An ear infection can make a Chihuahua's life miserable. You might notice your Chihuahua aggressively shaking their head like there's water stuck in their ear, or they may scratch the affected ear until it's raw. It's disheartening for owners to see their beloved canine companion in a state of such distress, but thankfully this is a treatable -- and sometimes preventable -- condition.
Causes of Ear Infections
Chihuahua ear infections are usually caused by bacteria or yeast reproducing inside the ear canal, at which point symptoms begin to manifest if left untreated. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), infections may occur when things like water, hair, mites and wax become stuck in the ear. Foreign objects such as this provide ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, which is why it's important for owners to clean their dogs' ears on a regular basis (we'll get to that later).
While ear infection are more common in younger pups, all Chihuahuas can develop them regardless of age. However, the risk of infection is much higher in Chihuahuas with flappy, non-erect ears. When a dog's ear folds over the canal, it traps dirt and debris while preventing moisture from escaping. Some studies have shown that dogs with flappy ears are 2-3 times more likely to develop the bacterial ear infection otits externa when compared to dogs with erect ears.
Allergies may also contribute to ear infections in Chihuahuas. When a Chihuahua is exposed to allergen to something to which they are allergic (e.g. dust, ragweed, pollen, mold, shampoos, flea medicine, etc.), their immune system will produce inflammatory hormones, which causes the skin to become inflamed while promoting the formation of bacterial and yeast colonies.
Signs and Symptoms of an Ear Infection:
- Aggressive back-and-forth head shaking
- Yeast-like odor coming from the affected ear
- Ear feels warmer than usual
- Excessive scratching of the ear
- Loss of hair around the ear
- Hearing loss
- Whining and whimpering
- Erratic behavior, such as running around in circles and rolling on the ground
- Pain when the ear is touched
- Noticeable pus or discharge originating from the ear
Ways To Prevent Chihuahua Ear Infections
There's no fool-proof way to prevent your Chihuahua from ever having an ear infection, but there are steps you can take to lower their risk. For starters, try to get into the habit of keeping their ears clean and dry. After giving your Chihuahua a bath -- or if they happen to go for a swim -- gently blot their ears with a dry washcloth or towel so there's no moisture stuck inside. Moisture encourages the formation of bacteria and yeast, which can lead to an infection.
You should also clean your Chihuahua's ears when they become visibly dirty. Thankfully, you don't have to take them to the professional groomers to have this done. Owners can effectively clean their Chihuahuas' ears using just a few basic supplies, here's how it's done.
Steps To Cleaning Your Chihuahua's Ears:
- Purchase a bottle of canine ear cleaning solution (ask your veterinarian for a recommendation).
- Dampen one side of a standard cotton ball with the solution.
- Gently rub the cotton ball inside your Chihuahua's ear canal.
- Using a clean cotton ball, wipe away any remaining dirt, debris or cleaning solution.
- Hopefully your Chihuahua tolerated this traumatic experience and you can give them a treat!
Note: do NOT attempt to clean your Chihuahua's ears using a cotton swab. This may seem harmless enough. Heck, maybe you use cotton swabs to clean your ears, but placing them inside a Chihuahua's ears could push dirt and debris deeper inside the canal, or it could even rupture their eardrum. Stick with cotton balls and avoid using cotton swabs/Q-tips.
Diagnosing Your Chihuahua's Ear Infection
If your Chihuahua is exhibiting one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, you should take them to the veterinarian for a professional diagnosis. While most cases of canine ear infections are relatively harmless, aside from the pain and discomfort it causes, there have been reports of infections causing ruptured eardrums and even death in severe cases. Taking a proactive approach towards treating your Chihuahua's condition will ensure a sound and speedy recovery without any lasting effects.
Diagnosing an ear infection is typically done by examining the Chihuahua's ear canal. The veterinarian will place a special canine-certified otoscope in their ear, looking for signs of an infection. Depending on your Chihuahua's temperament, sedation may be required during this process.
Diagnosis can usually be made by examining the Chihuahua's ear. However, some cases will require the veterinarian to collect a discharge sample to test for specific strands of bacteria and yeast. And in rare cases, bloodwork may also be used to identify possible allergies that are contributing to the Chihuahua's ear infection.
How To Treat a Chihuahua Ear Infection
The appropriate treatment for an ear infections varies depending on the microorganism that's causing it. If your Chihuahua is suffering from a bacterial ear infection, your veterinarian may thoroughly clean the affected ear canal and offer an anti-bacterial wash, cream, or antibiotics to use at home. For yeast ear infections, the vet will also clean the ear, but he or she will use an anti-fungal product instead.
Always listen to your veterinarian and follow his or her instructions regarding treatment for your Chihuahua's ear infection. It may take several weeks of daily anti-bacterial or anti-fungal wash to fully clear up the infection. Accidentally skipping a dose probably shouldn't be a problem, but if you forget to treat your Chihuahua for two or more days in a row, the infection may come back even stronger than before.
Has your Chihuahua experienced an ear infection before?