External Ear Infection or External Otitis in Dogs

An external ear infection or external otitis, is incredibly painful for our furry friends.

I mean, I don’t necessarily enjoy have an itchy, painful, ugly infection anywhere on my body. I can’t imagine anyone who would. Just to clear it up otitis is the general term for infection of the ear and dermatitis means itchy skin, those words will come up again.

There are many different types of infections your pup can catch and even more different causes for every infection. We will go over some of the most common infections and what to look for incase you suspect Fido has been a victim.

External Ear Infection (Exteranl Otitis) Details


External Ear InfectionEar canals are very delicate an can easily be infected. Most of these types of infections will occur in breeds with long floppy ears. About 80% of all infections will occur in these breeds. The reason is because the lack of air flow. With open ears the air dries them out quicker, providing less favorable conditions for bacterial and yeast growth. Some breeds, including the Chinese Shar-Pei, that have narrow ear canals may also be more predisposed than most. Also, any dog that has an abundance of fur blocking air flow inside the ear can be more prone to an external ear infection. If your dog has a skin allergy such as canine atopy or secondary seborrhea, they will also have more chances of infection. Canine atopy is caused by direct contact with irritants to the skin and secondary seborrhea is doggie dandruff. No one likes “that guy” with the snow falling from his head, and likewise no one will like “that dog” either. Not to mention the odor that accompanies seborrhea. This dandruff will build up in the ear, being a primary reason for the bacterial growth. Ear mites are another cause of the infection. Outside issues can be a problem as well. Grass seeds, dirt, foxtails, or anything else your pup can into while playing in the backyard can lead to infections if stuck in the ear.

Unfortunately there are iatrogenic causes of infection as well. Don’t worry I had to google that word too, it just means illness caused by medical treatment or examination. for example; getting water in the ears during bathing, a reaction to the cotton swabs used for deep cleaning, improper or excessive ear cleaning, or plucking and clipping the hair in the external ear.

If Fido has an external ear infection you may at first yell at him for being stubborn and not obeying your commands. His hearing may be affected so double check before you assume he is just being a brat. Other signs include head shacking and scratching, whining and head tilting. His ears will turn red and possibly swell and there will most likely be a not-so-pretty discharge oozing from his ears. Ceruminous otitis, which is inflammation of the ear, will occur with seborrhea build up.

Staph Infections?


Staph. If you grew up in athletics you were always on the look out in the locker and weight rooms. It’s an infamous infection that lingered in the minds and gossip of all highs school athletic programs. Well, unfortunately Staphylococci can also infect our dogs. Bacterial otitis is usually caused by Staph and your dogs ears will have a moist light brown discharge. A more serious or chronic infection will have a yellow or green discharge and is probably caused by Proteus or Pseudomonas bacteria. Bacteria infections can get very complicated because there may be multiple bacteria involved. This also makes it difficult for your vet to treat it with the right antibiotic.

If you treated your dog for bacterial otitis, you may also have to treat him for yeast or fungal infections. These usually follow the antibiotic treatments, but are also common in dogs with food hypersensitive dermatitis (sensitive skin), atopic dermatitis (chronic scaly, itchy skin), or seborrhea. This infection will make the ear red, inflamed and moist and a brown, waxy discharge with a wretched odor may be seen. These types of infections will persist until the root of the problem is taken care of.

Enough of the Scientific talk Okay, now that I have bored you with scientific facts and words, let’s talk about what to do if you see anything wrong with your pup.

External Ear InfectionAn external ear infection is a by product of an inner ear infection or they will often progress there if not. So take Fido to the vet immediately. They will have to do a deep ear canal examination. When the ears are dirty and blocked this is impossible to do so they may have to give him anesthesia or sedation to clean his ears. I know, I know, this may be scary for some of you but it will be better in the long run! Seeing a happy, healthy and normal Fido will make up for it! During the vet visit he will be checked to make sure his ear drums are healthy and that the problem is not due to a tumor or another type of foreign body.

External Ear Infection Care From Home

Follow up care in the home obviously will take some devotion and time. But hey, you signed up for that the minute you spotted and fell in love with that one and only little puppy in the play pen. Your vet will prescribe Fido a topical ear medication and if the problem continues you may end up using a flushing system such as Oti-Clens or Epi-Otic and/or a drying solution like ClearX or Panodry. They should be used immediately before the use of the prescribed medication. A topical and/or oral steroids can be used to help with the swelling and pain. If the infection is severe then an oral antibiotic may be called for. As a very last resort your vet may advise a surgical procedure to reestablish air circulation and promote drainage. This procedure is called an ear resection, but of course can be prevented with preventive care and cleaning or catching the problem at its early stages.

We all love a dog that can obey commands and do awesome tricks so lets make sure we are taking care of his ears by checking for an external ear infection so he can hear us when was say “Fetch!”


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