Dog inner ear infection (otitis media) is more serious than an outer ear infection (otitis externa) but can often accompany the latter condition. Like any other ear infection, it is fairly common among breeds with long, floppy or hairy ears but can occur in any breed. Since ear infections are often the result of foreign objects or other irritants becoming lodged in the ear, it is a pretty regular concern for active breeds like the Australian Shepherd. In any case, the important thing for infections of the inner ear is to get immediate diagnosis and treatment.
An ear infection in dogs that spreads from the outer ear to the tympanic membrane is far more serious as it can cause balance issues, resulting in head tilting and leaning toward the affected side. As with external infections, the affected dog may also exhibit head shaking, itching, and other visible signs of pain. There may also be matting of the hair inside the ear and a bad odor emanating from the ear discharge.
If any of these symptoms are present, you should take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible for a thorough exam. If a dog inner ear infection is present, it will be particularly important to properly diagnose it and determine the underlying cause so that an effective treatment regimen may begin. Since ear infection can lead to severe problems including hearing loss, beginning treatment as soon as possible is highly recommended.
There can be many different causes for otitis media, including various bacterial or fungal organisms. Treatment will depend on the exact cause. For cases that involve ear mites, an anti-parasitic medication is recommended; if the cause is bacterial an antimicrobial agent can be used. NSAIDs or steroid based medications can be used to help reduce inflammation and ease pain. Aside from these measures, the external ear should be thoroughly and carefully cleaned.
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If an ear infection in dogs doesn't respond to medication it may be necessary to use more invasive methods of treatment, including myringotomy or perforation of the tympanic membrane to relieve pressure and allow for fluid drainage. In more severe, chronic cases a total ear canal ablation may be required in order to allow proper drainage and relieve symptoms.
Unfortunately, chronic cases of otitis media can lead to severe and permanent damage including hearing loss and even neurological issues. For this reason, the importance of prompt veterinary intervention cannot be emphasized enough. Since the ears are such tremendously sensitive organs, even the slightest amount of irritation or damage can lead to something far worse, so no symptoms of ear infection should ever be overlooked.
Though it can be daunting to find yourself dealing with a dog inner ear infection, the good news is that a proper course of treatment is usually effective. Since it can take longer for medications to reach the inner ear, treatment can take longer than it would for external infections but in most cases the infection should clear within six weeks.
No one ever likes to see their dog in distress and nothing can be more distressing than the pain and discomfort caused by an ear infection. If you suspect your dog is suffering from an infection of either the outer or inner ear, take him to the vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis. That way, you can have him on the road to recovery in no time and make sure that his sensitive ears are always protected.