By Katy Cable,TWR
This Sunday, April 7th is Easter. In honor of the floppy-eared bunny, I thought this was a perfect time to discuss one of the most common problems I “hear” from Pug parents...EAR infections. Good news, if you know what to look for and some follow easy tips, you can prevent a lot of bigger, more expensive problems.
My first pug Raisin was plagued with ear infections throughout most his life. Ironically they began coming on a few months after I switched him from homemade organic dog food to a crappy, expensive "prescription" food used to treat his urinary issues. As time went on, and I kept filling him with processed corn, wheat, grains, gluten and poultry by-product meals, the infections got much worse.
After a few years of misery and living on pricey antibiotics, Raisin underwent extensive surgery. 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 extremely 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 know 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, smelly, 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, odor, and/or swelling.
Another cause of ear inflammation is moisture. This is commonly known as "swimmer's ear." It’s very common during the warmer months when dogs are playing in the water more. For those of us in So Cal, that’s year-round. Your dog can also be at higher risk if you live in a humid, rainy climate. Wetness and moisture in the ear canals, coupled with a warm body temperature, can create an infection quicker than flies can collect on a can of soda left in the sun. It's extremely crucial to thoroughly dry your dog's ears each time they come out of the water or are groomed. -Particularly if you have a high-risk breed!
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 first Pug Raisin, need their ears cleaned 2x's daily. My current Pug Olive is fine with a quick weekly cleaning. 😀 Certain breeds, such as English & French Bulldogs, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Poodles, 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’re 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 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 normally lives in your dog's body, like 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 infection that constantly plagued my pug Raisin. Some yeast is always present in the bodies of animals. When the immune system isn't in prime condition, (from extreme stress, overuse of antibiotics or eating a diet high in starchy carbs), 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 fresh, wet, grain-free, low-carb, diet. As well as good probiotics.
How To Prevent Ear Infections in Your Dog:
Unfortunately, pugs are much more prone to ear infections than many other breeds. If you’re 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, WASH THEM. An ounce of prevention is worth a TON of money in saved vet bills! If you have a dog getting frequent ear infections, ask your vet for an anti-fungal ear rinse. For everyday use, there are many excellent ear solutions available in pet stores or you can easily make this one at home for far less money:
Apply a generous amount of solution to 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 and I would ask your vet for a stronger medicated rinse until it’s under control.
***If you suspect your pup 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’s even more important to keep the 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 spread like ants at a picnic. 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 a few bucks by stopping the course of treatment early and stashing the extra medication. This can lead to the regrowth of resistant organisms and eventually make them completely ineffective. Currently there are many strains of bacteria causing ear infections that are resistant to many (if not all) conventional medications.
I recommend adding some probiotics to replace the healthy bacteria being destroyed by antibiotics. A few tablespoons of plain Kefir or goat’s milk is ideal and can be found where milk and yogurt drinks are sold. Also, Nulo pet foods offer low-carb, high-protein jerky treats made with patented, viable, probiotics. These will replace good bacteria being destroyed by the medication and keep your dog’s gut healthy. -A healthy gut means a healthy, strong immune system.
If your dog’s ear issues are driving you nuts, I HEAR YOU! These tips should be a game-changer. Not only for the health and comfort of your dog, but also for your bank account! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!
Pugs and kisses!🐾💕
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