When a dog's ear infection is related to another condition, a veterinarian might prescribe phenobarbital. Because a dog's ear canal has vertical and horizontal segments, debris can become stuck and cause infections that lead to other illnesses. In addition, allergies can affect the ears, as can ear mites, excessive wax build up and hair growth in the ear canal. Bacterial and yeast infections can also take hold, and seizures and other conditions can result. Phenobarbital is a common prescription for seizures.
Many ear infections can be treated easily if caught early. Washing and disinfecting the ear solves the problem. The next step is an ear flush to remove any debris in the ear canal; some dogs are sedated for this. In more serious cases, veterinarians study ear discharge before prescribing medicine. Chronic cases, or infections that reach the middle ear, can lead to vestibular syndrome and can cause paralysis of the face. In some of these cases, phenobarbital is prescribed.
Infections Lead to Seizures
In some cases, ear infections progress to conditions that cause seizures. Phenobarbital is commonly prescribed for this. The drug suppresses "electrical energy" in the dog's brain that triggers seizures. The drug can have side effects, including lethargy, restlessness, and poor coordination; these usually disappear after the dog becomes used to the medicine. Other side effects include frequent urination and increased thirst and appetite. Liver damage is rare, but possible, and long-term use of the drug can scar the liver.
Vestibular Syndrome and the Ear
Canine vestibular syndrome is a condition relating to a problem in the inner ear. Phenobarbital is sometimes prescribed for this in concert with antibiotics. Dogs with vestibular syndrome tilt their heads to one side, stumble, and appear to have no sense of balance. The vestibular nerve runs from the inner ear to the brain and when it is impaired, it affects the dog's balance and orientation. An inner ear infection can also resemble vestibular syndrome, so a veterinarian visit is appropriate to determine the problem.
Phenobarbital and Epilepsy
Phenobarbital is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat epileptic seizures in dogs. It is available from veterinarians and pet supply companies in tablet and liquid form. The dog should be monitored on the medication to make sure the dose is correct; sometimes dogs develop a tolerance to the effects and the dose needs to be increased. Consult a veterinarian for dosing information. Some inner-ear infections can cause seizure-like behavior; a veterinarian can rule out epilepsy, which is a life-long condition.
Phenobarbital and Ataxia
Ataxia happens when a dog's system is out of balance; it can be a side effect of anti-seizure medicines such as phenobarbital. The dog will appear drunken, stagger, wobble and tilt its head. Ataxia also can result from an inner ear infection, or from seizures. Consult a veterinarian to determine if the ataxia is caused by a reaction to phenobarbital.