Ear infections and the importance of your vet

That is one big ear!

I had the opportunity to cross over to the “other side of the fence” and work as a veterinary technician for several years when I lived in Denver, Colorado.  This gave me the chance to increase my repertoire and knowledge so that I can help my clients when they have questions regarding their dog’s health and some health concerns.  It enabled me to see both sides, the concerns of clients and dog owners, and the concern that a good veterinarian feels about the dogs in their care.

One of the most common concerns for dog owners and seen by vets is ear infections.  Many, many dogs suffer from the pain associated with ear infections.  Floppy eared dogs are the most common sufferers when it comes to ear infections, because air cannot readily get into the ear to dry it out and it becomes a moist breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.  However, even some prick eared dogs have to endure ear infections.

Common Causes of Ear Infections

There are many causes, some include water getting into the canal and not being able to escape i.e. baths or swimming, foreign bodies that can get into the ear canal and work their way down toward the eardrum (like some types or weeds), regular moisture that just can’t dry normally, or even allergies can lead to ear infections.  To diagnose the problem, please see your vet.  Only your veterinarian can truly determine the cause of the infection by evaluating the situation and determining frequency.

Most ear infections are due to an over growth of yeast or bacteria or both in your dog’s ears.  This is not the same type of yeast infection that women can suffer from, so treating your dog over the counter with medications will not be effective.  Again, only your vet can determine what type of ear infection your dog has.  He or she will take a swab of your dog’s ear and evaluate it under a microscope.

Different infections require different treatments.  And, even if your dog has had numerous ear infections in the past, the type of infection may differ from time to time.  Do not use old or remaining medications, because some medications may cause deafness if the eardrum has perforated, and the only way to tell this is to have your vet look in your dog’s ears.

Some infections can be so dire that white blood cells, or puss, can even be seen on the swab, this often requires some oral antibiotics and possibly even pain medications.  Ear infections can be very painful for the recipient, and can even affect mood in the dog.

It’s Diagnosed…Now What?

Once diagnosed it is important to follow your vet’s instructions on cleaning and treatment of the infection.  Most vets will initially treat the infection for 2 weeks, and then they desire a recheck.  Now, this is the most important part of our discussion:  A lot of our clients would miss their recheck appointments.  They would see improvement to the dog’s mood, and on and in the outside of the ear and would assume that the infection was gone.

A dog’s ear canal is shaped like an L, with the bottom part of the L pointing down toward the dog’s skull.  There is no way for the human eye to see down to the dog’s ear drum without an otoscope.  The reason your vet schedules an ear recheck is to check the progress of the infection deep down in the ear.  Most ear infections need to be treated a second or third 2 week cycle before the infection clears.  If the infection is not rechecked and lays dormant deep in the canal of the dog, not only will it not go away, it may become resistant to medications.  Once the infection is resistant, it becomes even more difficult to treat and often very expensive.

I write this because I know how each side of this ordeal feels; the client sees

Keep your dog's ears happy too!

improvement and doesn’t want another trip to the vet and possibly the expenditure of more money (although most resolved ear rechecks are free) and the veterinarian just wants to completely resolve and treat the ear infection for the client and the health of the dog.

My advice; make sure you go to your recheck appointments!  Most veterinarians are in practice for their love of animals, most of them are not making a ton of money by making these types of suggestions.  Find a good vet and develop a friendship and a trust so that you can trust them with your dogs care and preventative needs!

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