July 15, 2011Vol. 13, No. 6

Ear Infections

by Dr. Eleanor Sabean

Summer is the best time for swimming in the lake, but dogs, like people, suffer from some water-induced summer maladies. The most common issues that we see with water-loving pooches are ear infections.

When we are sensitive to the mood and behavior of our four legged friends, it is often apparent when they are feeling pain. Once the cause of the pain has been identified and the risk of reducing it assessed, giving relief is an important next step. For traumatic injuries, often relief is needed in varying degrees for a relatively short period of time. Chronic pain may require a longer term solution.

These ear infections are caused when water any water, even clean water enters the ear canal and stays there. Floppy-eared dogs are especially prone to ear infections because when their ears flop over their ear canals, a moist warm environment is produced.

Next, yeast begins to grow in this environment. Once the yeast colonize the ear, making a distinct odor, and irritating the skin cells, bacteria move in and the ears become very painful.

The bacteria and yeast create a disgusting, soupy mess and in just a couple of days ears can become horribly infected. Once this happens, your veterinarian will look at the bacteria and yeast under a slide to determine which antibiotic will work the best for your dog's infection and instruct you on how to clean the ears and medicate them properly.

The best way to keep your dog's ears healthy is to be proactive in preventing these infections. If your dog is going to be wet for any reason (bath, swimming, out in a hard rain), his ears should be cleaned as soon as possible. A specifically designed veterinary ear cleaner should be used. These cleaners are gentle on sensitive skin and contain drying agents so that no liquid is left behind in the ear. If your dog is prone to ear infections, his ears should be cleaned weekly in the summertime as routine maintenance, even if he isn't being adventurous.

Pet World is a weely column by Dr. Eleanor Sabean and Dr. Jennie Marvelle of Lakeside Veterinary Clinic in Oakland.