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Ear infections in dogs

A common health problem in dogs is inflammation of the external ear canal, often referred to by dog ​​owners as an ear infection.

How do I recognize an ear infection?

The stages of development of an ear problem in dogs described below serve to assess the severity of the existing disease. There is no uniform point at which veterinary care is required, but from the third stage onwards it is advisable to seek professional help.

Stage 1: Signs of an early ear infection

  • Slight warming of the ears
  • Increased scratching or rubbing of the ears
  • Slight change in ear odor, usually no discharge yet
  • Intensive daily ear care recommended for at least a week. As symptoms improve, slowly increase the intervals between cleanings.

Stage 2: Advanced ear infection

  • Typical blackish-brownish, unpleasant-smelling secretion
  • Increased shaking of the head and rubbing of the ears
  • Some inflammations at this stage may be painless and therefore may be overlooked by owners.
  • Routine daily ear care until symptoms improve. Then regular cleaning 1-2 times a week.

Stage 3: Severe ear infection

  • Purulent, greasy to bloody discharge
  • Severe pain, violent shaking and scratching
  • Possibly tilting the head, which may indicate a middle ear infection.
  • Routine ear care twice daily until improvement. Afterwards regular cleaning 2-3 times a week.

Stage 4: Advanced ear problems

  • In addition to the previous symptoms, massive thickenings or tumor-like changes can occur.
  • These changes lead to further narrowing of the ear canal, making care and ventilation more difficult.
  • Most often, this condition requires surgical treatment to allow ventilation of the external ear canal.
  • Routine ear care twice daily until symptoms improve. Afterwards regular cleaning 2-3 times a week.

It is important to note that if symptoms progress or become severe, a professional veterinary examination is essential to ensure the best possible treatment for your dog.

What helps with ear infections?

When it comes to ear infections in dogs, it is important to identify the cause of the inflammation in order to initiate appropriate treatment. It is advisable to see a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Treatment may vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment methods:

  1. Cleaning: Thoroughly cleaning the ears is crucial to remove dirt, excess wax and inflammatory secretions. To do this, use special ear cleaners for dogs that are recommended by your veterinarian.

  2. Medication: Depending on the diagnosis, the veterinarian may prescribe ear drops or ointments containing antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, or antibiotic agents to fight infection and reduce inflammation.

  3. Pain relief: If the pain is severe, painkillers may be prescribed to ease the dog's suffering.

  4. Treating the underlying cause: Often an ear infection is a symptom of an underlying cause such as allergies, parasitic infestation, or an infection. Treatment should aim to treat this cause to avoid recurring inflammation.

  5. Examinations: The veterinarian may perform further examinations such as ear swabs or blood tests to determine the exact cause of the inflammation and initiate specific treatment.

Ear infections in dogs

Which dogs are prone to ear infections?

Dogs of certain breeds or mixes are more prone to problems in the external ear canal due to their specific physical characteristics. This is due to anatomical peculiarities that hinder the natural removal of secretions or ventilation of the ears. Consequently, dogs with erect ears and less hairy, well-ventilated ears are less prone to ear problems.

In contrast, dogs with long, heavily haired and heavily folded ears (lop-eared ears) are more likely to develop ear infections. It can be particularly problematic if the base of the ear is low, such as in Cocker Spaniels. The risk also increases in dogs with excessive hair in the external ear canal, such as some terrier breeds, schnauzers and poodles. There is also an increased risk in dogs that naturally have narrower ear canals, such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards.

How does a chronic ear infection manifest itself?

Chronic ear infections are very common in dogs. They result from an acute ear infection that has not completely healed and are often manifested by constant symptoms or repeated occurrences of symptoms at regular intervals. These often present with persistent or recurring acute symptoms.

How long does an ear infection last?

The duration of an ear infection in dogs can vary greatly and depends on various factors, including the cause of the inflammation, the treatment and the dog's individual response to therapy.

An acute ear infection can resolve within a few days to a few weeks if treated promptly and appropriately. However, healing time depends on how quickly the underlying cause is identified and treated. Sometimes mild inflammation can go away within a few days with appropriate measures and medication.

Chronic or recurring ear infections can last for a long period of time. Treatment may take longer and often requires ongoing care to prevent or control further infections. In these cases, treatment may last for weeks or even months to control the inflammation and treat the underlying cause.

What are the causes of ear infections?

Inflammation of the external auditory canal is not primarily caused by specific pathogens, but primarily by a variety of contributing factors (see above). Microorganisms such as yeasts, staphylococci, streptococci, Pseudomonas, Proteus, etc. usually only develop secondarily, due to disturbances in the ear environment or during inflammatory processes.

Renal dysfunction

Chinese acupuncture theory states that the ears serve as an indicator of the condition of the kidneys. This leads to the conclusion that the health of the ears allows conclusions to be drawn about the condition of the kidneys. Interestingly, many dogs that chronically suffer from recurrent ear problems also show signs of kidney dysfunction. In such cases, the use of herbal therapy or a special three-month kidney diet can be of great help.

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Immune stress – allergies

The external ear canal with its inner skin plays an important role in the body's immune system. People with allergies often experience inflammatory reactions in the ears. In such cases, the use of herbs and switching to low-allergen food can have a supportive and beneficial effect.

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