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Ear Infections-Why Is It Never Cured?

By May 23, 2024 Blog

Rover has been shaking his head and scratching his ears all week. When you look, you smell a sweet, bread-like scent. You take a trip to the vet and find out Rover has a yeast infection in his ears, so you treat them with the medication provided. A few weeks or months later, it happens again… and again… and again after that. It can be very frustrating when you are constantly going to the veterinarian for what seems like a minor issue, so we are here to explain why this is happening and what you can do to try to lessen their occurrence.  

Ear infections are a very common problem in pets. Ear infections are not contagious and are typically due to another primary cause.

So what is causing these ear infections?

Allergies and other medical issues play a big role in why some pets are so prone to recurrent ear infections. By finding the primary cause, we can help prevent future occurrences as well as treat the current infection. The process of diagnosing your dog involves determining the predisposing factors, identifying the primary cause, diagnosing the secondary cause (what organisms are involved) and finally treating any perpetuating factors that will prevent a full resolution of the ear infection. 

Signs/Symptoms of an ear infection:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Dark discharge
  • Odor
  • Redness and swelling of the ear canal
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Crusting or scabs in the ears

There are multiple steps to fully treating these ear infections, so we are going to break it down piece by piece. 

Step 1: Finding the Primary Cause 

Now you may be wondering how we can find the primary cause of the seemingly endless ear infections. We can do this by performing blood work to check for underlying thyroid and adrenal conditions, testing for possible allergies your pet may have, and even performing food trials at home. 

Step 2: Finding the Secondary Cause 

To diagnose a secondary cause, an ear swab cytology is performed. This will help us target treatment for your pet to restore the normal population of organisms to the ear. It is imperative to continue therapy until the ear has been completely recovered. Your vet may want to see your pet for a recheck appointment to ensure that the ear infection has been resolved. Some ear infections need to be treated multiple times, so missing a recheck may cause the ear infection to return even if it seems to have improved. 

Step 3: Checking for a Perpetuating Cause: 

At the end and during treatment for an ear infection, the ear canal will be evaluated for perpetuating factors that prevent full ear resolution. These factors can include a thickened ear canal, a middle ear infection, or an overproduction of oils in the canal.  

Step 4: Maintenance  

Once your pet has been treated, ask your vet what you can do for maintenance. This may include weekly to biweekly cleaning of the ears. If your pet’s ear infections are due to allergies, you may have to bring them in for allergy injections or have allergy medication on hand. In some cases, certain foods may need to be cut from the pet’s diet to prevent flare-ups.  

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Celine Mazzella

Author Celine Mazzella

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