By Katy Cable,TWR
If there's a pug in your family (or Irish Setter) you are most likely all too familiar with chronic ear infections. My first pug Raisin was plagued with them throughout most his life. Ironically they began coming on about a year after I switched him from homemade organic dog food to a crappy, expensive "prescription" food used to treat urinary issues. As time went on, and I kept filling him with processed corn, wheat, grains, gluten and poultry by-products, the infections got much worse. After a few years of misery and living on pricey antibiotics, Raisin underwent an extensive surgery where a small hole was drilled under his jaw and a tiny tube was inserted deep in the canal of his inner ear allowing it to drain and heal. It was a traumatic, painful ordeal for the poor little guy but it was successful. However, not too long after, he began having problems in his other ear and eventually the infections returned with a vengeance. At age 13 he got another painful infection, deep in his inner ear. Antibiotics were no longer effective and he was not in any condition to undergo another exhaustive surgery. We made the heartbreaking yet humane decision to let him go. I wish I had known then what I knew now because I truly feel I could've avoided most if not all these chronic ear issues. If your dog is experiencing persistent ear problems or is a breed predisposed to them, -read on. These simple tips should save you a lot of expense, hassle and heartache because preventing ear infections is actually quite easy.
Ear problems in dogs are the result of inflammation and/or infection. Any untreated inflammation can lead to infection. If your dog's ears are warm to the touch, red, swollen and/or itchy, but there's little to no discharge, chances are the problem is inflammation. However, if one or more of those symptoms is present along with a brown, green or bloody discharge, that can be anywhere from thin and runny to a thick sludge, chances are it's an infection.
The most common reason for ear inflammation in dogs is allergies. An allergic response to food or something in the environment can cause inflammation anywhere throughout your pet's body, including the ears. A dog with allergy-related ear inflammation will shake their head a lot and also scratch incessantly at their ears. It is also common for them to butt their head along your legs or furniture in an attempt to relieve their discomfort. If you notice your dog doing any of these things be sure to check their ears for any signs of irritation, redness and/or swelling.
Another cause of ear inflammation is moisture. This is commonly known as "swimmer's ear." Although it is very common during the warmer months when dogs are playing in the water more, if you live here in So Cal, where we enjoy outdoor beach weather year-round, or you live in a rainy or humid area, your dog can be at higher risk.Wetness and moisture in the ear canals coupled with a warm body temperature can create an infection quicker than President Trump can send out a heated tweet. It's extremely crucial to thoroughly dry your dog's ears each time they come out of the water or are groomed. If you own a higher-risk breed of dog or live in one of these climates, read on!
The third major reason for ear problems is wax buildup. The presence of some earwax is healthy and normal, and, just like humans, different dogs have varying amounts. Some dogs, like my sweet Raisin, needed his ears cleaned 2x's daily and little Olive has rarely needed a cleaning. 😀 Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Labradors and Retrievers, in general produce more earwax. If you have one of these breeds, you should get your dog accustomed to having their ears cleaned regularly from the time they are a puppy.
Ear infections typically involve the outer canal, which is actually very deep. The medical term used for these infections is "otitis externa." An infection that frequently recurs or never really clears, is termed, "chronic otitis." There are a number of things that can cause these infections including:
If your dog has an ear infection, it's very important to identify whether it's a bacterial or a fungal infection, (or both), in order to treat the problem.
Bacterial infections of the ear are the most common. They can either be pathogenic, which is a bacterial picked up from a source OUTSIDE the body, such as contaminated ocean water, or non-pathogenic which is a bacteria that are normally inhabitants of your dog's body, such as staph. Any bacteria can become overgrown and quickly cause an infection.
Fungal ear infections in dogs are most commonly caused by yeast. This is the type of ear infections that constantly plagued Raisin. Some yeast is always present on the bodies of animals, but when the immune system isn't in prime condition, (or they are eating a diet high in starchy carbs, as was also the case with Raisin), the fungus can grow out of control and cause an infection. Most dogs prone to yeast infections need to have their ears cleaned and dried frequently. I would also recommend a grain-free-low carb diet. I could always detect a yeast infection since Raisin's ears would either smell very sweet or horribly rancid. In any case, there was a distinct odor.
How To Prevent Ear Infections in Your Dog: Unfortunately pugs are much more prone to ear infections than many other breeds. If you are a pug parent (or have another susceptible breed) YOU MUST BE DILIGENT and check their ears daily. Any dirt, wax, or whatnot, left in the ear canal can bring on a raging infection quicker than norovirus spreads on a cruise ship. If your dog's ears aren't squeaky clean, CLEAN THEM. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a TON of cure! There are some ear solutions available in pet stores but this is an all-natural, inexpensive one you can easily make at home for far less money:
Apply a generous amount of solution on a cotton ball, round, or sterile gauze. (Never use a Q-tip inside the ear canal as it can damage or rupture the eardrum) Gently wipe the ears clean. You may need to repeat and use several cotton balls to adequately clean the ears. Once the cotton is clear of any dirt and wax, you are finished. This should do the trick for most dogs, but if you have a dog with heavy wax buildup, like my Raisin, I would do the following ear cleansing routine:
***If you suspect your pug might possibly have an ear infection, Make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately! -DON’T WAIT! *** Should your sweetie be suffering from an infection they may require antibiotics and/or special medicated cleaning solutions. Letting an infection go untreated can lead to rupture of the eardrum and further complications.
If your dog is being treated for an ear infection, it is even more important to keep their ears clean. Adding topical medication to dirty, waxy ears filled with gunk will just be adding fuel to the fire. Extra moisture and warmth will allow the bacteria to grow like wildfire. Also the medication will not easily reach and penetrate the infected tissue.
If your vet diagnoses your dog with a bacterial ear infection, make sure they determine the EXACT STRAIN and course of treatment. This will be extremely helpful if your dog has re-current infections and/or develops a resistance to certain antibiotics. And, just like with humans, it is extremely important to finish any medication your veterinarian prescribes. Don't try and save $ by stopping the course of treatment early and stashing the extra medication, should your dog's infection seem to clear. Stopping medications early can lead to regrowth of resistant organisms and eventually make them completely ineffective. Currently there are many strains of bacteria causing ear infections which are resistant to many (if not all) conventional medications. I also recommend adding some probiotics to replace the healthy bacteria being destroyed by antibiotics. A few tablespoons of plain Kefir is ideal and can be found where yogurt is sold.
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