Ear Infections in Dogs: Treatments

Ear infections in dogs can be painful, making detection and treatment important. Below, Dr. PeterEar Infections in Dogs: Treatments Nurre has outlined four ways that veterinarians approach treatment of ear infections in dogs.

  1. Ear cleaning:  Dogs develop waxy debris, infectious material, and other debris when they have an external ear infection.  Cleaning the ear helps remove this material and aids in the treatment of external ear infections in dogs.  The veterinarian must be sure the tympanic membrane (“ear drum”) is not ruptured before cleaning the ear canals.  If the tympanic membrane is ruptured the veterinarian should only clean the ear with saline. Many topical cleaning agents are toxic or cause inflammation to the middle ear if the tympanic membrane is ruptured.
  2. Topical corticosteroids:  Most topical medications for external ear infections have a corticosteroid.  They decrease the itchiness and swelling.  There are different types of corticosteroids.  The most potent corticosteroids in topical preparations include betamethasone valerate and fluocinolone acetonide.  Less potent topical corticosteroids are triamcinolone acetonide and dexamethasone.  The least potent is hydrocortisone.  Topical corticosteroids can be absorbed through the skin and cause systemic side effects. Although the side effects are often mild and seen primarily in small breed dogs this should be considered in any dog being treated long-term with topical corticosteroids.
  3. Topical antimicrobials:  The most common infectious agents that cause external ear infections in dogs are Malassezia pachydermatis (yeast) and Staphylococcus intermedius (bacteria).  Pseudomonas aeruginosa (bacteria) is an uncommon cause of external ear infections in dogs that is often difficult to resolve.  Your veterinarian can look at a smear of debris from your dog’s ear canal under the microscope to determine if there is bacteria or yeast.  A bacterial or fungal (yeast) culture can be performed to determine the type of  bacteria or yeast.  An antibiotic sensitivity test is included in the culture test to determine which antibiotics will effectively treat the specific bacteria cultured.  This is very helpful because there are many antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
  4. Systemic therapy:  In dogs with severe external ear infections, middle ear infections, or ruptured tympanic membranes systemic therapy is often indicated.  Systemic glucocorticoids, antibiotics, or anti-yeast medications can be given orally or injectably.

Of course, the appropriate course of treatment for your dog can only be determined after an examination by your veterinarian. If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from an external ear infection, seek care!

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Angela Linvill

Angela has been the Hospital Administrator of a multi-specialty/ emergency/ and general practice veterinary hospital since 2005. She is also the Chair of the Contra Costa County Employer Advisory Council. Angela has a Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University. She is committed to helping pet owners make good decisions about the health care of their pets regardless of their financial situation.

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