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External Ear Infection (External Otitis) in Dogs

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Treatment: Because external ear infections often progress to the middle ear, it is extremely important to take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you suspect an ear problem. Veterinary examination of the deep portions of the ear canal using an otoscope is the most important step in making the diagnosis and planning the treatment.

Otoscopic examination cannot be attempted if the canal is dirty and filled with wax and purulent debris. First, the ear must be cleaned. This may require sedation or anesthesia.

It is essential to know whether the eardrums are intact, since it is not safe to medicate the ears with certain medications if the drums are perforated. It is also important to be sure the problem is not caused by a foreign body or tumor. A specimen of waxy material is taken with a cotton-tipped applicator, rolled onto a glass slide, and examined under the microscope looking for bacteria, yeast, ear mites, and any other predisposing factors. Your veterinarian may need to do a culture and sensitivity test on the discharge, especially if this is a recurring problem. A correct and definite diagnosis of the cause helps to determine the most appropriate and best treatment.

The first step in treatment is to clean and dry the ear canals. This requires ear-cleaning solutions, a syringe, an ear curette, and cotton balls. It should be done at the veterinary clinic. Cleaning creates a less favorable environment for bacteria to grow and allows the medication to treat the surface of the ear canal. Medication can’t penetrate the debris in a dirty ear.

Follow-up care at home involves medicating the ear with a preparation prescribed by your veterinarian. If the ear continues to produce wax and exudate, a cleansing and flushing solution such as Oti-Clens or Epi-Otic, and/or a drying solution such as ClearX or Panodry, may be recommended. These solutions are used immediately before medicating the ear with an antibiotic or antifungal medication. Topical and/or oral corticosteroids may be recommended to control pain and decrease swelling and inflammation. Some dogs may need oral antibiotics as well for severe infections.

Bacterial infections that continue to progress produce thickening and narrowing of the ear canal and chronic pain. These ears are difficult to clean and treat. Asa last resort, your veterinarian may advise a surgical procedure called an ear resection that reestablishes air circulation and promotes drainage.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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