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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Solution To Chronic Ear Infections

If the title of this post suddenly grabbed your attention, then you are very aware of the problems some dogs face with ear infections. Most dogs never have any problems with their ears. But others have life-long issues that can lead to permanent damage. If you have struggled with recurring infections in your dog, then this article is for you.

If your dog has more than two ear infections in a year, then this is very abnormal. In these cases, the ear infections are not the problem. The infections are indeed a concern, but they are a symptom of a larger problem. Infections do not happen on their own. There must be some underlying reason for it. And you will never get it fully under control until you discover and treat that primary cause.

Breed has a lot to do with these problems. Certain breeds have long, heavy ears that hang close to the ear canal, preventing good air flow. This allows moisture to be trapped in the canal, creating a warm, moist environment that is a great breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. Cocker spaniels are one of the worst breeds in large part because of this ear structure. Some breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, produce more cerumen (wax) than other dogs, which can trap microorganisms. Small, fuzzy dogs, such as shih tzus and poodles, often have hair growing from deep inside the ear canal, which can clog the canal like hair blocks a sink drain. All of these physical factors contribute to enhance conditions for microorganism growth. However, they may not be enough to make a bad problem.

Low thyroid levels are one of the most common metabolic disorders in dogs. One of the issues hypothyroidism causes is to make the patient more susceptible to infections, especially of the skin and ears. Chronic ear infections can be a result.

However, one of the primary causes of chronic infections is related to allergies. I'll likely talk about allergies in detail later, but for now realize that we're not talking about the sniffles and sneezes that people get with hayfever. With pets, allergies can be to food, fleas, grass, pollens, dust mites, and many other things. Itchy skin and ears is the result, as well as infections. Veterinary dermatologists have shown that sometimes the only sign of a food-related allergy is chronic ear infections!

If your dog is having more than two ear infections a year, you need to do more than simply putting more medicine in the ears. This doesn't really treat the problem, and can lead to more serious problems down the road. If this describes your dog, here's what you need to talk to your vet about. First, have the thyroid level checked. This is inexpensive, and many vets can do it in their hospital. If they have to send it out, the results usually come back the next day. If the thyroid level is normal, then start talking about allergies. A food trial is usually the first step, feeding a special hypoallergenic diet for 2-3 months. If that doesn't work, medication such as prednisone or cyclosporine may be needed to reduce the body's reaction to allergies. If these don't control the problem, your vet may recommend sending you to a veterinary dermatology specialist.

Treating ear infections should always involve trying to cure the current outbreak with appropriate medications. But if it keeps coming back, you and your vet should try to figure out why, and treat that main problem. Doing so will save you money and your pet discomfort.