Baxter is a nine month old Westie who presented for scratching his ears and shaking his head. A quick peak at his ears revealed the skin was very red and there was a waxy, dark brown discharge. It was clear he had a significant ear infection. The most common causes of ear infections are allergies or when water gets in the ear canal either from swimming or getting a bath.
I obtained a swab of both ears to look at under the microscope and whisked Baxter off for a thorough ear cleaning. On the microscope slide there was a sea of yeast, which look like little purple bowling pins. Bacteria in the shape of spheres or tubes can also be present which is why determining what organisms are causing the infection is critical to the treatment plan. In Baxter’s case I suspect this started with a bath as yeast infections are most commonly seen when water gets into the ear canal. The moisture becomes trapped in the ear and this creates the perfect environment for yeast and bacteria to flourish.
Poor Baxter’s ears were so uncomfortable he did not appreciate the ear cleaning but we were able to remove a large amount of discharge which would help him clear the infection. Once we were through he was sent home with a cleanser and topical medication for his owners to apply at home.
Some dogs struggle with chronic ear infections but hopefully this will not be the case with Baxter. By using the cleanser weekly and/or after bathing, his owners should be able to prevent future infections from forming. Ear infections are very common and knowing the clinical signs and causes will go a long way in keeping your dog comfortable and preventing a trip to the vet.
Ashley Gallagher, DVM