Taming Ear Infections

by Dr. Carla Edwards

Ear infections can be difficult and chronic if not treated promptly and thoroughly with the proper steps to success.

First step: Otoscope exams help to evaluate the lower canals and the ear drum. We look for the degree of swelling and character of the discharge. Swelling behind the ear drum indicates a middle ear infection and may develop a ruptured ear drum. Tumors in the ear are also possible.

Second step: Ear cytology determines the organisms involved in the infection. If a bacterial infection is recurrent, your veterinarian may recommend a bacterial culture and susceptibility to make treatment decisions and identify resistant bacteria.

Third step: Many factors are taken into consideration when it comes to treatment options: the organisms involved, the degree of inflammation, the integrity of the ear drum, the amount of debris and wax in the ear, and the severity of pain. Occasionally, ear flushing under sedation is necessary. The ability of owners to treat the ear is also a factor. If the ear is painful, daily medication may be difficult. Some medicines are effective for several days. A recheck of the ears after treatment is necessary to make sure the infection is resolved. Most treatment failures come from not using enough medication, poor compliance, or not treating the infection long enough.

Fourth step: Ear cleaning for maintenance and prevention or ear infections is essential. The proper technique and frequency will help to address many of the features that predispose the ear to infection. Those with more hair in the ear need cleaning more often.

Fifth step: Your veterinarian will search for an underlying cause of recurrent infection. Allergies such as food or contact allergens are often to blame.  Swimming, excess hair, and narrow canals can make ears prone to infection.