Spring and summer can be a prime time for otitis

If you notice your dog has started scratching at their ears, shaking their head or holding their head to one side, it is time to contact your vet for an assessment.

Introduction to otitis

Otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear) is a common issue in dogs. There can be many contributing causes and factors to your dog’s condition:

  • Primary causes: The primary cause leads to inflammation of the ear canal. The most common primary cause of otitis is allergic skin disease, but other primary causes include the presence of parasites such as ear mites, or foreign bodies such as a grass seed.
  • Secondary causes: The secondary cause is the overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the ear that occurs secondary to the inflammation.
  • Predisposing factors: Predisposing factors make your dog more likely to develop ear infections and include things like floppy ears, narrow ear canals and hair growth in the ear
  • Perpetuating factors: Perpetuating factors prevent otitis from resolving. An example of a perpetuating factor is chronic inflammatory change to the ear canal that has made it thickened and firm.

Due to the complexity of the disease and the multiple causes and factors involved, treatment of otitis is not a quick fix. Managing otitis means finding a resolution for signs troubling your dog now while also addressing underlying causes.

It is important to work together as a team with your vet to find a long-term plan for your dog.

How does otitis actually occur?

When the outer ear gets inflamed due to the primary cause, the ear’s natural cleaning mechanism is disturbed. This causes wax to build up and may result in an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, which normally reside in the ear canal. This is the secondary cause, or the infection.

Make an appointment with us whenever you notice that your dog has signs of ear disease. Timing is of the essence to avoid a more complicated situation. The degree of inflammation often highly influences your dog´s probability to allow an ear examination or application of medicine.

What happens during a consultation?

Your vet will ask a series of questions about your dog’s ear infection and whether any other skin problems have occurred. They will likely also ask about your dog’s general health.

Your dog is then examined, and it is likely your vet will need to perform an ear examination using an otoscope. Ear disease can be very painful, so your vet may recommend that your dog be sedated or anaesthetised for the procedure. This requires your pet to stay for a longer period of time than just the consultation.

Samples of debris will be collected from the ear for cytology and the ear may be cleaned.

Depending on the treatment required, your vet may either apply a treatment to the ears during the visit, or have you apply treatments at home.

The importance of revisits

It is very important to come back for the revisit appointments that your vet recommends. A follow-up appointment will help you and your vet to:

  • See how your dog is doing
  • Check that the treatment is working
  • Respond to any outstanding questions
  • Build a long-term plan to prevent or deal with recurring problems

How can you manage your dog’s recurrent otitis?

To successfully manage or hopefully avoid future problems, your vet will need to identify the primary cause of the inflammation, which may include full allergy work-up.

Predisposing factors will need to be identified and perpetuating factors will need to be resolved.

This may take several visits and tests so it is best to work with your vet for the best outcome.

Depending on the primary and predisposing factors, you dog may need a long term management plan.

What treatment options are available and which is best?

Dogs’ ear problems are not a quick fix. Successful treatment relies on various factors, from addressing signs and underlying causes, to acting quickly and identifying the right treatment option. These can be:

  • Ear cleaners
  • Anti-inflammatory drops
  • Daily medicated drops
  • Long-lasting medications
  • Oral treatments
  • Surgical options and more

Your vet will make a decision that takes multiple factors into consideration.