As in children, infected ears can be a common occurrence in dogs. However Dr Ian Murdoch, veterinarian from Pennant Hills Veterinary Hospital, says this doesn’t have to be the case.
With simple steps of monitoring and cleaning, your dog’s ears can be healthy and clean all year round.
Checking your dog’s ears
Dr Murdoch says that by observing your dog you may be able to prevent an infection from becoming serious. Look for symptoms such as head shaking, ear scratching, complaining when ears are touched, redness inside the ear flap, bad smells from the ears, excessive wax or unusual discharges, and/or growths in the ear.
“Ears that are not checked or monitored can get severe disease,” says Dr Murdoch. “Ear infections that are not controlled (by monitoring and using cleaners) can cause permanent damage to the ear and inner ear, for example deafness and balance problems.”
Most dogs will only need monitoring, but some dogs that have had previous problems can benefit from a regular flushing of the ear canal with a suitable ear cleaner.
“The frequency of application and type of ear cleaner is best decided by visiting your vet. But some dogs that swim regularly or just have dirty ears, with no disease, can safely have an ear cleaner used twice weekly,” says Dr Murdoch.
Treatment of infections
By using antibiotics, antifungal, anti-parasite and anti-inflammatory ear drops, most infections can be treated.
“Often these need to be used in combination,” says Dr Murdoch. “Sometimes tablets are also needed. Ear cleaners can add to the effectiveness of the medicated drops and can help prevent the diseases returning.”
Without immediate treatment, as mentioned earlier, infections can be very serious.
“The worst consequence is the chronic pain and irritation caused by the untreated infections. Sometimes if left for too long, the only alternative is to surgically remove all the ear structures except the ear flap,” says Dr Murdoch.
Dogs that have repeated ear infections, or problems that are difficult to resolve, can have underlying diseases, increasing their risks.
The most common would be allergies, says Dr Murdoch. “Food allergies or atopy (allergies to pollens etc) would be one of the most common underlying causes of chronic ear problems. In these cases, just treating the ears will not result in a cure.
“Sometimes hormonal diseases like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can also be responsible. And finally sometimes there are anatomical abnormalities. All these things need to be coordinated and treated with the help of a vet,” he says.
“Puppies are more prone to infestations with ear mites than adult dogs, due to the close contact of puppies in breeding establishments,” says Dr Murdoch.
So what can you do if you have one of those breeds?
“It is best to have the ears regularly checked by a vet as he/she can give the best maintenance advice for the particular dog, recommends Dr Murdoch. “Potential problems can be identified at this time and preventative measures undertaken.
“Something as simple as making sure you don’t get water into the canals of the ear after a bath (or obviously limiting swimming — especially if your dog has suffered ear infections) can help.
“If the dog has very hairy ear canals, plucking them can help improve drying and air flow. However, some dogs won’t allow this unsedated.”Make sure your furry friend is always looked after at our DOGSLife Directory