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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
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Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My dog is scratching her ears and crying when she does it.

Resolved Question:

My dog is scratching her ears and crying when she does it. Then she smells her foot and stands up and shakes her head and body violently. I have looked at her ear and she is making it bleed she is scratching it so hard. What do I do? I have drops that I have put in her ear from a previous time, and it works for awhile, but then she goes back to it again.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 5 years ago.

Your poor pup sounds miserable.

She has an ear infection but it is important to figure out why she continues to get them and to make sure that the infection is treated properly so that they don't return.

Ear infections often start as a response to an allergy. The allergic reaction makes the ear produce more wax, changes the skin pH and causes inflammation making it a good environment for bacteria and yeast to grow. The most common allergic reaction to cause ear problems are food allergies.

Even though you don't see fleas they are the most common allergen in general and it only takes one bite a month to make an allergic dog scratch so I recommend using flea prevention even if you never see one. Frontline, Advantage or Advantix are excellent. Don't use over the counter products, especially Hartz or Sargents, as most are ineffective if not toxic.

Other allergens can be inhaled (like grass pollen) and you can use a combination of antihistamines and high doses of omega-3 fatty acids to help with those (they also help with the symptoms of flea allergy).

You can try 1)Benadryl (diphenhydramine only don't use the combo products as they can be toxic) at 1mg to 2mg per pound or one to two 25mg capsule(s) per 25 pound dog orally every 8 hours. OR 2)Claritin (loratidine) at 5mg per 25 pound dog once or twice daily. OR 3)Hydroxyzine at 1mg per pound orally every 8 hours. Some dogs do better on one antihistamine rather than another. You'll have to see which one works for her. Most dogs respond to Hydroxyzine the best. Give each a week to 10 day trial and if it isn't working try another.

Be aware antihistamines can cause sleepiness or hyperactivity in some dogs.

Omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil products. 3V by DVM is a good brand name. Use the high end of the dosing schedule for your pet's weight.

Lastly you may want to consider a different hypoallergenic diet if this is a constant problem for her. She will need to eat only that food (no treats or tablefood) for it to effective for at least 2 to 3 months, possibly 4. Stay away from any protein (ie chicken or beef) or carbohydrates (corn, wheat) that she's had previously. Purina CNM HA or Hills Z/D are very good diets to try.

Depending upon what is causing the infection a cleaner to change the pH in her ear and reduce wax will be important. I recommend using a cleaner at least twice weekly when the infection is cleared and possibly daily while trying to clear up her infection. Since we don't know yet what is involved in her infection a good general cleaner like epi-optic or epi-soothe will be a good starting point. Don't use any medicated drops until your veterinarian tests her ear to find what is causing the infection. You can use an over the counter cortisone ointment in her ears after cleaning and drying them to soothe the irritation until she can be seen by her veterinarian.

Because her ears are raw and bleeding she needs an antibiotic or antifungal medication to help heal the secondary skin infection which only your veterinarian can supply. This can't be treated at home.

Once your veterinarian diagnoses her condition rechecks will be needed to make sure that the infection is cleared. Please don't skip these because if you stop meds too early the infection will return and it will be harder to clear up.

I know ear infections are frustrating for owners and painful for pets. They are often a lifelong battle but they can be controlled if you and your veterinarian work as partners for your dog.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

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