By Dr. Karishma Gupte ( M.V.Sc.)*
Honestly speaking, ear issues have always been a nightmare to treat. The anatomy of pet ears is the main reason for this. The conical shape, narrow tunnel, secretions of wax, and less scope for air circulation make it a perfect place for bacteria and fungus to grow and multiply. These same conditions make it difficult for us to treat these nasty infections.
Based on the region of infection inside the ears, we categorize it as follows:
Otitis externa means that the inflammation affects the layer of cells lining the outer or external portion of the ear canal. Otitis media and interna refer to infections of the middle and inner ear canal, and most often, they are a result of the spread of infection from the external ear. These more advanced cases can be very serious, and could lead to deafness, facial paralysis, or signs of vestibular disease, such as head tilting, circling, and lack of coordination. That’s why it is important to prevent and seek early treatment for ear problems.
Symptoms that your dog may have with an ear infection include:
Head shaking or head tilting
Lack of balance
Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
Redness of the ear canal
Swelling of the outer portion of the ear
Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
Dogs with long ears like ‘Basset Hounds’ are predisposed to frequent ear infections. This is because their ears stay covered most of the time, so it’s an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – dark, warm, and moist.
However, any dogs with allergies or who swim a lot are also prone to ear infections. Chronic ear infections are a sign of deeper problem and definitely something to explore with your veterinarian.
Allergies to ingredients in pet’s food, or environmental triggers, like pollen, molds, and dust mites, anatomical abnormalities, masses, foreign material within the ear, chronically damp ears, and hormonal disorders may lead to chronic discomfort in pet’s ears.
In most cases, cleaning and medicating the ear canal will clear up an infection. However, surgery may be needed for chronic infections or if forceful head shaking results in haematoma that is, the rupture of a vessel within the outer part of the ear.
The length of treatment depends on the patient, severity of infection, and any changes to the ear (i.e., thickening of tissue in the ear). In some cases, oral medications are necessary (antibiotics, anti-yeast, anti-inflammatory). Your veterinarian will schedule rechecks to make sure the medications are working and the infection is cleared.
*Director, Vetbiotics Animal Healthcare Pvt Ltd.