Ear Care & Disease
Otitis Externa
(part 2: Treatment and Prevention)
Treatment

The treatment is going to depend on what caused the ear problem and what secondary conditions are there as a result. Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections and antifungals for yeast infections. Glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone are often included in these preparations to reduce the amount of inflammation in the ear. Ear problems caused by a systemic disease such as a hormone abnormality or allergy must include a therapy that treats the whole dog, such as hormonal replacement or allergy testing and hyposensitization (immunotherapy).

Allergies: Allergies are commonly treated with regular ear cleaning with an ear cleaning solution, antihistamines, and fatty acid supplements. Sometimes corticosteroids are needed. These may be given in an oral or injectable form, or they can be applied topically. Allergy testing and immunotherapy (hyposensitzation) may be the best way to cure the ear problem.

Ear mites: Ear mites can cause a dry, dark, crumbly debris in the ear that resembles coffee grounds. For this condition, ear cleaning followed by an ear medication to kill mites will eliminate the problem, although the treatment may need to be continued over several weeks depending upon the product used.

Yeast: Yeast can cause severe ear problems. We usually observe a brown waxy exudate and a bad odor. Daily cleaning of the ears will help, but often these infections are difficult to treat, and special medications need to be given since antibiotics do not kill yeast. If you suspect a yeast infection in your dog's ears, consult your veterinarian.

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections can also have a bad odor and often have a more yellowish exudate. If it is a severe or chronic condition, ear cleaning alone will not take care of the problem and antibiotics will almost always be necessary. Again, consult your veterinarian. Ear infections of the canal, if severe, can spread to the middle and inner ear, so prompt attention to the problem is always best.

Regardless of the cause of the ear disease, we must always keep the ear canal clean.
Holly Nash, DVM, MS

Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Cleaning Ears

Your dog's ear is more L-shaped than yours, and debris loves to collect at the corner of the L. To remove this debris, fill your dog’s ear canal with a good ear cleaner. Ear cleaners should be slightly acidic but should NOT sting. Massage the base of the ear for 20-30 seconds to soften and release the debris. Wipe out the loose debris and excess fluid with a cotton ball. Repeat this procedure until you see no more debris. Depending on your dog's ear condition, you may have to start out doing this twice a day.
Cotton applicator swabs can be used to clean the inside of the earflap and the part of the ear canal you can see. They should NOT be used farther down in the ear canal since that tends to pack debris in the ear canal, rather than removing it.

Some ear problems are so painful, the dog must be anesthetized to do a good job of cleaning the ears. You may find your dog does not like to have his ears cleaned because it is uncomfortable. Talking to him during the process, stopping momentarily to give him a treat if he is doing well (we do not want to reward fussiness!) and doing something fun afterwards may all help.

After the ear is clean, let the dog shake his head and allow some time for the ears to dry. Then you can apply any ear medication that was prescribed.



Preventing ear disease

The key to healthy ears is to keep them clean. Check your dog’s ears weekly. A slight amount of waxy buildup may be present in normal ears. If your dog swims a lot, has pendulous ears, or a history of ear disease, routine cleaning (often once to three times per week) is recommended. Use the same procedure as described above. Excess hair around the ear can be clipped to allow more air flow. Treat any underlying condition that predisposes your dog to ear problems.

Remember, if your dog is showing severe discomfort, the ears have a bad smell, or the ear canals look very abnormal, do not delay in contacting your veterinarian. If your dog has a ruptured or weakened eardrum, some ear cleansers and medications could do more harm than good.
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Recommended pages
Ear Mites
Ear Scratching

Eye Care and Disease
Diarrhea and Vomiting
Recommended books
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Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook
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The Veterinarians' Guide to Your Dog's Symptoms
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UC Davis Book of Dogs :
The Complete Medical Reference Guide for Dogs and Puppies
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