Whats the topic for today?
Itchy ears in dogs
You must be talking about ear mites, right?
Well people often jump to that conclusion but they are usually not the cause. Ear mites do cause itchy ears but they are quite rare nowadays.
So what does usually cause itchy ears?
Infection with yeast or bacteria and of the two yeast infection is by far the most common.
How can you tell the difference between the two?
We take a smear of the ear wax and look down a microscope. Its important to know if it’s a yeast or bacterial infection as the treatment may be different. If its bacterial for instance we might decide to send an ear swab for culture.
Why is it necessary to do that?
Sometimes we need to know what type of bacteria is present and more importantly need to know which antibiotic is most likely to kill it.
How do dogs ears get infected in the first place?
All ears have a small number of bacteria and yeast living in the wax but in certain conditions the numbers increase dramatically and that’s when you get problems.
So what conditions are we talking about?
Basically yeast and bacteria love warm, moist conditions so anything that increases the temperature or moisture of the ear encourages growth of microorganisms.
So do you see more ear problems in summer?
Yes we do. We also see more ear problems in dogs with hairy floppy ears as their ear canals are warmer and moister than other dogs due to the lack of air circulation. Also dogs that swim a lot are at more risk if they get water in their ears regularly.
So that would explain why dogs like spaniels have a reputation for getting lots of ear infections?
Yes but there are some breeds like the german shepherd that also have lots of ear problems yet their ears are short haired and erect.
So why do they have lots of ear problems?
They are a breed that are prone to allergic skin problems. All dogs that have allergic skin problems are more prone to ear infections.
Why is that?
Its all down to the temperature again. Warm ears encourage yeast and bacteria. With skin allergies the blood flow to the skin including the ears increases and this flow of warm blood increases the temperature of the ears.
So do dogs with allergic skin problems get recurring ear infections?
Yes they do and its important for people to realise that. To the owner it can seem that the ear treatment isn’t working and can become frustrated if they have to keep going back to the vet for treatment. Its important to realise that it is the underlying skin allergy that needs treatment.
So what can people do about that?
Well that’s a whole new topic on its own but the main thing is not to give up and ignore your dogs itchy ears. It is possible to have skin testing to find out what is causing the allergy and start treatment for that allergy.
Can people do anything to prevent ear infections?
Using a regular ear cleaner to flush out the ears once a week is helpful. It helps to dry the ears out and also removes wax. It makes the environment less inviting for yeast and bacteria.
Is there anything else people need to know?
Its very important to give the whole course of medication. Often 2-3 weeks of ear medication is prescribed but some people will stop after a few days if the ears look better. That is a sure way to encourage an ongoing ear infection that never quite clears up. It also encourages resistance to antibiotics making subsequent treatment more difficult.
And todays question?
Today we have talked about two types of microorganisms. One of them was bacteria. What was the other one ……..YEAST