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Ear Infections in Dogs
a.k.a. Otitis Externa
by Tate Allen DVM

Otitis externa infections are typically secondary in nature. In my part of the country, inhalant allergies are the most common underlying problem. However, any condition or situation that results in an inflamed external ear canal can lead to an infection.

An ear swab for cytology can resolve the question of yeast or bacterial infection. Once this is determined, treating the existing problem is usually straight forward. There are numerous products available to treat otitis externa in the dog.

The most popular products are typically what I call "shotgun" products. These contain an antiinflammatory (steroid), antibiotic and antifungal/yeast medication. In the case of a simple yeast or bacterial overgrowth (or mixed infections), I typically will dispense a product called Otomax or Tresaderm.

Proper cleaning is necessary to remove excess wax and exudate that is present and this often is best done under sedation or anesthesia. This allows the removal of all debris/build up as well as a chance to inspect the entire external canal and ear drum. Unfortunately in many cases the ear drum is torn or missing and the infection has extended into the middle ear. In these cases, using appropriate instrumentation, samples from the middle ear can obtained for cytologic exam +/-culture. Also medication can be directly placed in middle ear.

"Simple ear infections" are often far from simple in nature AND that treatment is often not simple as well.

One last point, do not allow your second dog to lick the affected dog's ears. One goal of therapy is to have a dry and clean ear canal. Chronic licking is counterproductive.

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