Ear infections are one of the most common presenting complaints for dogs in the United States. Veterinarians across the nation regularly see patients with ear disorders. The most common is called Otitis Externa or more simply “inflamed outer ear”. Ear infections can also be in the middle and inner ear, but these are less common than otitis externa. Although otitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, there are many causes and complicating factors, like fungal infection, parasites and allergic disease (to name a few).
It is most critical for a dog owner to be aware of the warning signs and know when to call the vet. Untreated ear infections are painful and can extend to the inner ear, causing other more systemic signs like facial paralysis or staggering. Even inflammation that stays in the outer ear can lead to hearing impairment. Ear infections tend to be chronic and difficult to manage even in the best cases and a delay in seeking help merely allows the problem to take a tighter hold on your dog’s ears.
If you notice any of the following signs, pay attention and check for the other signs too. Your dog could have otitis and need your help.
1. Head Shaking/Ear Scratching
If your dog is shaking his head or scratching at his ears, he is trying to tell you something. Ear inflammation and/or infection can cause itching. Since our dogs do not have fingers to rub or scratch, they must resort to scratching the ears with their hind legs or rubbing the ears on the ground or furniture. If you catch the trouble when it is first beginning and is still at the itching phase, you may be able to curtail it before it progresses to the next two signs.
2. Foul Odor or Drainage
There should never be a foul odor or drainage coming from the ears. Normal ears are dry and do not smell particularly foul. They should be lined with skin that is the same color as your dog’s normal skin, not bright red. If you lift your dog’s ear and smell garbage or dirty socks or see bright red skin, it is time to call the vet. If you see a reddish brown discharge (or really ANY discharge) do not rush to the feed store for “ear mite” medication. Adult dogs rarely have ear mites and you will complicate the issue with unneeded solution in the ear and teach your dog to avoid you in anticipation of you applying an uncomfortable medication.
3. Ears Sensitive To Touch
If your dog whines when you scratch his ears, there is a problem. While it is true that the ears are very sensitive and contain many nerves, normal ears do not hurt with regular petting or scratching or even rough play. If your dog cries when you touch his ear or seems to try to avoid you touching them, it is wise to call your vet. Regular handling should never be painful for your dog and she is trying to tell you something.
Many cases of otitis are related to allergic disease which unfortunately is not curable, but your veterinarian can help you find a recipe to control the symptoms and make your dog comfortable. Don’t ignore these three warning signs and your dog will thank you.
Regular cleaning with Project Paws™ Ear Wipes for Dogs can help your pet avoid painful ear infections!
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