Chronic ear infection in dogs, also known as chronic otitis, is a seemingly endless ear infection — a long-lasting one that can affect dogs of any breed and any age. Dogs with any ear shape and lifestyle, such as swimming, can develop ear infections. This conditions also causes itchy and painful ears, that often emits a foul odor.
What Causes Chronic Ear Infection in Dogs
There are various things that cause chronic otitis in dogs — from allergies to parasites and even growths. A progressive ear infection can cause the eardrum to rupture or the ear canal to narrow.
Chronic otitis is quite common in dogs. And, it can be a disease of the inner ear, the middle ear, or even the outer ear canal.
Signs of Chronic Ear Infection in Dogs
It typically begins with an irritation of the ear canal’s skin lining, which leads to inflammation. Then, the ear produces excess wax and an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow out of control.
Itchiness results with the microbes in the ear, which then leads to more inflammation.
As it affects the external ear canal first, it is considered a condition related to the skin.
The allergic skin disease in dogs can be caused by:
- Food allergies
- Environmental allergies
- Thyroid disease
- Adrenal gland disease
- Foreign particles in the ears, such as dirt, etc.
- Polyps or growths in the ear canal
- Mites or other external parasites
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In severe cases, dogs enter a cycle that involves inflammation, followed by infection, and finally, fibrosis — a thickening of the tissues that line the ear canal. Once this occurs, the ear canals then narrow or the eardrums rupture and infection in the middle ear that is very painful.
As time passes, scar tissues form in the canals, which then prevent treatment of the diseased areas of the canals as medications can’t reach them. And that’s just the beginning! The scar tissues also prevent sloughing of the skin cells of the canal, the wax and hair, which worsens the infection.
Although chronic otitis is difficult to treat and may frustrate owner, dogs are the real victims because they have to deal with extreme pain for a long time.
Pay attention to your dog to recognize the symptoms of chronic otitis.
Dogs affected may become aggressive and will typically:
- Head shaking
- Warm ears due to redness of the ear canal or earflap
- Smelly discharge from the ears
- Swollen ear flaps from ear hematoma
- Groaning or crying (when scratching their ears)
Dogs with severe otitis might even scratch themselves so much that they cause skin wounds near the ears. It could also lead to a deformation of the outer ear canal, where the ear opening narrows tremendously.
How to Diagnose and Treat a Chronic Ear Infection in Dogs
Chronic otitis diagnosis will involve the history of the dog’s examinations and all the ear infections.
The veterinarian will note any inflammation, redness, and discharge that would clearly indicate the condition. Through diagnostic testing, the veterinarian will determine which microorganisms are present and ultimately causing the otitis.
Armed with all the important information and results, the veterinarian will treat the infection with the ideal medications.
The veterinarian will also test for any underlying illnesses that may be the culprit, such as with adrenal gland and thyroid testing, food trial, and allergy testing.
The treatment of chronic ear infections means addressing the bacteria and fungus in the ears by:
- Thorough cleansing of the ear canal
- Using topical medication (sometimes antibiotics)
- Treating underlying illnesses
Although you may want to do anything you can to spare your dog from chronic ear infections, there really is no way to prevent them.
The only thing you can do is maintain a rigid ear-cleaning schedule and regular veterinary check-ups to keep a trained eye on the dog’s condition. The sooner a flare-up is caught, the better it is.
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