Ear Problems in Dogs.
Ear problems are common in dogs.
Some breeds of dogs are more likely to get ear problems because of the shape of their ears. It is a good idea to know if your breed of dog is prone to ear problems.
Ear infections, ear mites, allergies, things going into the ear causing a foreign body reaction and injuries are all possible.
Keeping ears clean, not letting them get too wet, controlling the itchy feeling of a skin allergy and treating infections properly are how to control ear problems.
Ear infections are painful, they result in thickening of the ear canal, making the dog even more susceptible to ear problems and can cross the ear drum into the middle ear (a very serious problem).
The signs of ear problems are a lot of discharge from the ear or a bad smell from the ear, especially worrying is a pussy looking discharge, pain when touching the base or the flap of the ear, dogs shaking their head, holding their head to one side or scratching at the ears.
Dogs with big, floppy ears that hang down and cover the entry to the ear canal can be prone to ear infections as there is not as much air able to circulate into the ear canal, making it moist (an environment which yeast and bacteria like). Examples of these breeds are cocker spaniels, beagles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
German Shepherds have very long and straight ear canals and they can be more susceptible to ear infections.
Some breeds like pugs and French bulldogs have really tiny, narrow ear canals, if the ear canal is inflamed from an irritation it swells and becomes even narrower, trapping in infection and stopping air flow.
Breeds which commonly have atopic dermatitis (skin allergies to air borne particles) will be susceptible to having very itchy skin inside the ears, they rub and scratch at their ears and cause the ear to become moist and red, again creating an environment favourable to yeast and bacteria. These breeds include Staffordshire bull terriers and west highland white terriers and many other breeds.
Ear mites are not a common cause of ear problems, they are mainly only seen in very young puppies. Ear mites can be diagnosed by looking for mites in a sample of wax from the ear under the microscope. They are treated with an insecticidal eardrop.
It is possible for a grass seed, a piece of grass or a small insect to fall into the ear canal. This will generally cause an immediate intense irritation and needs to be removed as soon as possible to avoid complications. Removal may need to be done under an anaesthetic.
There are many different brands of ear cleaner available. If your dog is prone to infections or allergies, it is recommended that you clean the ears regularly but not too regularly. (Cleaning too often can macerate the ear canal and make it more likely to become infected). Once a week is generally a good goal.
Usually, if your dog has an ear infection, a sample will taken from the ear and checked under the microscope by the vet to see what is causing the infection. By doing this, the correct treatment can be dispensed. It can be a big job giving a dog a full course of ear treatment but well worth it to prevent pain, discomfort and disfiguring of the ear canal for your pet.