Ear Infections









Ear infections are reasonably common in our pets, particularly in dogs. There a number of underlying causes:

  • Hair in the ear canal (esp. poodles, cocker spaniels and german shepherds)
  • Foreign bodies in the ear canal (eg. Grass seeds, hair, fleas, insects)
  • Excess moist environment (esp. dogs with droopy ears, or those that swim)
  • Anatomical arrangement predisposes to infection (long, narrow, moist ear canal)
  • Secondary to skin allergies and chronic ear inflammation – one of the most common causes.

Various bacteria or yeast organisms can cause ear infections.

Signs we usually see include:

  • Head shaking and scratching at the ears with the paws, or rubbing ears along the ground.
  • Discharge or noticeable smell from the ears
  • Animal may stand with one ear held down
  • Lethargic, depressed and restless


What can we do about infections?

  1. The vet will examine your pet’s ears to see if there is any visible reason for infection and to assess the eardrum. This may need to be done under sedation if the ear is particularly painful, and your pet very sensitive
  2. A smear of the ear discharge is usually taken and examined under the microscope to accurately identify the type of infection, and how bad it is. This enables us to select the correct type of ear medication for the infection.
  3. If no improvement is seen after treatment, a swab may be sent to the laboratory for culture of the bacteria and antibiotic sensitivity testing. This allows even more accurate identification of the exact type of micro-organism present and also tests which antibiotics it will respond to, and which it is resistant to.
  4. The usual course of treatment involves ear drops twice daily for 2 weeks. It is then a good idea to leave the ears untreated for 3-5 days, and then re-visit the clinic for a repeat ear swab. This allows us to confirm that the ear infection has fully resolved.
  5. Severe cases of ear infection may require your pet to have a general anaesthetic and a full ear flush to clean the ear canal.


Chronic or recurring ear infections

Common causes of chronic or recurring ear infections are:-

  1. Antibiotic resistance – can lead to chronic infections. Laboratory testing will identify this.
  2. Skin allergy – leads to recurring ear infections. Your pet’s allergy needs to be addressed.
  3. Life-style – eg. regular swimming. Can lead to recurring ear infections.
  4. Conformation and shape of the ear.


Prevention of ear infections

  1. Weekly cleaning of the ears with Oticlens or another ear cleaner recommended by the veterinarian. This loosens wax deposits and any foreign material and helps keep the environment in the ear dry and unfriendly to bacteria. It is particularly important to clean ears after swimming
  2. Management of any underlying causes or conditions.

Do not leave ear infections in your pet untreated hoping they will go away! Chronic ear infections are harder to treat and the more resistant the bacteria are to our antibiotics. Chronic infection predisposes to life long ear problems and can also result in aural haematomas – a swelling of your pet’s ear caused by head shaking that bursts blood vessels in the ear.  This condition usually requires surgery to resolve – as well as treatment for the cause.