Ear problems in dogs

Those who have owned dogs prone to ear issues, will be all too familiar with the associated signs: That musky smell, those bright red ears and the constant scratching and rubbing. Ear issues can cause real discomfort and it is distressing to see your dog so irritated.

Can any dog develop ear problems?

Certain dogs are more prone to ear problems due to the shape of their ears and ear canals. Those with floppy, heavy ears such as Spaniels often suffer the most. This is because there is poor airflow within the ear canal and it can become moist and humid. This type of environment encourages the growth of bacteria and yeast and can make it hard for wax to drain.

What type of ear problems might a dog develop?

While it is sometimes assumed that any ear issue is automatically an ‘ear infection’ this isn’t always the case. Dogs can suffer from a range of conditions including:

  • Bacterial Infections
  • Yeast Infections
  • Allergies
  • Ear mites
  • Polyps and growths within the ear
  • Foreign bodies such as grass awns.

Can I treat my dog’s ear condition at home?

If your dog is scratching or rubbing their ear, tilting their head to the side or crying when their ear is touched, you will be keen to help them out. As it is not possible to determine the underlying cause at home, seeing a vet is a must. They can take a closer look at the ear and diagnose the underlying cause for their symptoms.

What will the treatment be?

Specific treatment depends on what is causing your dog’s ear disease. It is common place for your vet to take a sample of the ear discharge to look at under a microscope. Depending on what is found, they may then send the swab away to an external laboratory for further testing. Other examples could include removal of a foreign body – such as a grass seed. Similarly, if there is a growth, your vet may wish to sample or even remove it.

If your pooch has an infection, the priority would be to make your dog more comfortable, often using anti inflammatories. Once this is achieved your vet may recommend cleaning out your dog’s ear and will show you how to do the same at home. It is a natural response for the ear to produce excessive amounts of wax when there is a problem and this can delay healing. Due to this, frequent ear cleaning can be very beneficial.

Your vet may prescribe medicated drops and will demonstrate how to apply the medicine as necessary. Commonly, ear drops will be prescribed and they need to be squeezed deep within the ear canal. Anti-inflammatories and pain relief medicines may need to be continued orally.

Going Forward…

To minimize the risk of ear issues in the future, there are a number of things we can do:

  • Dry ears thoroughly after every bath and swim
  • Clean ears as often as needed (usually a few times a month)
  • Check ears for grass awns and stickers after every walk. Removing them before they have a chance to go into the ear is a real must.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed
  • Have your dog assessed for any underlying medical conditions such as atopic dermatitis (skin disease). Keeping disorders like this well-managed can help minimize the development of infections.

Try to pick up on any infection early, as the earlier we treat the issue, the quicker it should resolve