Ear infections (otitis) in dogs can be a frustrating, never-ending cycle of pain, swelling and discharges from the ear canals. It can affect the quality of life of your pet as well as yours since the foul smell often precludes dogs from sharing close space with their owners. It is also a source of pain for your pet and it is a problem that has its roots in multiple factors.
One of the simplest issues in dogs with long droopy ears is the excessive moisture in the ear canal causing a yeast overgrowth. In dogs that swim or get bathed regularly, it is important to rinse the ear canals with a drying, acidifying solution that will prevent yeast growth. Try not to put cotton tip applicators in the ear canal, it is best to just flood it with the solution, allow the dog to shake the ears and then clean the gunk off the ear pinnae with a soft rag.
Atopy or Allergic dermatitis is often implicated in chronic, recurrent ear infections. Allergic dogs will have big ear infections and redness around the time when the pollen count is high, or in some cases when the dust mites in carpets and bedding are high. I see seasonal occurrences of these ear infections in dogs highly allergic to Oak trees and their pollen. Finding out what the pet is allergic to is very helpful in coming up with treatment options. For seasonal allergies, controlling the allergies with Apoquel or an injection of Cytopoint can usually be the key to solving the infection. For dogs that suffer otitis year around, the allergy test results could be used to create an immunotherapy vaccine to train their immune systems not to overreact.
Dietary allergies or reactions could be ruled out by strictly feeding a bland hypoallergenic diet for 8 weeks, this usually will be the time needed to see the improvement. It is important to cut all treats, especially ones that have red dye in them from the diet.
Cytology (a small swab of the ear seen under a microscope), is a must do diagnostic in order for your veterinarian to determine if the infection is caused by Yeast, bacteria ( and the type) or a mixture of both. In cases of bacterial infections, a culture and sensitivity can help figure out the most effective therapy quicker and in the long term less expensively. In some frustrating cases, the bacteria could be resistant to most treatments and in those, it takes a lot of patience and hard work from the owners to keep cleaning the ears to remove the organisms. In some cases, adding oral anti-inflammatories and trying to build the immune system up is the best treatment strategy. Adding holistic treatments like the Chinese herbal Ear Damp heat and using acupuncture could help heal those ears faster. In very resistant cases, referral to a dermatologist and or surgeon could offer additional long term options to treat these infections. ask your veterinarian how to keep your pet's ears in the best shape.