Canine Inner Ear Infection

Dogs may suffer from ear infections also known as otitis; these infections may be an inner ear infection or may affect the middle or the outer ear. Certain dog breeds (long eared breeds and floppy eared dogs) may be more prone to ear infections. Inner ear infections are less common, but may be caused by an outer ear infection that moves into the inner ear. An inner ear infection may be dangerous as the ear drum may be affected and perforated and this may lead to deafness and severe neurological problems.  

Causes of Inner Ear Infection

Otitis may be caused by different factors including:

  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Mange
  • Infections (bacterial, fungal, viral)
  • Water that is trapped into the ear
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Excessive wax production
  • Foreign body trapped in the ear

If left untreated, the inner otitis will move into the middle ear, penetrate the ear drum and then it will affect the inner ear canal.

Symptoms of Inner Otitis

An inner otitis will be very painful. You will notice that the dog has a foul smelling discharge from the ear. The ears may be red and irritated.

The ear drum may be affected and this may cause partial deafness, so you may notice that your dog doesn’t respond to certain acoustic stimuli.

Other symptoms that the ear drum is affected include:

  • Head shaking
  • Pawing or scratching the ear area
  • The dog will indicate the affected ear by tilting his head toward the ear that is infected
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neurological signs such as rolling, lack of balance or coordination (ataxia) and confusion
  • Horner’s syndrome (one pupil is larger than the other), due to the fact that a nerve that controls the pupils may have been affected as well

Diagnosis of Inner Otitis

The inner ear infection can be diagnosed judging by the symptoms and by performing a thorough analysis. The vet will analyze the ear discharge to check for fungi, viruses or bacteria that may cause the infection.

The vet will take a look at the inner ear using an otoscope; he will determine if the ear drum if perforated. An x-ray may be needed.

If the dog is uncooperative (which is common in dogs with ear pain), the vet may need to anesthetize the pet, to be able to perform the examination.

Otitis Treatment

The treatment will consist of a thorough ear cleaning and the administration of topical medications that will kill the bacteria, viruses or bacteria that may cause the infection. Don’t apply any treatment (ear drops, saline ear solution) before visiting the vet, as if the ear drums are perforated, you may cause more damage.

The topical treatment will typically last for 2 to 4 weeks and the infection will be healed.

If the condition is severe and left untreated for a long period of time, the infection may cause skin thickening and mineralization of the inner ear canals and this requires surgery.