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Can Star Wars Technology Offer Help For Canine Ear Infections?

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Anyone who has had to deal with chronic ear infections in their dog knows how frustrating it can be washing the ears, applying medications, and watching their pup constantly scratching at their ears until the point of bleeding. And then the infection returns. There may be relief in sight, and it comes in the form of a technology more often associated with a Jedi knight than a veterinarian—laser therapy. Here's what you need to know.

Canine Ear Infections

Ear infection in dogs, also known as otitis externa, is a painful inflammation of the outer ear canal. It is usually caused by a bacterial or yeast infection. If not treated, it can move down into the middle and inner ear. It can occur in any breed but is most common in dogs with long, floppy ears that don't dry out easily, which promotes bacterial and yeast growth.

Another cause of ear infections is hair deep in the ear canal that retains ear wax, which then promotes bacterial growth. This is most often seen in poodles and schnauzers. Allergies, ear mites, and foreign bodies, such as foxtails, can also cause ear infections. In some cases, ear structure anomalies can hinder the movement of wax out of the ear canal and lead to infections.

Although some dogs show no symptoms other than redness or yellow or black discharge in the ear, most will display signs of discomfort. They often scratch at their ears or shake or tilt their head, and the ears may have a bad odor. When your pup displays any of these signs, it's important to seek veterinary help quickly to prevent its spread inward or to prevent damage to the ear due to constant scratching.

Treating Ear Infections

Your vet will examine and likely take a culture of the ear to determine the responsible organism. This will help determine the right approach and medication to treat the infection. He or she will thoroughly clean the ear and apply antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications, as indicated by the cultures. In severe, chronic cases, surgery may be required to correct a malformed ear canal to reduce recurrences.

However, laser therapy is now being used to help treat ear infections.

Cold Laser Therapy

Cold laser therapy uses an intense beam of light pointed at body tissues. The resulting chemical reaction increases blood flow to the area, stimulates the release of oxygen from hemoglobin and helps convert the oxygen to energy. This action results in improved cellular function, an increase in cell replication and repair, and the release of certain enzymes and proteins that promote healing. Lasers are beneficial in reducing inflammation, relieving pain, increasing circulation, improving nerve function, and speeding up recovery of certain conditions. Veterinarians use laser therapy to relieve pain and inflammation of arthritis, dysplasia, and spinal disc disease; ease muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries; and ease the pain and speed up the recovery of wounds and surgeries. The effects of laser therapy are immediate and long-lasting. There is no pain or other side effects associated with the treatment.

When used for the treatment of ear infections, cold laser therapy eases the discomfort for the dog and helps promote healing of the ear. Although it doesn't kill the infection, the healing and regenerative effects can help reduce the recurrence of chronic ear infections. Plus, because it reduces the pain and inflammation in the ear, it is easier for owners to apply the prescribed medications.   

For anyone who has had to deal with the frustrations of ongoing, chronic ear infections, laser therapy could be the miracle they've been asking for.