How common are itchy ears?
Table of Contents
- 1 How common are itchy ears?
- 2 Reasons for itchy ears
- 3 Symptoms of ear infections
- 4 Why do dogs have ear infections?
- 5 How serious are ear infections?
- 6 How to prevent ear infections
- 7 How ear infections are treated
Reasons for itchy ears
Ear mitesEar mites are tiny creatures that infest your dog’s ear and cause your dog to scratch at their ears and shake their heads. You’ll also find a black discharge in the ear. While ear mites are most common in puppies, adult dogs can get them too, especially from infected puppies. Ear mites create an environment in the ear that will often result in a secondary ear infection, as well as cause irritation and itching.
Ear infectionsAn ear infection is by far the most common cause of itchy ears in dogs. There are three kinds of ear infections that a dog may suffer from.
- Otitis externa causes inflammation in the external portion of the ear. This is the most common kind of ear infection.
- Otitis media involves an inflammation of the middle of the ear canal.
- Otitis interna means that the inner ear canal is suffering from inflammation.
Symptoms of ear infectionsItchy ears are the most common symptom of ear infections. Dogs may scratch at their ears with their paws or rub their ears against things. They may also shake the head from side to side as though trying to get something out of their ears. Dogs suffering from ear infections might “ask” you to rub their ears by pushing their ears against your hands, but then yelp in discomfort when you try to rub the ear. When you look closer, you’ll notice redness and swelling in the ear canal. There may be scabs or crusty places from where your dog has been scratching and even open cuts. There will be a very distinct odor as well. If your dog has sharp nails or their ears itch a lot, they can hurt and scratch up their ears quite badly trying to itch them.
Why do dogs have ear infections?
More prevalent in floppy earsThe long, droopy ears of basset hounds or cocker spaniels are absolutely irresistible, but unfortunately, this ear type is also predisposed to ear infections and other ear issues. The long flap of the ear traps moisture more easily, creating conditions that lead to ear infections.
A moist environmentIf your dog likes to wallow in the mud like a pig or can’t go a day without a dip in the pond outside your home, they may be setting themselves up for an ear infection. This is also true of dogs that spend time in the water for other reasons, like retrievers fetching waterfowl in marshes and lakes or dogs that compete in dock diving or other water-related sports. Dogs kept outside in humid climates also face a higher chance of getting an ear infection.
HeatDogs are more likely to suffer from ear infections during warmer months. During these times, 10% to 15% of all patients brought to veterinary hospitals come in with ear infections. If you live in a hot, moist climate, ear infections are even more likely for your dog, especially if they have droopy ears.
Dirty earsIf you don’t clean your dog’s ears often enough, wax buildup and foreign bodies like dirt and debris can lead to an ear infection. You are also less likely to notice the infection in the beginning stages, which means it will get worse more quickly.
Excessively clean earsBy the same token, ears that are cleaned too often may not be able to maintain a natural balance of good and bad bacteria, which can result in ear infections. Ears that are dried by harsh ear cleaning products may become infected more easily. Frequent cleaning can also make damaging the ear canal more likely, which can result in an ear infection.
AllergiesIf your dog has itchy skin as well as itchy ears, there is a very good chance that they are suffering from allergies. Allergies are usually due to environmental factors like pollen. A little less than 20% of dogs who suffer from allergies have food allergies. Some dogs inherit a susceptibility to allergies known as atopic dermatitis. Certain breeds are especially prone to this genetic condition, including most Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Shar-Peis.
How serious are ear infections?Infections found more deeply in the ear are usually caused by a spread from the external part of the ear. Internal ear infections and infections of the middle part of the ear canal can be very serious. Your dog may become deaf, have facial paralysis, or suffer vestibular symptoms, along with significant pain. Since ear infections often point to another problem, such as allergies, it is very important to take them seriously and ask your vet to check your dog for other indications of allergies. You might also look into tests for hypothyroidism. An ear infection should not be treated at home. Your veterinarian needs to determine exactly what is going on in your dog’s ear and what is the best way to fix it, as well as whether there are other concerns connected to the ear infection that need to be treated, like allergies. In extremely severe cases, your dog may even require surgery to remove the vertical part of the ear canal and hopefully prevent recurrent ear infections.
How to prevent ear infectionsEar infections are serious, so you want to do your best to prevent them in your dog if at all possible. Here are some things that you can do to make it less likely that your faithful friend will suffer from a painful ear infection.
Clean properlyIt isn’t just cleaning your dog’s ears that is important but cleaning correctly and at the right times. Cleaning your dog’s ears too often can actually result in more ear infections, not fewer, so be careful not to overdo it. Most dogs should have their ears cleaned about once a month or more often if they are very prone to ear problems. To clean your dog’s ears correctly, fill the canal with cleaning solution and massage the vertical ear canal. By rubbing up and out, you can help to bring out debris that may cause infections. Thoroughly dry the ear canal with absorbent gauze, not paper towels or cotton, which may leave irritating fibers.
Check frequently for problemsIt may seem strange to regularly sniff your dog’s ears, but this is an important routine for preventing ear infections. You should know how your dog’s ears smell when they’re healthy so you can identify the distinct smell of an ear infection when it is just getting started.
Treat underlying problemsIf your dog has allergies to their environment or food, eliminate allergens from the diet or use medication to prevent allergies from being symptomatic. If your dog suffers from hypothyroidism or another condition that may result in ear infections, ask your veterinarian what you can do to change your dog’s diet. Additionally, use supplements and medication to treat the problem.
How ear infections are treatedHopefully, your dog will never suffer from itchy ears resulting from an ear infection. If your dog does have an ear infection, don’t panic. Your veterinarian can suggest the best way to clear up your dog’s itchy ears. First, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s ears with an otoscope, which provides both light and magnification. This allows the veterinarian to determine whether there is any foreign material in the canal and whether the infection is severe enough to have damaged the eardrum. If your dog is in too much pain to allow for this examination, they may need to be sedated or anesthetized. Next, your vet will take a sample of the material in the ear canal and examine it under the microscope to find out what is causing the infection. Culture and susceptibility tests may also be used to find out which medication will be efficient in treating what’s going wrong with your dog’s ear. Multiple medications or broad-spectrum medication may be used for dogs that have multiple types of bacteria or fungus.
Treating underlying causes.Many dogs that suffer from ear infections, especially chronic and recurrent ear infections, are suffering from allergies. They may also be suffering from a thyroid that isn’t functioning properly, known as hypothyroidism. If there is an underlying cause, your veterinarian will try to address and treat it as well.
How to apply medicationYour veterinarian will prescribe medication that you need to put in your dog’s ear or ears once or twice a day (or more often, as needed). It is important to do this properly, as you need the medication to get into the lower part of the horizontal ear canal in order to treat the infection. Here are some tips for applying medication to your dog’s ears.
- Hold the ear up and tilted slightly back so that the ear canal opens up.
- With the other hand, apply the medication into the ear canal.
- Hold the ear up long enough for the medication to run down into the canal.
- With your finger and thumb gently grasped around the ear, massage the base of the ear gently to work the medication around.
- You should hear a squishing sound that tells you the medication is being thoroughly worked into the ear.
- Step away and let your dog shake their head. Most medications are waxy and stick inside your dog’s ear, so they won’t be able to shake it all out, but debris may be dissolved and allowed to leave your dog’s ear as they shake.
- Wait between medications. Often, more than one medication will need to be applied. Be sure to wait as long as the veterinarian specifies, usually at least 15 or 30 minutes, between medications.
- Make sure you apply the medications in the correct order if your dog has been prescribed more than one.