Other less common causes of otitis externa in dogs
* Polyps or other growths in the ear canal
* Foreign bodies in the ears, including dirt, sand, or
plant material (foxtails and grass
* External parasites (like ear mites)
The most severely affected patients often get stuck in a
cycle of inflammation, infection, and thickening of the tissues lining the ear
canal (fibrosis), which eventually leads to narrowing of the ear canals,
ruptured eardrums, and debris and infection within the middle ear — a highly
painful process, to be sure. Over time, scar tissue occludes the canals,
preventing medications from reaching the diseased portions of the canal. The
occluded canals also prevent the natural sloughing of the canal’s skin cells,
sebum (wax), and hair, which accumulates in both the canal and middle ear,
thereby intensifying the infection.
Considering the long-term nature of this condition,
chronic otitis is a frustrating disease for both owners and veterinarians. But
for patients, the disease is much more critical, given that they typically
suffer significant pain. The pain — not to mention the nagging itchiness —
associated with these ear infections makes our frustration seem petty in
What To Look For
Affected dogs typically experience recurrent bouts of
malodorous discharge, moderate pain, and substantial itchiness. But a
significant subset will suffer these symptoms on a constant basis with no relief.
Some pets may even try to bite someone who attempts to touch their ears or
The clinical signs of otitis depend on the severity of
the inflammation but may include:
~ Shaking the head or rubbing the head and ears on the
floor or furniture
~ Scratching at the ears
~ Discharge from the ears, which can sometimes have a foul
~ Redness of the ear canal and earflap (the ears may also
feel warm when touched)
~ Ear hematoma, evidenced by a grossly swollen earflap
~ Aggression whenever the head is approached
Some dogs with severe otitis may cry or groan as they rub
and scratch their ears. Others will scratch so severely that their nails create
wounds on the skin around their face, neck, and ears. If the otitis is severe
or chronic, the outer ear canal can begin to thicken and become deformed. This
thickening can make the ear opening very narrow, so cleaning the ears becomes
more difficult. Ulcerations on the inside of the ear canal can also result from
infection and self-trauma.
As mentioned above, chronic otitis that begins in the
outer ear canal can ultimately rupture the eardrum, ending in otitis media and
otitis interna. Progression of this infection into the middle and inner ear can
be associated with even more severe clinical signs, including development of a
head tilt, incoordination, inability to stand or walk, hearing loss, and
severe, unrelenting pain.
A medical history and physical examination findings can
provide valuable information for your veterinarian when trying to diagnose an
ear infection. The medical history may include trying to determine how long the
ear infection has been going on, whether it has occurred before and whether any
other signs of illness have been observed. Physical examination findings may
reveal evidence of underlying illness, such as thyroid disease and Cushing’s
How To Treat The
Treatment of chronic otitis is a multistep process.
First, the bacterial and fungal (yeast) component must be addressed along with
the inflammation. The following strategies are typically used:
* Cleansing the ear canal is always recommended to clear
accumulated debris. If the otitis is painful and/or an extensive process,
cleansing should ideally be undertaken with the pet under sedation or
anesthesia. Otoscopy is often recommended as an aid in this process.
* Topical medication tailored to treat the specific
bacteria, yeast, or mites present is typically used (these are usually
available as either ear drops or ointments). These include antibiotics,
antifungals (to kill yeast), anti-inflammatory drugs (like cortisone), and
* Systemic antimicrobials (antibiotic given by mouth or
injection) are indicated in some cases, such as if the eardrum is ruptured.
Ideally, antibiotic therapy is based on the results of culture and sensitivity
* Systemic anti-inflammatory medications, such as
corticosteroids, are sometimes employed to reduce the pain, redness, and
swelling. Antihistamines may also be prescribed.
It is important to note that treatment of the symptoms
without addressing the underlying cause will only provide a dog with temporary
relief. Identifying and removing the source of the problem will eliminate
chronic ear infections and make for a much happier dog and owner.
How To Break The
The only way to stop the occurrence and reoccurrence of
chronic ear infections is to attack the source of the problem and take a few
easy steps to help your dog fight the disease early on.
~ Routine cleaning of the ear canal will help eliminate debris that can foster yeast growth.
~ Since the majority of chronic ear infections are related to skin allergies, and the majority of skin allergies are related to the food a dog eats every day, it is important to only use a food which is known not to cause allergies. With so many foods to choose from this can be difficult. There are three important areas to focus on: 1) use only a true grain free food, 2) try an food that uses a seafood based protein source, and 3) eliminate everything else from your dog's diet (including treats, table scraps, edible toys, etc). This will allow your dog's immune system to relax and should provide a positive contribution to their chronic otitis.
~ Introduce a daily multivitamin like HardyPet Skin&Coat. The 42 ingredients contained in this formula include natural anti-inflammatories, allergy fighting compounds, and support for proper immune system function. Having the right nutrition makes every body system work better individually and as a whole.
~ Give your dog a daily canine specific probiotic to fight candida yeast overgrowth. There is an ongoing battle in the digestive tract of every dog between yeast and good bacteria (flora). The winner of this fight determines the health of your dog and how well they use nutrients in the digestive tract. Whenever good bacteria populations are compromised, candida yeast populations increase and cause a number of problems including skin allergies that can affect their ears. By using a true Canine-Specific probiotic like HardyPet PRO6, the natural flora populations get daily reinforcements to fight the battle for your dog's health. Only strains of good bacteria that are native to your dog's system, like those in PRO6, will provide any benefit.
Chronic ear infections are one of the more common and
difficult problems dogs and their owners face. It is persistent, can rapidly worsen
if left untreated, and will cause serious damage if not reversed in time. The
best treatment for chronic ear infections is for owners to take the steps
necessary to make sure their dogs never acquire the disease. The right diet and
proper nutrients can make sure your dog never suffers again.
information in this article does not constitute medical advice; canine medical
advice is the purview of veterinarians. Instead, this article is educational
material, written to provide you, the reader, with information, to inspire you
to learn more, and to empower you to make decisions about your dog's wellbeing.
For medical advice, consult your veterinarian and get a second opinion if
needed. For fuller empowerment, read, study, and notice as much as you can so
that you can make decisions from a position of knowledge.