by Audrey Harvey, DVM
Does your dog suffer from chronic ear infections? Did you know that the food your dog eats might be the to blame?
Food allergies are often the culprit in cases of otitis (ear inflammation). Otitis or conjunctivitis could also be associated with atopy (allergies to inhaled dusts and pollens).
Let’s start with the ears. In one study, researchers examined 100 dogs with chronic ear problems to try and work out why they kept developing these infections. Of those 100 dogs, 43 of them were found to have underlying allergies that were the primary cause of their otitis. Although 100 dogs isn’t a large number of animals to survey, the results do indicate that allergies are a major cause of chronic ear problems in our dogs.
These allergies cause inflammation of the skin inside your dog’s ear canal, which will make him shake his head and scratch his ear. This inflammation allows bacteria and fungi to multiply and cause a secondary infection. The inflammation also causes his ear canal to thicken which prevents air circulation and provides a warm moist environment for the infection to flourish.
What does this mean for you? It means that if your dog has ongoing or recurring ear problems, you are not likely to clear these up by just treating him with ear drops. Drops will kill the infection, but unless you manage his underlying allergies, his ears will be sore again soon after you stop the medication.
Here are some guidelines for managing your dog’s chronic ear infection and inflammation.
1. Make an appointment with your vet to have his ears examined thoroughly, including looking at the discharge from his ear under a microscope.
2. Use an appropriate antibiotic or antifungal ear drop to get the secondary infections under control.
3. Treat any allergies. This often means using medication such as corticosteroids or antihistamines to stop the itch and reduce the inflammation. However, it is vital that you start a food trial to rule out food allergies, and consider allergy testing to see if he’s sensitive to any environmental allergens.
4. When his ear infection is under control, continue to manage his allergies, but start using the Ear Aid two part program to keep his ears clean and healthy. Firstly, wipe his ear clean with Ear Wipes. They contain colloidal silver which will suppress any bacterial growth. Follow this with Ear Clear drops. Their herbal ingredients will soothe and heal sore ears, while helping to prevent bacterial infections.
Allergic conjunctivitis is another common problem for dogs that suffer from atopy. It is usually seen in conjunction with itchy ears, itchy skin and feet, and sneezing, however, it is possible for allergic dogs just to have itchy eyes and show none of these other symptoms.
Conjunctivitis associated with atopy tends to affect both eyes at the same time. These poor dogs have very itchy eyes, and rub their face along the ground to try and get relief. They often rub away the hair from around their eyes. If you pull their lower eyelids down, their conjunctiva is usually very red and inflamed. They tend to have watery eyes, but as with ears, it’s common for a secondary bacterial infection to occur. This leads to that familiar yellowish sticky discharge which needs frequent cleaning.
Treatment of allergic conjunctivitis is similar to that of any other allergies. Firstly, treat the secondary infection. Clean any discharge away with Eye Pads; they are safe, gentle and they will inhibit further growth of bacteria. You may need to apply specific antibiotic eye ointment if it is prescribed by your vet. Make sure you add Eyemunity powder to your dog’s diet. It will boost his immune system and help him fight off those bacterial invaders.
It’s often very hard to keep your dog away from dusts and pollens that he may be sensitive to, so treating atopic conjunctivitis relies on desensitization and medication to keep it under control.
If your dog has recurring ear infections, or constantly watery eyes, consider an underlying allergy as the cause.
Audrey Harvey is a veterinarian who has worked in small animal practice for 20 years, and has been involved in teaching and competing in dog obedience and agility. She is passionate about preventative health care in dogs, particularly obesity management and the prevention of boredom related behavioral problems. Audrey lives in Brisbane Australia, and shares her couch with an Australian Cattle Dog, an Australian Working Kelpie and two Whippets.