By Leslie Manis, Health/Genetics Chairman, ASTC
[Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of information. However,
this is not a substitute for prompt veterinary care. Any similarity
to other publications is unintentional. Published
online at Sealyhealthguard.org, 1/24/12]
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Ear infections can be troublesome for many dogs of any breed, including
Sealyhams. Problems with the ears can be caused by a number of things,
such as foreign materials (speargrass, foxtails, etc.), ear mites,
trauma, tumors, or concurring disease such as allergies or hypothyroidism.
Because of this, it's important to see your veterinarian for a thorough
exam. (Ear mites account for less than 10 percent of ear problems
in dogs. Mites cause dark crumbly debris resembling coffee grounds.)
A dog's ear canal is L-shaped, making it hard to see & clean
easily. Dogs with pendulous ears have less airflow to the ears. Those
with a lot of hair in the ears, like the Sealy, need to have it trimmed & plucked
for better air circulation. This moist, warm environment is what encourages
microorganisms (bacteria or yeast) to grow. One source even stated
that some breeds are more susceptible to ear infections because of
the type of skin or glands in the ear canal. This includes the Basset
hound, Beagle, Labrador & Springer Spaniel.
Symptoms of an ear infection are shaking, scratching, head tilt,
odor from the ear (usually pungent), redness or swelling of the ear
flap or canal, discharge, pain around ears, change in behavior. The
most common cause of infection is yeast or bacteria ( Staph, Strep,
E. coli, Pseudomonas) . Often, both yeast and bacteria are present. Pseudomonas is
a bacterium that can become resistant to antibiotics, so it must be
treated decisively & thoroughly.
Persistent or recurring ear infections in both ears often indicate
other diseases such as allergies or hypothyroidism. Chronic respiratory
conditions can also weaken the immune system and make a dog more susceptible
to ear infections. Allergies often cause dermatitis & itchy ears.
They also result in inflammation & heat in & around the ears.
Hypothyroidism may cause increased thickness of the skin & an
increase of ear wax production, which encourages growth of microorganisms.
When you bring your dog to the vet for an ear infection, he'll use
an otoscope to examine the ear, check for foreign bodies, look for
inflammation & make sure the ear drum is okay. He'll do a thorough
exam & take the dog's history. He will take a swab & examine
a smear of it under the microscope to see if there are yeast or bacteria
present. Many vets use topical products (Panalog, Tresaderm, Mometamax,
for example) that contain a combination of antibiotics, antiinflammatories
and antifungal ingredients. Several brands are effective for minor
to moderate ear infections. If a thorough cleaning and flushing are
required, your pet may need to be sedated.
Dr. June Cohron, a Sealyham breeder, ASTC member and veterinarian
at the Animal Hospital of Stuarts Draft, Virginia spoke with me on
this subject. She often suspects underlying allergies in cases of
recurrent infections of both ears. She will suggest a hypoallergenic
diet to check for food allergies after just one or two visits for
ear problems. The diet will have both a novel [one the dog hasn't
had before] protein and novel carbohydrate, like fish & sweet
potato or venison and potato. The dog can't have any treats, bones,
rawhides or pig ears during this time; those proteins could be what
the dog is allergic to. It takes 6-8 weeks to see if the diet change
makes a difference. If the ear problems continue, she then tests for
Dr. Cohron takes an ear swab, as described above, and selects topical
treatments accordingly. If the ear is particularly nasty or doesn't
respond to her first treatment, she will do a culture. This can take
7-14 days. Acidic cleaners help inhibit yeast growth. Active ingredients
in acidic cleaners can be acetic acid (vinegar), salicylic acid, malic
acid, benzoic acid or boric acid. Some also contain cortisone for
inflammation. Bacterial infections, particularly Pseudomonas, are
inhibited at pH 8 (alkaline). Tris EDTA or T8 are examples of this.
She warns that products containing gentamycin (Otomax, Mometamax,
Gentocin Otic) must be used with caution because that antibiotic can
be ototoxic, leading to deafness.
Antibiotics that some veterinarians use for tenacious Pseudomonas infections
are oral quinolones such as enrofoxacin or orbifloxacin, Baytril or
cefpoxime (Simplicef). Some will treat with oral antibiotics in conjunction
with topical ointments or drops and ear cleaner. Some will also use
antihistimines or antiinflammatories. Dr. June adds injectable Baytril
to bottles of Tris EDTA along with oral Baytril in these tough cases.
There is also a Baytril Otic (topical) that contains enrofloxacin & silver
sulfadiazine. Silver sulfadiazine helps healing and is effective against Pseudomonas and
several other bacteria. Tris EDTA binds metals which are important
to the bacterial cell wall, thus killing the bacteria. Tris buffers
the EDTA to a pH that's not irritating to the ear & to maximize
the anti-bacterial effect. Tris EDTA gives extra power to topical
antibiotics used with it.
Zymox HC Otic drops contain enzymes that break down the cell walls
of bacteria, yeast & also break down wax. HC stands for hydrocortisone,
1%, to help with inflammation & itching. It can also be found
without that ingredient. The enzymes in it are lysozyme, which breaks
down cell walls, lactoferrin (found in clostrum, milk & saliva)
and lactoperoxidase (found in milk & saliva) which are both bactericidal.
The latest issue of Dog Fancy reported that Intervet/Schering-Plough
has developed Posatex Otic Suspension, an effective once-a-day treatment
for otitis externa. This new product combines antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
and antifungal medications: 1% orbifloxacin (broad-spectrum antibiotic),
0.1% mometasone furoate monohydrate (antiinflammatory) and 0.1% posaconazole
(a potent antifungal). Ask your vet about it.
Chronic ear infections can cause swelling, hardening or closing of
the ear canal; surgery may be required. Proper diagnosis and treatment
are important before things go this far.
Dr. June says, "The best prevention of ear problems is minimizing
allergies--feed a good consistent diet with just one protein source.
For dogs that have some ear sensitivities, cleaning regularly (2-4
times weekly), using some sort of topical antiinflammatory like Synotic,
and certainly keeping the ear canals free of clumped hair and debris
(though I think over-plucking can lead to inflammation) is important
for healthy ear maintenance. Sometimes a low dose of oral prednisone
will be successful in controlling the inflammation in the ear canals
that then allows the yeast & bacteria to overgrow."
Dr. June Cohron, DVM