We all know that a vast majority of dog owners face the “ear infection” problem of their dog quite frequently. However, and interestingly, in most cases the problem is not an infection!!! Good news of course! Yes you heard me! In majority of cases when a dog’s ears start bothering him/her for the first time, it is not an infection but an inflammation!!
Alright, now, what is the difference between these two, and what is the significance of knowing about this? Excellent question!
An ear canal inflammation is basically a severe irritation of the tissue in the canal(part of the skin tissue). The inflammation starts with congestion of the blood vessels in this tissue (redness), then continues with swelling of the ear canal(s), then goes on with discharge and more wax production than normal. The congestion and redness causes itchiness. With the swelling of the ear canal the canal gets narrower and narrower. This limits the ventilation in the ear canal and from here on and with extra production of the ear wax and discharge the canal becomes a heaven for the growth of bacteria and yeast. This is when “infection” enters the equation.
As one can appreciate, infection is he end result of inflammation of the ear canal, not the start of the process i.e. when the dog’s ears get itchy and they start scratching the ears and shaking the head.
The significance of differentiating between ear canal inflammation vs. infection is in the fact that in a vast majority of cases when the ears become uncomfortable initially, and because there is no extra growth of bacteria or yeast yet, there is no need to treat the ears with antibiotic or anti-yeast medication. Very important!! In fact, use of these agents at the early stage of ear inflammation could very well be detrimental to the long-term health of the ear canal tissue and usually results in frequent recurrence of the problem and on-going need for treatment which equals more cost, too.
When antibiotics and/or anti-yeast agents are used unnecessarily, resistance to these agents will more than likely be the end result. This is why the dog’s ear problem keeps coming back and responds poorly to the treatment, when not diagnosed properly.
In a nutshell, the diagnostic test (ear swab and cytology), when your dog’s ears start showing signs of discomfort is extremely important, and adds a huge value to the correct diagnosis and treatment of the problem. It will help us differentiate between “infection” and “inflammation” of the ear canals. This diagnostic procedure also helps veterinarians understand the progress of recovery after initiation of the treatment.
Please, feel free to contact us should your dog have any issues with their ears, and we will be delighted to share w more details with you!
Dr. Dave Bonab