External ear infections (Otitis) is an infection of the ear canal. Animals’ ear canals are extremely sensitive parts of the ear and easily infected by unwanted organisms. The Literature notes that 80% of animals experiencing ear problems are those with long ears, excessive hair growth in the ears, animals with insufficient airflow that results in the ear canal remaining clammy.
You as pet owner must prevent an environment developing which promotes favourable conditions for unwanted bacterial growth as well as housing of mites.
It is clear that several factors contribute to the development of ear canal problems. The Chinese Sharpei, for instance, is very susceptible to ear canal problems. They have very narrow ear canals resulting in hardly any airflow in the canal to keep it dry. Such a clammy environment is an extremely favourable environment for yeast and other bacterial and unwanted ear organisms.
The fur of dogs with skin conditions, especially species with atopic dermatitis or hypersensitivity (dermatitis) shows various reactions to the colourants, flavourants and preservatives found in food available in the market. Several dog breeds are hypersensitive to maize products containing gluten. There are also other causes in Nature like grass, pollen, flowers and seeds. Inbreeding and genetic factors also play a big role.
Dogs with primary or secondary Seborrhoea usually have a yellow oily liquid excretion from the ear and this excretion is an excellent medium for the build-up of harmful bacteria in the ear canal.
Other contributory factors can be cross contamination of material used to clean the ears such as earbuds and cotton wool used more than once. Another problem can be water in the ears after swimming or when they are bathed with ‘harmful’ soap/shampoos during salon visits. People grooming animals with unsterilized equipment/instruments during haircuts also play a role.
Signs of ear infections and/or ear mites
• Shaking of head
• Scratching ears with paws
• Rubbing ears
• Other dogs licking or smelling the ears
• The head is carried fairly low in relation to the body
• Damaged ear flaps that are swollen and/or displaying hair loss
• Whimpering when the ears are touched
• Oily excretion from the ears
• Deafness
• A fear of sound
• Smells emanating from the ears
Types of ear infections
• Ceruminous Otitis
Normally found with primary Seborrhoea. It is the excessive build-up of a yellow, oily wax in the ear canal which creates the ideal medium for the build-up of unwanted bacteria and yeast.
Preventative treatment: Keep the ear and ear canal free of hair, clean and dry.
• Bacterial Otitis
In its acute form is usually caused by the well-known Staphylococci bacteria. The excretion is clammy and usually light brown. Chronic infections are caused by the Proteus and/or Pseudomonas bacteria with a yellow/greenish excretion although there have been exceptions to the rule.
Other bacteria
Various types of bacteria can be present with ear infections which can make treatment with antibiotics very challenging:
• Yeast or fungal infections
Yeast or fungal infections can be the result of antibiotic treatment for bacterial ear infections.
Yeast and other infections in the ear can also be the result of dogs that are struggling with Atopic Dermatitis. This is caused by the dietary shortages and is regarded as dermatitis caused by food intake. Seborrheic skin conditions are also attributed to this factor.
Characteristic of this yeast in the ears is the brown, oily wax excretion with a typical smell. Ears have clear signs of inflammation and also physical moisture in the ear canal. These conditions will continue until underlying causes are addressed and resolved.
Pierre van Niekerk © 2015

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