Ear care should be part of your regular grooming routine. By checking your dog's ears often you'll notice signs or irritation early and help prevent painful, often hard to treat ear infections.
Begin by visually examining the ears. Skin inside healthy ears should be a light pink color. Some specks of yellowish-brown wax are normal, but a heavy wax build-up is not. Smell the ears. Even a mild ear infection will cause a foul odor. If you've ever had a dog with an ear infection, you'll easily recognize that unmistakable odor.
If your dog's ears are consistently clean and healthy, with no sign of irritation, routine care is simple. Wipe away any loose soil from the ear flap and just inside each ear with a cotton cosmetic pad or cotton balls. No cleaning solutions are needed.
Ear infections begin with itching and discomfort. The production of excess of wax that occurs in response to irritation and inflammation leads to infection. The first step in treating an ear infection is to determine the cause.
Causes of Infection
Signs & Symptoms of Infection
Thick wax build-up and a foul odor are sure signs of an ear infection. Skin inside the ears is inflamed. The color is bright pink or reddish, deeper and brighter than the usual pink color. Frequent vigorous head shaking... rubbing the ears on carpet or on furniture... scratching and pawing at the ears, sometimes crying at the same time, are all signs of a possible ear infection.
Advanced infections cause increased swelling, oozing and pus formation. When infection spreads to the middle ear, a dog will typically walk with it's head tilted to one side. There may also be stumbling and loss of balance.
If your dog has symptoms of an ear infection, get veterinary help as soon as possible. Brown waxy debris and other signs of infection could be caused by bacteria, by a fungus, or by ear mites. Without knowing exactly what's causing the symptoms, an over the counter medication from a pet store may bring no relief to your dog and allow the infection to worsen. Treatment with the right medication can only begin after a Veterinarian makes an accurate diagnosis. Treatment for a bacterial infection is different than treatment for a yeast infection. An infection caused by ear mites must be treated with an antibiotic plus an insecticide. Treating with the wrong medication will not only be ineffective, some ear cleaners and ear drops can cause additional damage to a weak or ruptured eardrum.
A veterinarian will use an otoscope to examine the ears and rule out the possibility of a foreign body like foxtails or an insect causing the problem. They'll examine a sample of debris under the microscope, looking for parasites like ear mites or fleas. They might send a sample to a lab to identify the type of bacteria or fungus.
Antibiotics will be prescribed according to the type of bacteria. An antifungal will be prescribed a for yeast infection. To reduce inflammation, the prescribed medication might also includes steroids.
For dogs with a first time mild infection, treatment might include daily cleaning with a prescribed ear wash + use of prescribed ear drops for about a week or so, followed by once a week cleaning after that.
Treatment for more severe infections sometimes requires a combination of daily cleaning with a prescribed ear wash, oral antibiotics, plus topical ear drops that contain an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic. This treatment could continue for as long as 4 to 6 weeks.
If inflammation from an infection makes cleaning the ears too painful, your Vet will probably recommend a "full ear flush" to remove built-up wax, pus and debris from deep inside the ear canal. This procedure is done while the dog is either sedated or under general anesthesia.
Whatever medication and method of treatment is prescribed, follow directions carefully and complete the entire course of treatment, followed by responsible preventive care.
Recurring infections can lead to formation of scar tissue in the cartilage and lining of the ear canal. This narrows the ear canal and makes cleaning and treating the ear with medication impossible without surgical correction. When dogs continually get ear infections despite diligent routine care and treatment with veterinary prescribed medication, surgery might eventually be needed to open the ear canal.
Vigorous scratching, pawing and head shaking can break blood vessels in the floppy part of an ear. Bleeding from the ruptured blood vessels causes a balloon-like swelling, or hematoma. Aspirating the fluid may temporarily reduce swelling, but in most cases the bleeding will continue and the hematoma recurs. Ear hematomas typically require surgical repair to completely drain the hematoma, repair the blood vessels, and stop the bleeding.
|Instructions for a routine ear cleaning....|
I find this is easier to do if I sit next to the dog, with her head on my lap, and hold her head in position.
Repeat as necessary, replacing saturated or soiled cotton with new, until the ear is dry.
For dogs with large floppy ears, and dogs with a history of recurrent ear problems, weekly cleaning may be necessary. Follow your Veterinarian's recommendations to determine how often to clean your dog's ears.
Weekly ear inspections and prompt Veterinary treatment at the first sign of infection are essential.
Don't wait until your dog is in pain or struggling with ears that won't stop itching.
Clean ears are healthy ears.
Ear Care Products
Halo Herbal Ear Wash
Illustrated guides to cleaning and medicating a dog's ears....
Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Dog -
from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University
The information in this article is intended to make you aware of the need for preventative care and emphasize the importance of seeking Veterinary care, without delay when needed. It is not intended to replace professional advice from your Veterinarian.
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This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.