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Why does my dog keep getting ear infections?

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Learn more about chronic otitis in dogs.

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A brown dog lying down

When your dog is suffering from an ear infection or inflammation, also called canine otitis externa, they may feel uncomfortable and unwell. The dog’s ears are swollen, red, itchy and painful — and you want to do everything you can to make your pet feel better. If your dog is prone to chronic ear infections or repeated cases of otitis externa, you may be seeking answers to help treat and prevent the condition as well as providing your dog with much-needed relief.

It is important to know that once a dog has suffered from an ear infection, they could be more likely to contract one again. This condition is called recurrent otitis.

Causes for chronic ear infections in dogs

Dogs may experience chronic ear infections for a few reasons:

  • The dog’s ear structure: Some dogs are more likely to contract ear infections due to having a certain ear structure, such as a small ear canal or floppy ears.
  • Environmental factors: Some dogs are more susceptible than others to environmental factors and allergens that may cause ear infections.

In most cases, the infection is caused by bacterial and yeast overgrowth. The underlying conditions described above may set up conditions to allow this overgrowth.  Other causes of canine otitis include ear mites and plant material, or water trapped in the ears.

How to reduce or prevent recurring ear infections in dogs

If your dog suffers from recurring otitis, visit your veterinarian first to develop a personalized management plan to better prevent future infections. You can also take several steps to prevent future infections:

  • After a bath or swimming, gently wipe around the top of your dog’s ear with cotton balls to help prevent water from entering the ear canal.
  • After playing outside, gently remove visible dirt and debris from your dog’s ears.
  • Discuss the role of potential allergies.  If your dog suffers from certain allergies, dietary changes may help prevent ear inflammation. Your vet can give advice on any dietary measures that may be required.  Your veterinarian can also discuss options to manage environmental allergies.
  • Only clean your dog’s ears when your dog is healthy. Cleaning an infected ear could be painful for your dog and make the infection worse, so only do so if directed by your vet.

Treating chronic ear infections in dogs

If you think your dog may be suffering from an ear infection, seek medical treatment.

Allergies can be difficult to diagnose and sometimes one of the only signs that your dog has allergies is a chronic ear infection. Allergies can be triggered by your dog’s diet or ingredients in their treats or other environmental factors like pollen. Working with your veterinarian can help determine the cause of your dog’s allergy. The good news is that there are several treatment options for allergies that can help control your dog’s condition and reduce the frequency or severity of ear infections due to allergies.

Please consult your veterinarian to ensure a proper diagnosis ear infection and get the proper treatment, which will result in an increased likelihood of treatment success.

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