By Vanessa Vandersande DVM
Maybe it starts with head shaking. Or your dog settles down, puts a foot in one ear and scratches gently while giving a deep groan. Or perhaps your dog suddenly smells like a week-old sock. You don’t need my help-you know it already. Your dog has an ear infection.
But what to do? When you bring in your itchy, painful pup to see us we’ll start with an ear cytology by taking a sample from the ear and observing it under the microscope. This test not only tells us what group of bacteria or yeast are throwing a party in your dog’s ear but also shows the level of infection. A medication and cleanser is chosen based on what kind of infection is present and the length of dosing is based on how many bugs showed up to the party.
The next step is the physical exam. A veterinarian will look in the ear to observe the texture and color of the ear canal, how much debris is present, and whether the ear drum (tympanum) is intact. Did you know that using certain cleansers and medications in an ear with a ruptured ear drum may lead to serious side effects such as damage to the inner ear and severe dizziness? That is why it is not possible to buy the really good medication over the counter-a veterinarian must look deep into the ear to prevent damaging side effects from the medication.
The most important part of treating an ear infection actually happens completely separate from medications and ear cleansers. A discussion with your veterinarian is your best hope for preventing infections in the future. Your vet uses clues about this ear infection to prevent future problems. Do the infections only happen in the spring and fall? Your dog may have seasonal allergies. Do they happen year round? Maybe your dog has a diet intolerance. Does your dog have long floppy ears or cropped ears? Their anatomy may predispose them to infections. These pieces of information helps your vet create a plan for prevention in the future. Because as much as we at Copper Hill Animal Clinic love seeing you and your pet, we’d love to prevent the pain and misery of an ear infection even more!