When we think of allergies in dogs, many of us think of constant itching and scratching. But ear infections are often a symptom of underlying allergies – especially allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, and animal proteins in dog food.1
In this blog post, I’ll explore five signs that allergies might be causing your dog’s ear infections and discuss the importance of early detection and treatment.
How Do Allergies Cause Ear Infections?
The skin serves as the body’s first line of defense against external pathogens. Allergies can weaken the skin through a combination of immune responses and inflammatory reactions, ultimately compromising this protective barrier.
The ears are no different, and allergies can cause the ear canal to become inflamed. Allergic inflammation in the ears can lead to swelling and disruption of the ears’ natural defenses. Bacteria or yeast, which are commonly present on the skin and in the ears, can take advantage of the weakened environment and multiply rapidly. The result? An ear infection.
If the underlying allergy is not addressed, the cycle of inflammation, scratching, and secondary infections may continue, leading to recurring ear infections. The chronic nature of the issue can make it challenging to resolve without identifying and managing the allergen responsible for the initial immune response.
Five Signs Allergies are Causing Your Dog’s Ear Infections
Ear infections are relatively common in dogs, and causes can range anywhere from moisture to ear anatomy to allergies. While the signs of an ear infection are pretty similar regardless of the cause, here are some clues that your dog’s ear infection could be due to allergies.
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- Persistent Ear Scratching and Head Shaking
One of the first signs that your dog’s ear infection could be allergy-related is constant head shaking and scratching. Allergic reactions can cause irritation and inflammation both in the ears and elsewhere on the body, leading to unbearable itchiness for your fur baby.
If you notice your dog scratching their ears persistently, shaking their head frequently, and licking or rubbing other parts of their body, it’s time to pay attention. While some ear scratching is normal, excessive and constant behavior could be an indication of an underlying issue, including allergies.
- Redness, Swelling, and Discomfort
Allergies trigger an immune response in your dog’s body, leading to redness, swelling, and discomfort in the ear canal. This could be true for other areas on the body as well.
If you look at your dog’s ears, you may notice signs of inflammation, and they may be more sensitive to touch in the affected area. Be on the lookout for any signs of discomfort or changes in your dog’s behavior, as these could be indications that allergies are contributing to their ear infections.
- Unpleasant Odor and Discharge
If you notice an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s ears or observe any unusual discharge, it is likely a sign that they have an ear infection, and could mean that allergies are involved. Allergies can create an environment conducive to bacterial and yeast growth, leading to a foul-smelling discharge.
- Excessive Ear Sensitivity and Pain
Dogs suffering from an ear infection, whether or not they are caused by allergies, may experience increased sensitivity in their ears. They may react strongly to any attempts to examine or touch the affected area, indicating pain and discomfort. As the infection progresses, the pain may become more pronounced, leading to behavioral changes, such as reluctance to play or interact. Any signs of ear sensitivity and pain should be promptly addressed by a veterinarian.
- Recurring Ear Infections
While many of the signs listed above can be associated with ear infections that are or are not caused by allergies, the most tell-tale sign that your dog’s ear infections are caused by allergies is if they are chronic.
Recurring ear infections are a red flag for potential allergies. As mentioned, allergies can weaken the immune system, making the ears more susceptible to infections. If your dog’s ear infections seem to keep coming back despite proper treatment, it’s essential to investigate the underlying cause, including allergies. Identifying and addressing the allergies can help break the cycle of recurrent ear infections and improve your dog’s overall well-being.
What to Do if You Notice These Signs
If you do notice any of these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Remember, ear infections can be uncomfortable and painful for dogs. Seeking veterinary attention as soon as you suspect an ear infection is essential for early diagnosis and effective treatment.
Your veterinarian will conduct an otoscopic examination to look inside the ear canal, identify any abnormalities, and collect samples for further testing if necessary.
How to Treat Ear Infections Caused by Allergies
Treatment for ear infections caused by allergies typically involves addressing both the infection and the underlying allergic response.
If your dog’s veterinarian does diagnose your dog with an ear infection, they may prescribe ear cleansers and medications to manage inflammation and combat the infection.
If they suspect that your dog’s ear infection is due to an allergy, then identifying the culprit through allergy testing or an elimination diet can help prevent future ear infections and improve your dog’s overall quality of life. Allergy testing is used to identify environmental allergens, while a diet trial is used to identify possible food allergens.
A Note on Food Allergies
It may surprise you to learn that the most common food allergens for dogs are animal proteins. In fact, beef, dairy and chicken are the top food allergens, followed closely by wheat and lamb.
Wild Earth’s high protein dog food is free from these top five most common food allergens for dogs, making it a great choice if you suspect that your dog has a food allergy. Not only that, but we took it a step further and made sure our formulas were also free from less common allergens such as pork, egg, corn, and soy. If you suspect that your dog’s recurrent ear infections may be due to a food allergy, try Wild Earth today and get 30% off your first order!
Keep a Close Eye on Your Pup
Ear infections can be distressing for dogs, causing discomfort and pain. While various factors can contribute to these infections, allergies are a significant culprit that should not be overlooked. As responsible pet owners, it’s essential to be vigilant for signs that allergies might be causing your dog’s ear infections.
If you observe any of the signs mentioned in this article, consult with your veterinarian immediately. Early detection and proper treatment are essential to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and prevent potential complications associated with chronic ear infections caused by allergies.
Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.
- Saridomichelakis, M, et al., (2007). Aetiology of canine otitis externa: a retrospective study of 100 cases. Veterinary Dermatology, 18(5), pp.341-347.