With the summer months upon us, one of the most frustrating problems seen especially this time of year is the development of recurrent and/or chronic ear infections in dogs. This is often due to environmental, seasonal allergies, as well as many water-loving dogs repeatedly going swimming in pools, lakes or oceans. Because of the shape of the dog’s horizontal ear canal, it is often difficult for water to drip out of the ear, thus predisposing to the development of secondary inflammation and bacterial and/or yeast infections. Because bathing may predispose to this as well, I will often suggest that animal guardians use dry cotton balls placed down the ear canals as a preventative before bathing their canine companions.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear in a dog may include the development of dark offensive discharge, redness and/or pain when touching the ears, pawing at the ears, as well as excessive shaking of the head. If these symptoms become too intense, it is best to have a full veterinary evaluation so that appropriate topical prescription antibiotics and/or anti-fungals can be prescribed, as well as addressing other potential underlying or contributing causes such as seasonal contact allergies known as atopy. Many of these pets will also have other symptoms of allergic skin disease, including excessive paw licking, generalized itching, as well as the predisposition to the development of hot spots.
A simple over-the-counter home remedy I have found helpful to prevent the development of swimmer’s ear in dogs is placing a few drops of white vinegar in the ears, which acts as a drying agent and can help prevent secondary ear infections after swimming. Keeping the ears dry after swimming is a very important part of preventing this problem. Products such as Epi-Otic, as well as Zymox Otic HC have been especially helpful when trying to prevent secondary ear infections in those pets who love the water.