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Signs and treatment for canine ear inflammation.
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If your dog hasn’t been feeling well­­ — maybe they seem under the weather, constantly shaking their head or scratching at red, swollen, painful-looking ears — they may be suffering from canine otitis externa. In other words, your dog may have an inflamed ear, possibly with an infection as well. Canine otitis externa occurs when a dog’s external ear canal is inflamed and potentially also infected. It’s a leading cause of vet visits for dogs, and in most cases requires medical treatment and won’t go away on its own.

Causes of otitis externa in dogs

Causes of otitis externa can vary. It could be due to an allergic problem, ear mites, the presence of water in the ear, or other factors. If your dog has narrow ear canals or floppy ear flaps, the risk is potentially higher for developing otitis externa. Additionally, dogs that have experienced the condition once may be at greater risk of it happening again.

Symptoms of otitis externa in dogs

Inflammation of the ear canal can be a very painful and uncomfortable experience for a dog. Watch for the following symptoms:

  • Red or swollen ears
  • Persistent ear scratching and head shaking
  • Reluctance to have ears touched
  • Discharge coming from the ears
  • Unpleasant odour coming from the ears
Treatment for canine otitis externa

If you suspect your dog is suffering from an ear infection or inflammation, contact your veterinarian immediately. Canine otitis externa can be very painful for your dog and in most cases requires medical treatment and should be properly investigated. After an examination, your veterinarian may recommend a topical treatment containing antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory agents, which your veterinarian can apply directly into your dog’s ear.

Other treatment options require daily at-home applications over the course of one or two weeks. These multiple applications can be messy, with greater risk for error. It’s important to remember that just because your dog seems better after a few at-home doses doesn’t mean the problem has improved. Fully completing treatment is crucial. If you think your dog may be suffering from canine otitis externa, visit your vet to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment application, an increased likelihood of treatment success, and a lower risk of reinfection.

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vet giving a dog an ear exam
Did you know?

Homemade otitis externa treatments are less effective than medication specifically designed to treat ear inflammation. At-home treatments and over-the-counter medications are sometimes misapplied, leading to a lower rate of success. In most cases, natural or homemade remedies will not be sufficiently effective to properly deal with an ear infection or inflammation.

If left untreated, your dog’s ear infection and inflammation can worsen, possibly leading to permanent changes to the structures of the ear, and maybe even affecting hearing. If you think your dog may be suffering from an ear infection, ask your veterinarian about appropriate treatments for otitis externa.

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