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Ear Infections in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Tips

Updated: Sep 28, 2023


Big eared dog may have ear infection

Ear infections in dogs are very common. Especially in breeds with bigger ears or those with lots of fur that cover their ears. Many factors can contribute to getting an ear infection. First of all, the size of the ear matters. Breeds like beagles and others have downward projecting ears which allow moisture and pathogens to live and be there.


Bigger ears require more attention and care than small ears. There is a very simple strategy in solving the ear infection problem. First of all, you should be able to look for the signs of ear infections. Then, you should follow the steps that I will teach you in this article to treat and prevent your dog from getting an ear infection.


Sit back! This article will comprehensively educate you on how to get through your furry friend's ear infection.


Demystifying Ear Infection Symptoms in Dogs

Ear infections, medically known as otitis externa, are a common ailment afflicting dogs, and understanding the symptoms is crucial for early detection and treatment. These infections predominantly occur in the external ear canal, a vital part of a dog's ear anatomy, which includes the ear lobe (or pinna), external ear canal, and the eardrum. It's important to clarify that no dog breed is immune to ear infections. While it's true that larger dogs with floppy, hairy ears are often associated with these issues, smaller breeds are not exempt from this concern. Ear infections can affect dogs of all sizes, making it essential for pet owners to be vigilant and informed about the signs and symptoms.


External Ear Infection: A Widespread Canine Challenge

External ear infections in dogs can manifest in various ways, and recognizing these symptoms is pivotal in ensuring your pet's well-being. Here are some key points to help you understand the symptoms and their significance:

German Sheppard ear health
  • Ear Scratching and Head Shaking: Dogs with ear infections often exhibit increased scratching of the affected ear and vigorous head shaking. This behavior is a clear indication of discomfort and irritation.

  • Redness and Swelling: The external ear may appear red and swollen. This inflammation is a response to the infection and can cause visible changes in the ear's appearance.

  • Discharge: One of the hallmark signs of an ear infection is the presence of discharge. Depending on the severity and type of infection, this discharge can range from yellow or brown to bloody or pus-like.

  • Foul Odor: Ear infections are often accompanied by a foul odor emanating from the affected ear. This odor is a result of the infection and should not be ignored.

  • Sensitivity to Touch: Dogs with ear infections may become more sensitive to touch around the ear area. They may wince or pull away when you try to examine or clean their ears.

  • Hearing Loss: In some cases, especially if the infection is left untreated or becomes severe, dogs may experience temporary or permanent hearing loss. This highlights the importance of early intervention.

  • Behavior Changes: Chronic ear infections can lead to changes in a dog's behavior. They may become irritable, withdrawn, or exhibit signs of discomfort that affect their overall quality of life.

Seeking Prompt Veterinary Care

Given the discomfort and potential complications associated with ear infections, it is crucial to seek prompt veterinary care if you suspect your dog has an ear infection. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough examination, determine the underlying cause of the infection, and prescribe appropriate treatment, which may include cleaning the ears, administering medications, and addressing any underlying factors contributing to the infection.


The Anatomy of Ear Infections in Dogs: Understanding the Vulnerability of Bigger-Eared Breeds

Ear infections in dogs can be a persistent and uncomfortable issue, and understanding why some breeds, particularly those with larger ears like Beagles and Afghan Hounds, are more prone to these infections is essential. To comprehend this vulnerability, we must delve into the factors that pave the way for ear infections in dogs.


Optimal Conditions for Infection

Ear infections in dogs are predominantly caused by bacteria and fungi. These microscopic troublemakers thrive in environments where two key factors align: temperature and moisture. Dog ears provide the perfect habitat for these infectious agents, as they offer both the optimal temperature and moisture levels required for their survival and proliferation.


The Ear Canal Environment

The dog's ear canal is a warm, dark, and often moist passage. It's designed to funnel sound waves toward the eardrum, but this anatomical design inadvertently creates an environment where microorganisms can flourish. Unlike some other parts of the body, the ear canal doesn't experience the same level of airflow or drying, which would naturally deter bacterial and fungal growth.

afghan dog has big hairy ears is prone to ear infections

No Interruption in the Optimal Environment

One crucial factor that makes dog ears particularly vulnerable is the lack of interruption in this optimal environment. Unlike external body parts like the skin, which may dry out or have contact with the outside environment, the inner ear canal remains sheltered and relatively undisturbed. This undisturbed environment allows infectious agents to establish themselves and persist, leading to recurrent infections.


Bigger-Eared Breeds and Their Vulnerability

Breeds with larger, floppy ears, such as Beagles and Afghan Hounds, are more prone to ear infections for several reasons:

  • Limited Airflow: Larger ears tend to have less airflow within the ear canal due to their size and shape, creating an environment where moisture can become trapped.

  • Ear Shape: The unique shape of certain breeds' ears, such as those that hang down over the ear canal, can hinder the natural drying of the ear canal.

  • Hair Growth: Some breeds also have hair within the ear canal, which can further contribute to moisture retention and create an environment conducive to infection.

Cleaning Your Dog's Ears to Prevent Ear Infection

If you are a dog owner, you must be aware of ear cleaning. You need to clean your dog's ears regularly to avoid unhealthy situations. It is an exciting activity for you and your dog only if both of you are comfortable with it. If anyone of you is not comfortable or habitual with this activity, it may not be easy.


Some dogs don't need to clean their ears at all, while others need it regularly. You need to be aware of your dogs ear health by observing his ears regularly. You should be able to distinguish between normal ear smells and dirty ear smells. It is important to regularly remove any dirt and clean the ears to avoid making a habitable environment for infectious agents. If you have a dog with big or hairy ears, you need to check its health status regularly.


If your dog routinely has his ears cleaned, you both might enjoy doing it regularly. Dogs enjoy gently rubbing their ears if they are healthy. But if ears are not healthy, they may pull it away and avoid due to pain or irritation.


Three Easy Steps for Ear Cleaning

Supplies:

cleaning dog ears to prevent infection

You need a few things to get ready: a towel, cotton and an ear cleaning solution. Don't use tipped cotton or anything with a pointed end. Pointed things can push dirt deeper into the ear, which can be dangerous. There is one thing to keep in mind: the whole cleaning process can be messy! Therefore, it might be smart to clean your dogs ears in a bathroom or outside.


1. You need to collect all the supplies and your dog at the place where you will perform this activity. Keep the supplies near you and let your dog be at a table so that you can easily access his ears. Your dog should be at ease; if not, you could try at another time or encourage relaxation by providing a treat.


2. Squeeze the ear cleaning solution in your dog's ear canal but try to avoid the tip of the applicator touching the ear. Because it may introduce bacteria into the ears, causing the ear infection. Gently rub the ear for at least 30 seconds, and you will hear the sound of squishing as the solution starts cleaning the wax and dirt.

dog shaking water out of his ears

3. Now comes the use of a towel. Your dog will shake his head, and you should let him. Let your towel protect you from the spray and wipe his face. Once your dog stops shaking its head, use cotton to wipe out the releasing ear solution from the ear. Don't go down the ear canal to avoid discomfort.


Consider taking your dog to a vet if your dog feels pain any time during the activity.


How can you know the exact time of cleaning?

Living with your dog, you must be familiar with the needs of your furry friend. You should familiarize yourself with the normal: the normal smell, color, texture and behavior. A good owner is no less than an expert veterinarian who can tell the problem with just a good look at the dog. You should be able to take a look at your dog every day and notice changes.


A healthy dog ear characteristics:

  • Pink

  • Odorless

  • Not inflamed

  • Clean with no dirt

  • Not stinky or smelling like yeast

Whenever you see any deviation from the signs mentioned above, you must prepare yourself for ear cleaning. Many times, the owner asks what schedule they should follow to clean the ears. Some dogs need infrequent cleaning, while some need it more often. Mostly, dogs who swim need more often ear cleaning. The Merch Veterinary Manual recommends astringents for dogs who swim routinely to let their ear canals dry. The ear canal needs to be dry to avoid any infectious agent.

puppy dressed in veterinary clothes

Any deviant behavior like shaking their head more often should take your thoughts to ear cleaning because the dirt is irritating your dog. If the ear looks red, inflamed or smells like yeast and your dog does not allow you to check, maybe because of pain, you should see a vet diagnose the problem properly. These are the signs of an infection, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or an allergy.


It is strongly recommended not to clean an infected ear as it can be harmful to your dog. Go to the vet clinic and let the vet do his job.

Acupressure for Prevention of Ear Infections

Acupressure is an ancient healing therapy. Acupressure is considered a good strategy as there is no use of drugs to adverse effects. Acupressure provides comfort, emotional stability and physical health by pressing some pressure points at various places on the body. Unlike acupuncture, acupressure does not need to prick needles. The points just need light pressure that encourage and trigger the natural body energy, we call "chi", to restore the balance in the body.


Acupressure is a holistic approach to prevent many conditions. The holistic approach is far more beneficial than modern age therapy as it does not use chemical drugs and a surgical approach to treat a disease. Holistic therapy makes the body stable enough to have the healing potential. If you follow sessions on holistic therapies, like acupressure, your dog may not require any other kind of treatment. Holistic therapy is enough to keep your furry friend healthy and strong.

dog acupressure for ear infection prevention

Acupressure is a great complementary care option as well! If your pup does have an infection, you can follow your veterinary recommendations as well as pair acupressure sessions to help encourage the body to heal naturally. By engaging in acupressure practices regularly, you can nurture balance and harmony within your pet's body, including their ears. Here's how acupressure can be a part of your preventative strategy:

  • Strengthening the Immune System: Acupressure can target specific points associated with the immune system, helping to boost your pet's natural defenses against infections.

  • Improving Circulation: Enhanced blood flow through acupressure can promote optimal circulation in the ears, aiding in the removal of excess moisture and maintaining a healthy environment.

  • Stress Reduction: Stress can weaken the immune system and exacerbate health issues. Acupressure techniques designed to reduce stress can contribute to overall well-being and potentially decrease the likelihood of infections.

  • Maintaining Ear Hygiene: Regular ear examinations and gentle acupressure sessions can help keep the ears clean and free from excess wax or debris, reducing the risk of infection.

Acupressure points on ears

The heart of acupressure lies in the application of subtle yet deliberate pressure on the ear points responsible for ear health. These points serve as gateways to the body's life-force, known as "chi," and when disease disrupts this vital flow, acupressure comes to the rescue. With skillful touch, the practitioner prompts these points to awaken, triggering a cascade of healing energy.


The magic of acupressure unfolds as the body's energy balance is lovingly restored. It's like a symphony of rejuvenation where every note harmonizes, leaving your pet feeling invigorated, alive, and brimming with physical and emotional health.


But the artistry of ear acupressure doesn't stop at the ears themselves. Within the ear's intricate landscape, different pressure points hold the key to restoring energy balance throughout the body. The practitioner employs their dexterity, applying pressure at a precise 90-degree angle for nearly 30 seconds, utilizing the wisdom embedded within the body's meridians.


And here's where it gets even more fascinating—ear acupressure isn't confined solely to ear health. The practice has a ripple effect, benefiting other vital organs of the body like the liver, kidney, and more. The interconnected web of pressure points in the ear resonates with the body's inner workings, promoting holistic well-being.




Final Thoughts: Proactive Pet Care and the Power of Acupressure

In the realm of pet health, prevention often stands as the strongest defense against disease. A proactive approach that embraces careful attention to hygiene and vigilant observation of your dog's well-being can be the cornerstone of their long and healthy life. By taking proactive measures, you can spot any abnormal signs or symptoms and take action before disease has a chance to take hold.


In this journey of pet care, consider the invaluable role that acupressure can play as a preventative approach. Acupressure, with its ability to restore balance, vitality, and harmony, can bolster your dog's immune system and overall well-being. It's not just a therapy; it's a pathway to keeping your beloved companion healthy and resilient in the face of potential health challenges.


So, as you embark on the path of responsible pet ownership, remember that prevention is your greatest ally. The loving care you provide today can pave the way for a future free from unnecessary ailments and discomfort for your cherished canine companion. Embrace acupressure as a proactive tool in your pet care toolkit, and together, you and your dog can enjoy a lifetime of happiness, health, and unbreakable bonds.




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