A closer look: Ear Discharge in Dogs
Ear discharge is a very common symptom in dogs. A small amount of ear discharge is normal.
Ear discharge is a cause for concern if
- There is a large amount of discharge
- The entrance to the ear canal appears red and irritated
- The discharge has a foul odor
- The discharge has suddenly increased in volume
- The dog is showing signs of pain/discomfort (pawing at the ears, head tilt, ear scratching, head shaking)
- The discharge is blood
- The discharge is associated with a severe head or spinal injury, such as after falling from a great height
Ear conditions associated with ear discharge are often painful and lead to more severe issues if left untreated. Non-urgent veterinary care is warranted for abnormal cases of ear discharge. Urgent care is warranted if discharge is associated with severe injury or more serious symptoms.
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All healthy dogs are expected to have a small amount of earwax in the canals which acts as a protective barrier and medium for the body’s microbiome. Daily activities and grooming also contribute to a small amount of grit or debris in the ear.
Abnormal ear discharge can vary in appearance and severity depending on the cause. A large amount or very wet, foul-smelling ear discharge may indicate a more severe condition.
Testing and diagnosis
After a physical examination and medical history, a close visual examination of the ear canal microscopic cytologic evaluation of the discharge may be recommended to determine the cause. Depending on the case, additional diagnostics might include culture and sensitivity of the discharge, biopsy of abnormal tissue, and advanced imaging.
Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause but includes;
- Ear cleaning
- Medicated ear drops
- Pain management
- Anti-itch medications
Ear discharge is self-evident and not likely to be confused with other symptoms. Healthy levels of discharge and ear wax may be erroneously noted as concerning by pet parents.