Ears have it!

By Dr. Karen Becker and  comment by Diane Weinmann

Recurring ear problems are very common in dogs. Otitis externa is the medical term for inflammation or infection of the outer canal of the ear, and some dogs are more prone to the condition than others. I suspect many persistent ear infections in dogs are treated, but never actually resolved. I also think we don’t talk enough about the importance of routine ear maintenance for canine companions.

There are two basic causes of ear problems in dogs: chronic inflammation, and infection. Untreated inflammation can lead to infection. If your dog’s ears are warm to the touch, red, swollen or itchy, but there’s little to no discharge, chances are the problem is inflammation. However, if one or more of those symptoms is present along with obvious discharge, it’s usually a sign of infection.

How Dogs’ Ears Become Inflamed

  1. The most common reason for ear inflammation in dogs is allergies. An allergic response to food or something in the environment can cause inflammation throughout your pet’s body, including the ears. A dog with allergy-related ear inflammation will sometimes run his head along furniture or the carpet trying to relieve his misery.

He may also scratch at his ears incessantly, or shake his head a lot. If you see any of these behaviors, check your dog’s ears for redness and swelling.

  1. Another cause of ear inflammation is moisture, also known as “swimmer’s ear.” We see this primarily during the summer months when dogs are outdoors playing in lakes, ponds and pools.

Wet ear canals and a warm body temperature are the perfect environment for inflammation and/or infection to develop. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly dry your dog’s ears each time he comes out of the water, has been outdoors in the rain or snow and after baths.

  1. The third major reason for ear problems is wax buildup. The presence of earwax is normal, but dogs have varying amounts. Some dogs need their ears cleaned daily, while others never have a buildup. Certain breeds produce more wax than others, such as Labradors and other retrievers who tend to love the water. If you have one of these breeds, you should get your dog accustomed to having her ears cleaned while she’s a puppy.

Other breeds, such as Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles can also produce an abundance of wax that needs regular attention.

When Inflammation Turns to Infection

Ear infections in dogs usually involve the outer canal, which is surprisingly deep. The medical term for these infections is otitis externa, but if the infection recurs or never really clears, we call it chronic otitis. There are a number of things that can cause otitis including:

  • Foreign material in the ear, such as from a plant like a foxtail
  • Water in the ear that creates a moist, warm environment
  • Excess glands in the ears that produce wax and sebum
  • Narrowing of the ear canal
  • Heavy, hanging ears

If your dog has an ear infection, it’s very important to identify whether it’s a bacterial or fungal infection, or both, in order to treat the problem effectively.

The Difference Between Fungal and Bacterial Ear Infections

By far, the most common cause of fungal ear infections in dogs is yeast. Yeast is always present on the bodies of animals, but when the immune system isn’t in prime condition, the fungus can grow out of control and cause an infection. Most dogs prone to yeast infections need to have their ears cleaned and dried frequently. If the problem seems chronic or there’s a persistent infection that just won’t clear up, there’s probably an underlying immunological cause that should be investigated.

For much more information on yeast, including how to deal with yeasty ears, view my video and article on yeast infections in dogs. Bacterial infections of the ear are actually more common than fungal infections. Bacteria are either pathogenic or nonpathogenic. Pathogenic bacteria are abnormal inhabitants of your pet’s body, picked up from an outside source, for example, contaminated pond water.

Nonpathogenic bacteria are typically staph bacteria that are normal inhabitants of your dog’s body. Occasionally these bacteria can overgrow and overwhelm the ear canal. Any normal, helpful bacteria can grow out of control and cause an infection in a dog with an underperforming immune system.

Why An Accurate Diagnosis Is so Important

Veterinarians diagnose yeast infections with cytology, which means looking at a smear of the ear debris under a microscope. An accurate diagnosis of a bacterial ear infection requires an ear culture. Your veterinarian will swab your dog’s ear and send the sample to a lab to determine what type of organism is present, and what medication will most effectively treat it. Never let your veterinarian simply guess at what bacteria is causing your pet’s ear infection. Instead, ask them to find out.

It’s very important to finish the medication your veterinarian prescribes, even if your dog’s ear infection seems to clear up before the medication is gone. Stopping the medication early can lead to regrowth of resistant organisms. In addition, while your dog is being treated for an ear infection, be sure to keep his ears clean and clear of gunk so the topical medication you put into the ears can reach the infected tissue.

Natural, Nontoxic Treatments for Bacterial Ear Infections

Unfortunately, these days more and more ear infection culture results are showing the presence of bacteria that are resistant to most conventional medications. These are cases in which complementary therapies are not only a last hope, but can provide highly effective, nontoxic relief.

One example: A 2016 study tested the effectiveness of manuka honey to treat bacterial ear infections in 15 dogs.1 Researchers applied 1 milliliter (mL) of medical grade honey in the dogs’ ears for 21 days. The results showed the honey “promoted rapid clinical progress,” with 70 percent of the dogs achieving a “clinical cure” between seven and 14 days, and 90 percent by day 21.

In addition, the bacteria-killing activity of the honey worked against all bacteria species tested, including multiple strains of drug-resistant bacteria. It’s important to note that it doesn’t appear the antimicrobial activity of honey is enough on its own to resolve every ear infection. Most of the dogs in the study had complete symptom relief by day 21; however, several still had bacterial infections.

Another remedy for resistant ear infections that’s receiving a lot of attention is medicinal clay. Green clay has been shown to effectively treat a variety of bacteria that have been implicated in chronic ear infections, including pseudomonas and MRSA.2

Preventing Ear Infections

As I mentioned earlier, some dogs are much more prone to ear infections than others. If your pet is one of the unlucky ones, I recommend checking his ears daily or every other day at a minimum. It’s wax, moisture or other debris collected in the outer ear canal that invites infection.

The solution is simple, but you must do it consistently: Clean your pet’s ears when they’re dirty. If his ears collect a lot of wax every day, they need to be cleaned every day. If his ears don’t produce much wax or other gunk you can clean them less often, but you should still check them every day and take action as soon as you see the ear canal isn’t 100 percent clean and dry.

If you think your dog might already have an ear infection, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian before you begin a cleaning regimen. In many cases an infection leads to rupture of the eardrum, which requires special cleaning solutions and medications. For healthy canine ears, a few of my favorite cleaning agents include:

Witch hazel Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with an equal amount of purified water
Hydrogen peroxide, a few drops on a cotton round dabbed in coconut oil Green tea or calendula infusion (using cooled tea)
One drop of tea tree oil mixed with 1 tablespoon coconut oil (for dogs only — never cats) Colloidal silver

Please never use rubbing alcohol to clean your dog’s ears! It can cause burning and irritation, especially if the skin is inflamed. Use cotton balls or cotton rounds only to clean the inside of the ear canal. You can use cotton swabs to clean the outer area of the ear, but never inside the canal, as they can damage your dog’s eardrums.

The best method for cleaning most dogs’ ears is to saturate a cotton ball with cleaning solution and swab out the inside of the ear. Use as many cotton balls as necessary to remove all the dirt and debris. Another approach is to squirt a small amount of solution directly into the ear, then follow with cotton balls to wipe the ears clean. However, this method may make your dog shake her head wildly, drenching you in ear cleaning solution!

Just a few minutes spent cleaning and drying your pet’s ears as necessary (this means daily, in many cases) will make a huge difference in the frequency and severity of ear infections — especially in dogs who are prone to them.

Diane has many pet clients that have chronic ear issues.  She always recommends Dr. Melissa Shelton DVM essential oils.  The Canine ear spray is a great preventative treatment to avoid those nasty infections.

Canine Ear Spray

Ingredients:  Fractionated Coconut Oil, Water, Grain Alcohol, Essential Oils of Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis) , Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), Melaleuca alternifolia, Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), Helichrysum (H. italicum), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Verbenone Chemotype), Lemon (Citrus limon), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

Canine Ear Spray is intended as a spray to be used with a variety of ear conditions in dogs.  Essential oils contained within this product exhibit anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-tumoral, and anti-inflammatory properties.  In our veterinary hospital, the use of this spray has proven incredibly beneficial for dogs with chronic ear conditions, and especially those that are resistant to many traditional drugs and antibiotics.  Many of our patients were near surgical removal of the ear canal (Total Ear Canal Ablation or TECA surgery) prior to starting on the Canine Ear Spray.  In clinical use, we see great comfort with the use of the spray and also vast improvements in infection, swelling, and pigmentation.  A major benefit to a spray such as this – is that is actually supports a healthy immune system, instead of shutting the immune system off – as in the case with steroid use.

There are many factors that may contribute to your dog’s chronic, recurrent, or first time ear condition.  Please read more about other changes you can make in your dog’s lifestyle that will help you to combat chronic ear infections and allergies.

Directions for Use:

Shake well before each use.  Spray 1-3 pumps into the ear(s), once to twice a day.  You are not trying to saturate the ear canal or drip the solution into the ear canal directly.  Coating the outer surface of the ear and upper part of the exposed ear canal, will result in the “traveling” of this solution to deeper parts of the ear.  Monitor the ear tissues for any signs of irritation, and stop use if noted.  Generally this recipe is used for 2 weeks or longer.  Work with your veterinarian to determine frequency and length of use, based on response and recheck ear smear results.

This recipe has been used long term, for several months at a time or more when needed.  However, if irritation occurs, please discontinue use.  Although this new formulation of the Canine Ear Spray rarely creates irritations, if it does occur, placing Fractionated Coconut Oil into the ear and onto any irritated surfaces will help decrease any issues.  Fractionated Coconut Oil is safe for use in the ear – however we do not recommend filling the entire ear canal with it.

If your dog is very resistant to having a “spray” in the ear, you can spray the product onto your fingers and wipe gently into the ear and ear canal.  

 

To order

http://www.animaleo.info/canine-ear-spray.html

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How to Check for Dog Ear Problems

How to Check for Dog Ear Problems

 

By Teresa K. Traverse and comments by Diane Weinmann

Having a dog ear infection or other dog ear problem can cause a great deal of discomfort, so it’s important for pet parents to notice when there’s an issue. Most pet parents are probably not in the habit of peering into your dog’s ears every day.

 

To help protect the health of your dog’s ears, it’s smart to get into a routine of checking them at least once a week. That way you are able to spot any potential dog ear infections or problems, and you can take proactive measures before these issues develop into more serious dog ear problems.

 

Getting your dog used to having their ears handled as a puppy will make it easier to handle them when checking for or treating dog ear infections in the future.

 

Here’s some advice from veterinarians on how to check your dog’s ears, what to look for and how to keep them healthy.

 

Signs of Dog Ear Problems

 

You should check the ears about once a week, especially if your dog has had skin or ear issues in the past. If you have a hanging ear dog breed, be sure to lift up the flap and check on their ears more often to watch for infection or disease. Dr. Loft says you can shave around the ear opening so it’s not as hidden.

 

Before you get out the dog hair clippers, though, make sure to ask a professional groomer or veterinarian how to shave this area properly to avoid rashes or wounds that can lead to infection and irritation.

 

Some surefire signs that your pup is suffering from a dog ear problem are:

 

  • Pungent odor
  • Discharge
  • Blood
  • Irritated or red skin
  • Inflammation

 

Dr. Goetz cautions that if part of your dog’s ear feels like a pillow or balloon, he might have an aural hematoma. Essentially, the dog has broken blood vessels underneath the skin, which causes the ear flap to start to fill with blood. If you notice that your dog’s ear flap has started to look inflated or swollen, you should take them to your veterinarian right away. They will examine the ear and decide on an appropriate course of treatment.

 

If you notice any of this in your dog’s ears, then it is time to make a trip to your veterinarian.

 

Common Behaviors That Indicate Dog Ear Problems

 

If your dog is excessively scratching or pawing in the ear, tilting his head or excessively flipping his head, it may also be a sign that he is experiencing discomfort, says Dr. Matthew Goetz, DVM, medical director for the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA in Phoenix.

 

If your dog is turning in circles, off balance, ataxic or uncoordinated, tripping over objects, or showing signs of vertigo, it could be a sign of a middle or inner ear infection, which is serious and should be treated immediately, says Dr. Klaus Earl Loft, DVM, a veterinary dermatologist at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

 

Another sign of a dog ear problem that you may not have expected is if you notice other dogs continually sniffing at your pup’s ear. Dr. Loft suggests that this could also be a sign of ear infections in dogs.

 

How a Vet Might Treat Your Dog

 

If your pup’s ears show any signs of infection, or you’ve noticed any of the behaviors that indicate an infection, you need to take your pet to see the vet before trying any type of treatment at home.

 

“The reason why it’s really important that you go see your veterinarian before you start any medication is that it’s important that the vet be able to look into your dogs’ ear and make sure that the ear drum is still intact. If you have a ruptured ear drum, and you put certain medications in there, it can cause deafness,” says Dr. Goetz.

 

A vet will perform an ear swab first. The ear swab tests for yeast, bacteria, ear mites and white or red blood cells. If you suspect an ear infection, heading to the vet is important.

 

A vet might need to send test results to a lab to determine the best treatment, depending on the infection. Most veterinarians can look at the sample through a microscope and determine the cause of acute and external ear infections. Chronic and middle/inner ear infections often need a culture that is then submitted to a lab for evaluation.

 

Dogs will typically receive antifungal or antibacterial medications, says Dr. Goetz. For a really severe ear infection, Dr. Goetz may prescribe oral antibiotics. If you’re having trouble administering ear medication, Dr. Goetz advises asking your veterinarian about long-lasting ear medications, which can last for 10-14 days.

 

How Often Should You Clean Dog Ears?

 

When it comes to cleaning dog ears, Dr. Loft warns pet parents that too much ear cleaning can actually damage your pet’s ears.

 

“I’m not encouraging people to clean the ear every day and do it as a precautionary, because that sometimes will render the ear more susceptible to maceration [when the skin breaks down after exposure to moisture] or infections,” says Dr. Loft.

 

Although you shouldn’t be cleaning your dog’s ears often or as a preventative method, there may be instances where you will want to clean them. This should be done after you’ve consulted your vet and discussed treatment.

 

If your dog is prone to ear infections, you may want to consider cleaning his ears weekly or monthly. You will also want to take extra precaution if you take your dog swimming or submerge his ears during a bath. Try drying them out afterwards or even cleaning them, since moisture in the ear can cause infection. Most veterinary recommended ear cleaners contain a safe drying agent which allows residual water to evaporate, which lessens the risk of infection after swimming or bathing.

 

How to Clean Dog Ears

 

According to Dr. Loft, “It’s best to stay away from harsh products like alcohol, vinegar or peroxide, which can make a bubbly sound inside the ear and scare your dog.” To clean your dog’s ear, you should always use an ear cleaner that is made specifically for dogs.

 

Never use cotton swabs on or in your pet’s ears for any reason. This can lead to serious injury and a trip to the emergency vet.

 

Here are the steps:

 

  1. Dr. Loft recommends holding the bottle over the ear canal and gently squeezing the solution into the ear. He advises not putting the bottle or tip in the ear directly.
  2. You then massage the base of your dog’s ear to loosen up the debris within the ear
  3. Let your dog shake their head. By shaking their head, your dog is bringing the softened wax and debris to the front of the ear canal, which makes it easier for you to clean away.
  4. Use a large cotton ball to wipe away all the wax and debris. Be gentle when wiping inside your pup’s ears. The skin within the ear is very sensitive and can be injured if you continually wipe at it.

 

Chronic Dog Ear Infections

 

Goetz says having your dog’s ear infections treated early is important for ear health. This is especially crucial for chronic ear infections.

 

Some chronic infections are so bad that surgical removal of the ear canal is the only option left for pain control—total ear canal ablation (TECA) surgery.

 

“If you have chronic ear infections that go untreated, you’re definitely going to be predisposed to having hearing loss earlier in life,” says Goetz.

 

Diane, animal communicator and holistic healer for pets highly recommends a product called Canine Ear spray by Dr. Melissa Shelton that will help reduce ear infections on your dog if used regularly.  Many of my clients have had great success with regular use. Here is the info about the product below:

 

Ingredients:  Fractionated Coconut Oil, Water, Grain Alcohol, Essential Oils of Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis) , Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), Melaleuca alternifolia, Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), Helichrysum (H. italicum), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Verbenone Chemotype), Lemon (Citrus limon), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)Canine Ear Spray is intended as a spray to be used with a variety of ear conditions in dogs.  Essential oils contained within this product exhibit anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-tumoral, and anti-inflammatory properties.  In our veterinary hospital, the use of this spray has proven incredibly beneficial for dogs with chronic ear conditions, and especially those that are resistant to many traditional drugs and antibiotics.  Many of our patients were near surgical removal of the ear canal (Total Ear Canal Ablation or TECA surgery) prior to starting on the Canine Ear Spray.  In clinical use, we see great comfort with the use of the spray and also vast improvements in infection, swelling, and pigmentation.  A major benefit to a spray such as this – is that is actually supports a healthy immune system, instead of shutting the immune system off – as in the case with steroid use.

There are many factors that may contribute to your dog’s chronic, recurrent, or first time ear condition.  Please read more about other changes you can make in your dog’s lifestyle that will help you to combat chronic ear infections and allergies.

Directions for Use:

Shake well before each use.  Spray 1-3 pumps into the ear(s), once to twice a day.  You are not trying to saturate the ear canal or drip the solution into the ear canal directly.  Coating the outer surface of the ear and upper part of the exposed ear canal, will result in the “traveling” of this solution to deeper parts of the ear.  Monitor the ear tissues for any signs of irritation, and stop use if noted.  Generally this recipe is used for 2 weeks or longer.  Work with your veterinarian to determine frequency and length of use, based on response and recheck ear smear results.

This recipe has been used long term, for several months at a time or more when needed.  However, if irritation occurs, please discontinue use.  Although this new formulation of the Canine Ear Spray rarely creates irritations, if it does occur, placing Fractionated Coconut Oil into the ear and onto any irritated surfaces will help decrease any issues.  Fractionated Coconut Oil is safe for use in the ear – however we do not recommend filling the entire ear canal with it.

If your dog is very resistant to having a “spray” in the ear, you can spray the product onto your fingers and wipe gently into the ear and ear canal.

 

To order

http://www.animaleo.info/canine-ear-spray.html