Symptoms - How do I recognise that my dog has got an ear inflammation?
Each dog will respond to ear inflammation in a different way. Some dogs will rub, itch and shake their head and some will be more painful.
The ear might be slightly inflamed, with mild visible change, all the way through to a highly painful, bright red ear with foul discharge.
This is because there are many different types of otitis with many different causes. Some otitis cases involve nothing more than mild inflammation, whereas some involve nastier resistant bacterial organisms.
The images below display different stages and forms of ear inflammation.
Images (CWalker, ThePhotoVet)
Make a vet appointment whenever you notice that your dog has got signs of ear disease. Timing is of the essence to avoid a more complicated situation. The degree of inflammation often highly influences your dog´s probability to allow an ear examination or application of medicine.
History – For how long has your dog been having ear problems?
To get to the bottom of your dog´s ear problem and to plan further actions, your vet will need to collect a thorough history. This might happen in your first visit but it is not uncommon that an in-depth discussion is saved for follow-up visits to guide any further actions.
Your vet will ask questions concerning when you first noted your dog´s symptoms, if this is a recurring problem or if this is a first-time event.
If it is recurring, your vet will want to know more about when it happened last time and how was it managed. It is important to inform your vet about any ear cleaners or prior prescribed medications including, ear drops, tablets/oral solutions and injections that your dog might have been treated with.
Habits like frequent swimming and running in long grass will probably be covered as well as any other pets in the household and whether you use routine tick or flea control.
The vet will also be curious about your dog´s general health and whether you have noticed any itching, biting, licking or rubbing in other areas of the body. There is no such thing as too much information!
Not only does cytology allow your vet to choose an appropriate treatment, but it is also helpful to repeat it at your dog´s revisits to evaluate treatment success, if any changes to treatment are needed and to assist in developing a long-term plan for your dog´s ear problem.
With an increasing worldwide awareness of antimicrobial resistance, there is yet another reason why a thorough investigation including cytology is important.
Thanks to the added information that cytology brings, your vet has the opportunity to use antimicrobials:
- Only when it is needed
- For an appropriate length of time
Download information about why antibiotics
aren´t always needed
Why do vets insist on doing cytology?
Culture and susceptibility testing – When might it be necessary to culture samples from my dog´s ear?
In cases of treatment failure or hard to identify bacteria on cytology, it is sometimes advisable to send a sample to a laboratory to grow the bacteria and to test which antibiotic would be appropriate, but in most cases, cytology provides adequate information.
Treatment choice - How does the vet choose an appropriate treatment for my dog?
When it comes to the possible treatment options for both inflammation and infection of the ear, your vet team have many different products to choose from and will select the one that is right for your dog.
What treatment options are available, and which is best?
These often include ear cleaners or antiseptic solutions; anti-inflammatory ear drops or antibiotic/antifungal containing ear medication.
There are options for daily administration or long-lasting alternatives that your vet will administer at the vet practice.
Sometimes there is a need for systemic oral treatment or injections and if your dog has got advanced chronic ear disease, there might be a need for surgery.
The reason for the wide choice is that when it comes to otitis – there is no one solution which is best for every pet. It can even be the case that each ear requires a different approach!
In order to decide on the best treatment, your vet team will take all the following factors into account:
- Degree of inflammation
- Signs of overgrowth of bacteria and yeast
- Any national guidelines on choice of medication
- Your individual circumstances regarding cost and how easy it is to give your dog the medication.
As already highlighted, every dog has a different experience with ear inflammation. Not only does this affect your visit to the vet’s but it can also mean your dog is reluctant to allow the application of medicine.
It is not just your dog who must be considered. For some owners daily medication and cleaning is no problem at all. However, some may struggle to administer product into the ear and for some the physical attributes of a product, such as a small fiddly cap, can impact upon ease of use.
If the medication cannot be applied properly, not only will the outcome be impacted but also the risk of antimicrobial resistance is increased.
As you can see, your vet must consider a lot of different information before deciding on how to best treat your dog's ear. You can help by providing a clear description of the concerns you have for your dog, by keeping records of ear signs and documenting the response to previous treatments where applicable.
Download a diary for your dog´s ears