For dog owners, persistent ear infections that never seem to go away or stay away can be one of the most frustrating and expensive health issues to face. For veterinarians, it can be a challenge to sometime diagnose and treat the underlying issues that are present.
Why does your dog keep getting ear infections? The likely answer is an underlying condition such as allergies or hypothyroidism. If the infection seems like it never wants to go away, the answer could be that the wrong treatment is being done to full address the issue.
Why Do My Dog’s Ear Infections Keep Coming Back?
There are a few basic reasons as to why ear infections don’t stay away:
- They were never truly gone in the first place
- There is an underlying condition that is creating an environment perfect for the growth of yeast and/or bacteria
You must make sure that you are treating your dog’s ear infection as directed – make sure to finish the course of medication!! If your vet recommends a recheck visit to make sure the infection is gone, you must do this as well.
What Can Cause Repeated Ear Infections In A Dog?
Allergies can be lumped into two general categories: environmental and food.
Environmental allergies are when your dog is allergic to something in its environment such as certain trees, grasses, etc. These can also include indoor allergens such as dust mites, cat dander (yes, your dog can be allergic to cats as well as to humans),
Food allergies are exactly what they sound like. However don’t confuse this with a food reaction. A food reaction is when your dog has diarrhea or vomiting after they eat something that disagrees with their gastrointestinal tract.
Because of extensive marketing by boutique dog food companies, many pet owners think that food allergies are always the reason for their dog’s allergies.
Being hypothyroid can predispose a dog to infections (both bacaterial and yeast) all over the body. Part of a workup for a dog with chronic allergy issues (including ear infections) should include checking out thyroid function.
Water Getting In The Ears
If your dog is a water-lover or swims a lot, getting water down in the ear canals frequently will create conditions perfect for infections to fester. Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly or after a water event is a great way to prevent infections.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Ear Infection?
Most people will notice there’s a problem with their dog’s ear when they are shaking their head incessantly. However, there are so many subtle signs that owners may not be aware of that include:
- Another dog in the house licking the ears of the affected dog
- Tilting the head towards the side of the problem
- Pain when the head or ear area is rubbed
- Scratching at the affected ear; sometimes you won’t see the scratching but you’ll see the aftermath of red scratch lines on the head or neck
- Funky smell from the head of your dog
- Pawing at the ears and then licking the foot that did the pawing
How Can I Prevent Ear Infections In My Dog?
Controlling allergies will be the top way to prevent ear infections in your dog. There is a multitude of ways that allergies can be controlled from over the counter antihistamines to Apoquel to hypo-sensitization treatments.
Despite this, when the allergies are bad enough, there will still be dogs that are still somewhat prone to getting 2-4 ear infections a year. So how can you reduce or eliminate these particular breakthrough ear infections?
- Clean the ears once a week with a commercial ear cleaning solution. I tell my clients to pick a day of the week and make that ear cleaning day.
- Make sure you put the tip of the bottle into the ear canal and squeeze the solution to get it deep into the ear.
- Rub the base of the ear to mix it around and then go ahead and let your dog shake their head. Shaking the head uses centrifugal force to pull out the fluid from deep in the ear to the outside. You should do this outside or in a room that’s easy for you to clean.
- If your dog goes swimming or gets a bath, make sure you clean the ears afterwards in the above method.
- If your dog still continues to get ear infections, ask your vet for a medicated ear cleaning solution. These have an anti-yeast medication within them that can help to control the population of these organisms that so frequently cause ear infections.