Your four-legged friend has ears designed to catch the slightest noise -- like the fridge opening four rooms away behind a closed kitchen door. An infection left too long can reduce his hearing permanently and treatment is usually most effective if you get started early.
Symptoms of Yeast
Your nose might notice your pup's yeast infection first. Sometimes it's a sour smell coming from his ears that alerts you, but yeast can also produce a slightly sweet or fruity odor. It may start with some crusty skin in his ear and then worsen to red and irritated areas with fissures in the skin. A white discharge or excessive buildup of moist, brown or black earwax might also point to a yeast infection. Your pup will likely dig at his ears frequently or start rubbing his head against the floor or other handy surface, like your leg, as the itching and irritation caused by the infection worsens. Problems with balance might signal a serious infection spreading to his middle ear.
Outer Ear Canal Infections
If you catch a yeast overgrowth or fungal infection early, when it only affects the skin of the outer ear canal, the treatment is usually a topical anti-fungal ointment or ear wash, like miconazole, applied as directed by your vet to the affected areas. During her exam, your vet will likely do a thorough ear cleaning and give you tips on doing the same at home. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments. Prevention -- often the best treatment -- includes keeping your dog's ears clean and dry. If your furry friend has excessive hair growing around his ears, your vet may also trim away the excess to keep it from blocking the ear canal and trapping moisture and debris.
Middle Ear Infections
The inflammation and drainage caused by yeast infections are prime breeding grounds for bacteria. If your vet notices signs of a bacterial infection accompanying the fungal invasion, often found in the middle ear space, she will likely prescribe oral antibiotics along with topical treatment. Infections in the middle ear can take several weeks to clear, and you vet will likely ask for a follow-up visit to check on healing. It's important to continue any medications until completed and otherwise as directed by your vet. Stopping too soon or missing doses may give the yeast an opportunity to flare again.
Fungal organisms, or yeast, naturally exist on the skin surfaces of most dogs' ears and won't usually bother him as long as the organism count remains low. But an underlying problem like diabetes or another condition compromising your pup's auto-immune system can interfere with his body's ability to limit yeast growth. For this reason, your vet may also decide to schedule lab studies and then prescribe treatment as needed for other conditions contributing to the yeast overgrowth.
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