Anyone can picture the image of a dog coming out of the water, giving himself a good shake, water going everywhere, the ears flapping round like a propeller. Didn’t he have a good time? It’s great fun isn’t it?
But what if your dog shakes his head during a normal walk, or while you’re at home watching TV together? Does he seem to be itchy or was there a sudden yelp when you petted him around the ears. Keep in mind that dogs or cats might do this because of inflamed ear canals.
In a healthy ear canal there’s a perfectly balanced flora of bacteria. This protect the ear against “intruders” like fungi or bacteria that cause inflammation. Anything that disturbs this healthy balance can lead to ear problems, and it’s important to remember some of the common causes.
Bacteria love humidity, which means that bacterial ear infections are more often seen in dogs that swim a lot. In dogs with hanging ears in particular, the ear canal will stay wet for a long time. With water, both sand and dirt could enter the ears, which will cause extra irritation.
The ear canal can be seen as an extension of a dog’s skin. Whenever the healthy bacteria on a dog‘s skin are out of balance, e.g. due to an allergic reaction like flea bite allergy, the ears are more likely to get inflamed.
Some breeds of dogs have hair growing inside the ear canal. It makes it harder for wax to be transported out of the ear.
Sometimes it’s just strong wind irritating the ear canal, for example in a dog that loves to hold his head outside the window of a driving car.
When the ear canal gets irritated it turns red and starts to produce more then the normal amount of wax. The inner lining of the ear canal starts to sell up. With the help of bacteria this can turn into a brown or black discharge. This discharge, full of bacteria will now continue to irritate the ear canal, which leads to a very itchy or sore vicious circle. During this whole process the tissue
Certain bacteria can cause a “wet” inflammation and the ear canal fills up with pus. These infections can be very sore.
In the early stages of inflammation symptoms normally disappear quite easily after treatment with eardrops or ointment. If treatment doesn’t get the inflammation under control quickly, an ear swab can be taken. This will be send to the laboratory, where a “bacterial culture and sensitivity” will tell us which bacteria we’re dealing with, and which antibiotics they’re susceptible to.
In more chronic cases, inflammatory tissue and scar tissue will form inside the wall of the ear canal, which will make the canal itself narrower. Treatment will be harder, and take longer at this stage. Because of chronic inflammatory changes in the ear canal, it can eventually turn from a healthy, flexible tube into a solid, narrower tube. In severe cases these changes won’t be reversible, even with long term treatment, and the ears will be sore and inflamed all the time. In this case other options, like surgery can be discussed with your veterinarian.
Hopefully few animals will reach this stage. Early treatment and keeping the ears clean is always the best option. Ear cleaning solutions can help to achieve the best result.
The only way to have a good look into the ear and make a true diagnosis is by using an otoscope. Without an otoscope it’s only possible to see 10% of the ear canal. Depending on the discharge your vet might prescribe an ear cream or solution that helps to get rid of discharge and attacks bacteria. If there is a lot of discharge it is necessary to start with a proper clean out of the ear canal. This is achieved by thoroughly rinsing the ear canal with a cleaning solution. Normally this will not be done during the consult, and your dog or cat might have to be sedated for this procedure.
Don’t hesitate to give the team at Newstead Veterinary Services a ring for any inquiries.