Ear care

It is estimated that 1 in 5 dogs suffer from ear problems.

Overview

Dogs rely heavily on their ears to cope with their environment. They have a greater hearing range than people do and can detect sound as low as 16 Hz frequency to as high as 100,000 Hz (people hear 20 to 20,000 Hz ). Their ears have a great degree of flexibility that allows them to funnel sounds and easily locate the direction of the sound. They can hear sounds much sooner and at much greater distances than people do. Dogs with cone ears naturally hear better than those with floppy ears.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that 1 in 5 dogs suffer from ear problems with it being one of the most common causes of veterinary visits. Without early management, the ear inflammation can lead to a narrowing of the ear canal, increase in canal temperature, moisture and exudate, and ultimately irreversible damage. For this reason, effective treatment and long-term management are required for a successful resolution.

Signs

Common signs of ear disease:

  • Head shaking
  • Ear scratching
  • Odor
  • Redness
  • Ear discharge
  • Thickening of the ear canal

Risk factors for ear disease:

  • Narrow ear canal
  • High hair density
  • Floppy ears
  • Swimming
  • Excessive ear cleaning
  • Environmental conditions such as humidity
  • Ear tumors

These risk factors lead to an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast that lead to infection.

Causes

Common causes of ear disease:

  • Allergies
  • Parasites e.g. mites in young puppies
  • Foreign bodies
  • Skin disease
  • Endocrine disease such as Thyroid disease
  • Genetics - poor ear conformation
  • Ear mass
  • Chronic dampness from regular swimming

Management

Treatment of ear disease involves:

  • Cleaning of the ears
  • Treatment of the infection with an antibiotic or antifungal
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Allergy tests
  • Blood tests

How to clean your pet's ears

When recommending ear cleaning, there are 3 strict requirements:

  1. A cooperative pet
  2. A motivated pet owner
  3. A pet owner who is confident to perform the task

Cleaning the ears is an important step in preventing wax build up and ear problems. But, is only recommended on a regular basis for pets with ongoing ear problems.

Step 1: Acclimate your dog to ear handling

  • Start at an early age

  • Gently stroke and hold the ear one at a time

  • Do these several days in a row

  • Follow with a treat reward and lots of praise

You must be comfortable with you touching and rubbing its ear, lifting the ear flap and massaging the ear gently before proceeding to the next step. Use treats to associate the ear handling with a positive experience. 

Step 2: Introduce the cotton wool & cleaner

  • Show your pet the ear cleaner bottle from a distance

  • Wrap soft gauze around your finger

  • Place a little cleaner on the finger and massage the entrance of the ear canal

  • Do this for several days

  • Follow it with a reward and praise

  • As the pet gets comfortable, extend the finger down the ear canal

Step 3: Clean one ear

  • Perform this step outside or in an area that is easy to clean the floors

  • Place a small amount of cleaner directly into the ear canal and onto the cotton 

Step 4: Gently massage

  • Gently massage in an upward and outward direction - this should make a squelching noise

  • Praise and reward your dog

  • Repeat step for several days - alternating the ears until the dog is comfortable for both to be done in the same session

Step 5: Clean ears on a regular basis

  • Both ears should be cleaned 2-3 times a week until they are both free of debris

  • Once clean, repeat cleaning monthly

Never use cotton bud sticks