Swimmer’s ear and summer go hand-in-hand … for you and your canines. Dog Ear infections (although all may not be related to swimmers ear) were the second most common reason why dog’s visited the vet in 2013, reported by Veterinary Pet Insurance. If you can’t keep your dog out of the water and from swimming during the hot months of summer, keep reading to learn more about preventing painful dog ear infections.
Dog Ear infections result from an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast. When water becomes trapped in a dog’s ear canal, the “perfect storm” of darkness plus wet creates a painful ear infection. Even with “doggie paddle” swimming, water still splashes into the ears. And those dogs that love to submerge themselves to fetch their favorite toy? The chances of an ear infection are even greater! Floppy-eared dogs are at the greatest risk because water-logged ears cannot naturally dry out.
Is Your Breed at Risk?
Dogs with pendulous ears (ie. big word for floppy-eared) are vulnerable. Their ear flap can prevent the dog from shaking loose or dislodging water from the ear canal. An example of some breeds with pendulous ears include:
Some other breeds have an abundant amount of hair in their ears which can also cause problems. Some of these breeds would include:
But short of keeping your 4-legged friend out of the water, what can you proactively do to avoid painful – and ultimately – dangerous ear infections?
Prevent Dog Ear Infections
Follow these steps to help prevent dog ear infections:
- After swimming, carefully and gently dry out the insides of the ear (as well as the ear flaps) with a towel or cotton balls. (Avoid Q-tips to prevent pushing water, wax or dirt further into the ear.) If you’re not sure how to properly clean your dog’s ears, ask your vet or vet tech to demonstrate with your dog.
- If basic care does not help prevent recurring ear infections, talk to your vet about prescribing a special ear wash – used weekly or monthly – to help keep ears clean and free of waxy buildup and abnormal bacterial/yeast growth. There are also ear-drying solutions that might be beneficial. Always follow the directions carefully on any ear solutions; overzealous cleaning (too often or too deeply) can cause irritation and pain.
- A drop of white vinegar can help prevent “swimmer’s ear” suggests Pets.Webmd.com.
Signs of Trouble!
Usually a good sniff test will work but here are some of the following symptoms of an ear infection:
- Unusual or prolonged head shaking/tilting and/or ear scratching
- Redness, swelling or unpleasant odor inside the ear
- Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
- Loss of balance and/or walking in circles
- Rubbing the ear on the floor or furniture
- Unusual eye movements
If your dog starts exhibiting any of these signs, schedule a visit to your vet.
There’s an Infection, Now What?
Dog Ear infections are easily treatable, if caught early. If left untreated, the infection could possibly lead to permanent hearing loss or deafness. You should always seek veterinarian help if you suspect an ear infection. Once an infection has taken hold in the ear canal, it will not resolve itself on its own and will become more severe, possibly chronic and – without a doubt – cause your dog unnecessary pain. Your vet will treat the infection with a professional cleaning and prescribe topical and/or oral medicine. For severe or chronic cases, surgery may become necessary.
Always keep in mind that dogs tolerate more pain than their human counterparts. If your dog’s behavior suddenly becomes aggressive, anxious or they won’t let you touch their head, these could all be symptoms of an ear infection. Call or see your vet immediately.
With some consistent and careful ear care, you and your dog can enjoy a safe summer of fun, sun and water!
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM