Ear Problems in Dogs

Ear problems in dogs range from allergies to infections. Ear Infections are the most common problem that dogs have with their ears.

If your dog has floppy ears that hang down, ear infections are often a continuing problem. The warm, moist environment created by the fold in the ear flap is ideal for the growth of bacteria. When yeast and bacteria accumulate they cause an unpleasant odor in the ears.

Dogs with ears that point straight up or those with short “perky” ears don’t have as many problems with ear infections. If you notice your dog vigorously rubbing one or both ears on the floor or carpet, it can be an indication of either an ear problem or simply the need to have its ears cleaned. If it’s an infection and confined to only one ear, your dog will tilt its head in an attempt to equalize pressure between the ears.

Some of the most common ear problems in dogs and the causes are:

(1) Debris in the ears.
Bristles that project from the tip of plants or even the grass from your lawn can easily become lodged in a dog’s ear. This debris can wedge itself quite deeply inside the ear so you’ll need to look inside the dog’s ear with a flashlight.

(2) Allergies.
A common cause of problems with a dog’s ears is an allergic reaction which can be caused by ingredients in your dog’s food or environmental irritants such as pollen or dust. If you notice your dog’s ears or paws are itchy or inflamed, these are typical symptoms of an allergy. Your dog may be allergic to manufactured pet foods containing wheat, soy or corn. You can try switching to a better quality dog food and if that doesn’t help, you should ask your vet for a recommendation on which dog food to buy for your pet. If you suspect the problem is environmental, try to keep your pet away from grassy areas or lawns that may have recently been reseeded or fertilized. If your dog is an indoor pet and spends most of its time inside, check your air conditioning or furnace filters to see if they need replacing.

(3) Parasites.
Ticks, mites and fleas can cause crusty skin, hair loss and swelling. Ear pain and itching due to parasites can cause serious ear problems in your dog.

(4) Trauma.
Injury to your dog’s ear can cause a semi-solid mass of blood to collect in the tissues of the ear (called a hematoma) and fluid to accumulate between the cartilage and the skin of the ear flap. Vigorous scratching or shaking of the head can also cause trauma to the ears. Hematomas of the ear should be drained and surgically corrected by your vet because your dog’s ear will be permanently disfigured if not treated surgically.

(5) Hormone Disorders.
Certain hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism and adrenal malfunctions can also cause ear problems. Symptoms include excessive loss of hair, poor coat condition, changes in behavior and itchy, reddened skin around the ears.

In rare cases, some ear problems in dogs are hereditary such as connective tissue disorder affecting Collies and Shelties, or seborrhea which causes hair loss and scaly skin. Cancers such as squamous cell or malignant melanoma may also affect the ears.


Ear Problems in Dogs

A dog’s ears are important sense organs just like their noses are. But ear problems in dogs can cause them major distress and lead to deafness if not properly diagnosed and treated.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible:
* Stinky odor from the ears
* Discharge of fluid from the ears
* Scratching or rubbing ears and head on any available surface
* Redness or swelling of the ear canal
* Forceful, frequent shaking of the head
* Sudden irritability or depression

Ear disease is one of the most common conditions afflicting dogs and it is estimated that up to 20% of the dog population is affected by it. There are many causes of ear disease. Some of the most common are:
* Allergies
* Bacterial and yeast infections
* Tumors
* Ear mites

Dogs with food allergies or who develop an allergic reaction to something their skin came into contact with, often will develop ear problems. A problem with a dog’s ears may be the first symptom of an allergy. Allergies are commonly treated with regular ear cleaning with an ear cleaning solution such as Ear Wash, an all-natural, proprietary blend of citrus oils with deionized water. It helps clear the ear canal of debris and reduces wax buildup without alcohol, harsh chemicals or irritants that are common in other leading brands.

Allergies will change the environment in a dog’s ears and can result in bacterial or yeast infections. In cases like this the allergy must be treated as well as the infection. Bacteria and yeast could not ask for a better environment to live in than a warm, dark, moist ear canal. Dogs with big floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers may have ear problems due to the excess moisture and wax that builds up in their ears.

Many types of bacteria can also cause ear infections. A dog’s normal, healthy ears have a built-in defense system against these types of organisms, but if the condition of the dog’s ears change due to allergies, excessive wax buildup, or excess moisture, the bacteria and yeast can rapidly multiply and destroy those defenses. Yeast alone can cause severe ear problems. Make it a regular habit to clean your dog’s ears daily using Ear Wash, but if you suspect your dog may have a yeast infection in its ears, contact your vet.

Bacterial ear infections give off a terrible odor from a yellowish fluid. If the infection is severe, just cleaning the ear or ears will not take care of the problem and your vet will probably prescribe antibiotics. Infections of the ear canal, if severe, can spread to the middle and inner ear and cause irreversible deafness, so a prompt visit to the vet is highly recommended.

If you suspect your dog has developed a tumor in one of its ears, your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look inside the dog’s ear canal and determine if the ear drum is affected or if there are any foreign bodies or tumors that may be causing the problem.

Ear mites can cause a dry, dark, crumbly debris in the ear that resembles coffee grounds. A thorough ear cleaning with a product like Ear Wash, followed by an ear medication from your vet, will kill the mites and eliminate the problem, The treatment will need to be continued for several weeks depending upon the medication the vet uses.

Regardless of the cause of ear problems in your dog, it is mandatory that you keep its ear canals clean. Your dog’s ear canal is L-shaped and debris will collect at the corner of the L. To remove debris, use an ear cleaner like Ear Wash, an all-natural blend of citrus oils. Massage the base of your dog’s ears for 20-30 seconds to soften the debris. Wipe out the loose debris and excess fluid with a cotton ball. Repeat this procedure until you see no more debris. Let your dog shake his head to remove any excess fluid. When you’ve finished, gently wipe the dog’s ear flap and the area below the ear with a soft towel. Cotton applicator swabs can be used to clean the inside of the ear flap and only the part of the ear canal you can see, but should not be used farther down in the dog’s ear canal since that can pack debris in the ear canal and cause further problems.

The key to keeping your dog’s ears healthy is to keep them clean. Check its ears weekly. A slight amount of waxy buildup is usually present in normal ears. However, if your dog swims a lot or has a history of ear disease, routine cleaning one to two times a week is recommended.

Remember, if your dog is showing severe discomfort, a bad smell is coming from its ears, or the ear canals look abnormal, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Ear problems can be serious for a dog and if not treated early enough can result in deafness. Take good care of your companion and you will be rewarded beyond your expectations.