Dogs shake their head in response to an irritation–pain, itch, tickle, or a bug bite. Excessive head shaking is a common sign of an ear infection.
Titan is a big boy. He’s six years old and weighs about 130 pounds. He has a heart of gold.
Titan has been shaking his head regularly every morning for years but it didn’t raise any flags. He didn’t do it that much and it didn’t seem to be a problem.
It wasn’t until Titan started pawing and his ears and rubbing his head against things when it became apparent his ears were bothering him.
Titan’s ears also had a strong, yeasty smell and hurt to the touch. If you learned anything about ear infections in dogs, you know these are textbook signs.
Dogs with floppy ears are particularly susceptible; ever more so in warm, humid conditions.
Ear problems can have a direct cause, such as foreign body but more often than not they are a reflection of overall unhappy skin. Moreover, their complicated anatomy provides the perfect environment for opportunistic bacteria to thrive. What starts as inflammation, such as from allergies, easily ends up with a painful bacterial infection.
Unhappy skin and unhappy ears go hand-in-hand.
A minor, fluke, ear infection is a simple problem to solve. Treatment with an antibiotic and ear drops might do the trick for good.
When ear infections are a reflection of a systemic problem, such as allergies, keeping the ears happy can be a daunting task.
Titan’s ears were is serious trouble.
With a systemic cause, there is no easy fix.
Titan’s veterinarian swabbed the ears to see what bacteria was plaguing his ears. Some bacteria require a targetted–and usually nastier–antibiotic. Treating with a medication that won’t work is unhelpful and a waste of time at best.
Luckily, Titan’s ears hosted a frat party of a garden-variety bacteria.
Titan also needed to endure getting ear drops in his ears for about ten days. He was not very pleased with that idea. Getting drops in the ear of a strong dog who doesn’t want that done is not an easy task.
Note: Temperature might matter. Cookie hated getting her ear drops too. A dog trainer friend of mine recommended warming up the solution before applying. It has made a difference. Cookie accepted the lukewarm drops much more readily.
By the time of the check-up appointment, Titan’s ears felt better. Finally, his veterinarian could take a good look in the ear canals. Titan’s left ear was in good shape. His right ear, however, had the ear canal obstructed by growths, blocking air circulation.
Without sufficient air flow, the ear cannot heal.
Even after two more weeks of treatment, Titan’s ear remained unhappy. Titan needed surgical intervention.
There are different surgical procedures but they all have the same goal–prevent the ear from being chronically infected.
Surgical options include lateral wall resection (LWR,), vertical canal ablation (VCA), or total ear canal ablation (TECA). The goal is opening of the ear canal and/or removal of the diseased tissue.Chronic Ear Infections: Tootsie’s Story
The surgery went well and everything looked great–for a while. But then the inflammation returned.
It was allergies that were at the root of all the evil.
Fortunately, Titan responded to his allergy treatment which also settled down his ears. He still needs the occassional treatment with ear drops but overall his ears are not giving him any more trouble.
Allergies are the most common root cause of ear infections in dogs.
Getting allergies under control can be difficult. However, without addressing the root cause, treating the resulting unhappy ears is quite futile.
Read Titan’s original story.