By Dr Alexander Crow.
Dr Alexander Crow is a RCVS licensed Veterinary Surgeon currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary centre, a small animal accredited veterinary practice in Nottingham, United Kingdom.
He earned his Bachelor of veterinary medicine degree at the Royal Veterinary College London.
Scratching, shaking and head tilting – symptoms you will know all too well if your Goldendoodle keeps getting ear infections.
While we may love our Goldendoodles for their thick curly hair, this hair often grows inside our dog’s ears, acting as the perfect trap for dirt and bacteria.
In this article I will cover what causes ear infections in dogs and what you can do to help prevent them from occurring again.
Different types of ear infections
There are three types of ear infection – inner, middle, and outer ear infection.
Infections in the outer, or external, ear canal (also known as otitis externa) are the most common.
This is where infection takes up residence between the ear drum and external opening of the ear canal.
Sometimes however, infection can get through the ear drum and enter the middle or inner ear canal.
This is more serious and can result in problems with balance, facial paralysis, and a loss of hearing.
What causes ear infections?
Ear infections are usually a result of bacterial infection, fungal infection, or both (mixed infection).
These microorganisms attack the cells lining the ear canal resulting in inflammation and pain.
But how do bacteria or fungi get inside the ear canal in the first place?
There can be many causes:
Swimming in dirty water will allow nasty microorganisms to get into the ear canal.
Dogs with allergies are predisposed as an allergic reaction to something in the environment or food may lead to a breakdown in the natural skin barrier, thus allowing microorganisms in.
Your dog’s ear contains natural ‘safe’ bacteria that usually fight off any nasty microorganisms.
Washing these bacteria away too frequently will allow these nasty bacteria to get in.
What can you do to stop your dog getting ear infections?
The first thing you should consider is if your dog has a tendency to get themselves into dirty situations.
Does your dog like to swim, dig, or rummage through bushes?
These are all activities that can lead to an ear infection.
While this doesn’t mean you should stop your dog from enjoying themself completely, you should be mindful about where they could be picking up nasty bacteria or fungi.
I’d recommend keeping your dog away from visibly dirty water altogether.
Get in the habit of cleaning your dog’s ears out if they’ve been getting up to no good.
Just be sure not to clean your dog’s ears out too often – no more than twice a week.
If your dog is still getting recurrent ear infections despite a stellar hygiene routine then underlying allergies might be the cause.
A dog that is allergic to something in their food or something in the external environment will often display symptoms related to their skin.
The allergens cause the immune system to overreact, resulting in damage to the skin.
Thus, presenting an opportunity for bacteria or fungi to take up residence; the ears are prime real estate for these microorganisms due to the dark and moist environment.
If you think your dog has allergies then talk to your vet who can help you get to the bottom of the possible cause.
When should you take the dog to the vet?
Some ear infections can be managed at home by cleaning out the ears and preventing any further dirt from getting in.
However, if there appears to be pus coming from your dog’s ears or if the skin in the ears is extremely red and inflamed then medical attention is likely required.
Similarly, if your dog is displaying any symptoms of incoordination, poor balance, or a head tilt then the infection may have entered the middle or inner ear.
Veterinary intervention is required at this point.
Most dogs will have at least one ear infection at some point in their life.
It’s normal to an extent given all the dirty places dog’s like to play around in.
However, this doesn’t mean that nothing should be done.
Treating ear infections is more about prevention and identifying the underlying causes.
Hopefully with your newfound knowledge after reading this article, you’ll feel better equipped to deal with ear infections in your Goldendoodle.