Canine Otitis Externa

Canine Otitis Externa is an inflammatory condition of a dog’s external ear canal that can cause significant discomfort. It’s caused by a variety of factors, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and allergies. Common signs of otitis externa include redness and swelling in the ear canal, discharge from the ear (sometimes dark brown or yellow), head shaking and scratching , an offensive odor, and in severe cases, loss of balance.

Otitis Externa is a serious condition that can cause significant discomfort. It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition, as well as to get treatment for it quickly. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most dogs can recover from otitis externa without any long-term complications.

Once otitis externa has been diagnosed and treated, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from recurring. Keeping your dog’s ears dry and clean is the best way to do this. This means avoiding activities that can get water in the ear canal (such as swimming or bathing), as well as avoiding excessive ear cleaning.

Symptoms of Canine Otitis Externa

Symptoms of Otitis Externa include:

  • Redness and swelling in the ear canal
  • Discharge from the ear (sometimes dark brown or yellow)
  • Head shaking and scratching
  • Offensive odor
  • In severe cases, loss of balance

Dogs can become irritable and act out more than usual because of their discomfort. If left untreated, otitis externa can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Diagnosing Canine Otitis Externa

Diagnosing canine otitis externa is done by a veterinarian who will look inside the ears with an otoscope and take swabs for bacterial or fungal cultures. An ear flush might also be necessary to remove debris and foreign objects from the ear canal. Imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI can also be helpful in diagnosing and determining the extent of the infection.

Stages of Canine Otitis Externa

Otitis externa can be split into four stages: acute, subacute, chronic, and recurrent.

Acute Stage:

The acute stage is associated with sudden onset of symptoms, such as severe itching, head shaking, and redness/swelling in the ear canal. Discharge from their ears can sometimes be seen.

Subacute Stage:

The subacute stage is associated with a more persistent version of the acute symptoms. The symptoms might come and go, but they are typically still quite uncomfortable for your dog.

Chronic Stage:

The chronic stage is associated with long-term, low-grade inflammation and irritation in the ear canal. It’s important to get treatment during this stage before it progresses to a more serious condition.

Recurrent Stage:

The recurrent stage is characterized by frequent flare-ups in symptoms, even after treatment.

Treating Canine Otitis Externa

The most important step in treating otitis externa is to identify and address the underlying cause. Depending upon the cause, treatment might involve antibiotics for bacterial infections, antifungals for fungal infections, dewormers for parasites, allergy medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, ear cleaning and flushing, topical medications, and/or systemic medications. In some cases, surgery might be necessary.

It’s important to keep in mind that otitis externa can recur if the underlying cause is not addressed or if treatment is stopped prematurely. It’s important to follow up with your veterinarian and to continue treatment until the infection has completely cleared.

Preventing Canine Otitis Externa

The best way to prevent otitis externa is to keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Avoid swimming, bathing, or excessive ear cleaning as these activities can increase the chance of infection. Regular veterinary check-ups are also important, as they can help identify any potential issues early on and allow for prompt treatment.