If your pooch is rubbing their ear or tilting their head, they may have an ear infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast. A bacterial infection is also possible and can cause the same symptoms. So it's important for your vet to establish what kind of infection your dog has.
Fortunately, a yeast infection of the outer ear is easy to spot. In addition to rubbing, the signs include a waxy residue and scabbing around the opening of the ear. The condition is usually simple to treat.
Unfortunately, an ear infection in your dog caused by yeast is sometimes associated with an underlying condition, such as
- Bacterial infection
- A ruptured eardrum
- Tumor or polyp within the ear canal
- A trapped object
Once your vet has determined that Fido is suffering from an ear infection caused by yeast, they might conduct tests to check for other health problems. First, though, it’s important to treat the yeast infection. A yeast infection can be painful and can lead to deafness.
What Causes Yeast Infection of the Ear?
A dog’s ear canal plunges downward and then away from the ear opening (it is shaped like a “L”). That gives yeast a favorable environment in which to grow. If your dog swims or is bathed frequently, trapped water or debris in the ear canal can lead to yeast infections. Allergens like pollens, mold, dust, feathers, cigarette smoke, cleaning products, and certain foods can also lead to ear infections in a dog.
A dog's outer ear extends from the outside of the earlobe to the ear drum. An infection in this part of the ear is called otitis externa. An infection in the middle ear -- otitis media - typically develops in association with an outer ear infection. Then once the middle ear is infected, the infection can spread to the inner ear, where it will affect the dog's sense of balance and position. An inner ear infection can also cause deafness. Catching and treating an infection early, while it's still in the outer ear, will help prevent more serious middle and inner ear infections.
Yeast infections can also show up elsewhere on your dog’s skin. When one does, it causes the skin to become scabby, reddened, or crusty. with a foul odor.
What Are the Signs of an Ear Yeast Infection in Dogs?
You may notice your dog scratching their ear or rubbing it on the floor or on a piece of furniture. That's a sign that they may have a yeast infection. Here's what else to look for:
- Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
- Redness or swelling
- Crusted skin on the ear flap
- Loss of hair around the ear
- Head shaking or tilting
- Loss of balance
- Loss of hearing
- Walking in circles
- Unusual eye movements
How Is a Yeast Infection in a Dog Treated?
Using an otoscope, your vet will be able to look at your dog’s ear canal to determine if the eardrum is intact or if anything is present in the ear canal that could be causing the infection. The doctor will probably also take a sample of material from in and around the ear, and examine this under the microscope. It is important to determine whether the infection is caused by yeast, bacteria, or both.
If your dog has a yeast infection of the outer ear canal, the vet might prescribe a topical antifungal ointment or cream. Miconazole and ketoconazole are two antifungal medicines that are often effective.
An infection of the middle ear is treated with systemic medications (meaning tablets or injections), though further tests and even surgery may be needed. It can take up to six weeks for the infection to go away.
Your vet might recommend a full cleaning of the dog’s ear canal. If the problem is chronic, ask about special cleansers and ear-drying solutions that can be used at home.
Are Certain Dog Breeds More Susceptible to Yeast Infections?
Ear infections caused by yeast are more common in dogs with floppy ears, like cocker spaniels, basset hounds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and poodles. Some breeds which have hair growing in the inner ear canal, like Schnauzers, are also more susceptible to yeast infection. So are dogs with allergies.
How Can Ear Infections in Dogs Be Prevented?
To keep pooch’s ears healthy, regularly check for discharge, odor, and swelling. After your dog bathes or swims, gently dry the outer part of the ears as well as you can. You may also use an ear cleaning medicine that has a drying agent.
If your dog has hair in the opening of their ears, ask their groomer to trim or tweeze it. You can do it yourself if your dog will let you, but you need to be very careful. Only pluck hairs that are easily visible. Never insert any object into the ear canal unless your vet has shown you how to do it safely. Otherwise, you can damage the eardrum and cause severe problems.