Caring for the ears of your dog
March 5, 2019
There are many things that you’ll need to consider when it comes to looking after your dog. As well as making that they stay clean, well-exercised, and well-nourished, you’ll need to pay specific attention to some aspects of their health such as their teeth and ears.
Giving your dog a quick once over is essential because even though most health conditions will exist for a while invisibly, you’ll need to act fast to prevent secondary conditions.
Knowing how to care for dog’s ears will also come in handy when you are bringing a new puppy into your home. As you’ll need to know what to look out for when giving the dog the once over. There are multiple ear diseases which your dog can suffer from. This is due to the number of bacteria, viruses and other microbes which can be found in the ear canal.
We’ll run you through the main causes of ear diseases and problems, how to spot the symptoms of these conditions and the best way of preventing them. If you’re reading this guide because you’ve already seen your dog has a problem with their ears, we will also run through some treatment options for them.
Causes of Ear Disease in Dogs
Allergies – Dogs can suffer from a wide variety of allergies, each of the allergies including food allergies can affect the ear. The ear can even give the first indications of an allergy. If allergies are left untreated this can quickly lead up to bacterial and fungal infection, which is why it is important you seek help from your vet as soon as possible. Your dog may need to be prescribed with antihistamine or steroids to help them manage their allergies, or you may need to change their diet.
Parasites – The most common parasite which impacts the health of dogs are earworms. However, they are much more popular in cats than with dogs. Your dog will usually let you know if they have ear mites as you will notice them scratching excessively at their ears. Visible signs may be hard to spot. But it is also important to look for sign of infection regularly. Your vet may suggest a treatment of antiparasitic medication or antibiotics.
Bacteria & fungal infections – these forms of infection are highly contagious, so if one pet in your home is suffering from the infection the chances are that they will all be. Ear infections can cause serious discomfort for your dog and it may even result in your dog losing its hearing permanently. This is why it is so important to seek help ASAP. Signs of an ear infection include an odour from the ear, or swelling and redness. Your dog may need antibiotic treatment to overcome the infection.
Other ways which your dog’s ears can be damaged or unhealthy include foreign objects being found within the ear canal, your dog experiencing trauma such as being hit by a car or getting into a fight with other animals. Hormonal abnormalities can even cause ear problems!
Ear problems can also be genetic for some breeds. However genetic ear problems tend to be incredibly rare. The most common of them include dermatomyositis (affected breeds - Shetland Sheepdogs, Collie) and Seborrhea (affected dogs - Highland White Terrier, Sharpei). Melanomas and cell carcinomas can also appear in the ears.
As we said before, you’ll need to pay real close attention to your dog’s ears as a responsible owner. The environment in the ear canal can be a breeding ground for bacteria, as it is incredibly dark, warm and moist.
If your dog has droopy ears, such as you would see with a King Charles Spaniel, they are more likely to experience problems due to the amount of moisture which gathers in the ears.
Symptoms of Ear Problems in Dogs
When it comes to finding out the cause of the problem with your dog’s ears many of the symptoms can be the same. This is why it is important to let your vet determine the cause of the problem once you have noticed one.
The most common symptoms of ear disease or infection include
- A foul odour coming from the ear which is noticeable when your face is close to your dog’s.
- Your dog scratching their ears with their paws or rubbing their head on the floor or walls.
- You may notice dark brown or red material coming from the dog's ear.
- An infected ear will be swollen or red.
- Your dog may shake their head or tilt it to one side.
- Dogs may become depressed, irritable or lethargic if they are experiencing problems with their ears.
Preventing Ear Diseases in Dogs
Hygiene is key to keeping your dog’s ears healthy and happy. Make sure you groom them and clean them in accordance with the breed guidelines. You can check about the grooming requirements for your specific breed of dog over on our ‘breed description’ pages which will tell you all you need to know when it comes to taking care of them.
But whatever the breed, make sure that you check your dog’s ears at least once every week. If your dog goes swimming regularly or has especially droopy ears, you may want to check them at least three times a week.
You’ll need to look out for small particles of wax, other build ups of material which shouldn’t be there, and even blood. Never place anything into your dog’s ear canal if you spot a problem. Over the counter medication should also be avoided as this may exacerbate the problem if the wrong medication is used. This is why it is essential to seek help from a vet first.
Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears
Leaving an ear infection untreated can be very dangerous. As we said earlier, your dog may be experiencing problems well before they are visible. This means that regular and fastidious cleaning is important.
Note that this guide should only be followed for routine cleaning. Fungal, mite and yeast infections will all need to be dealt with professionally first.
You will be able to buy a specially formulated ear cleaner for dogs which are the most effective for removing gunk from the ear. It is advised that you don’t make your own solution at home, as this may cause further problems or be ineffective. You’ll also want to make sure that you have 100% cotton pads to hand along with some gloves.
Here’s the best process to follow:
- Bring your dog to a sterile area in your home, preferably away from soft furnishings that you wouldn’t want to get dirty. Make sure that everything you need is readily available and put your gloves on.
- Call over your dog, make them comfortable by giving them a treat and show them the supplies that you will be using.
- Trim the fur around the ears if they have an excess of fur. It is advised that you cut the fur first as once it is wet from the ear cleaning formula it can be more difficult to trim afterwards.
- Lift your dog’s ear by the flap and hold upright, place the nozzle of the ear cleaning solution in your dog’s ear, allow the solution to fill up the ear canal. With your other hand massage the base of your dog’s ear using small and circular motions. You should be able to hear squelching noises at this point. You should do this for around 20 seconds.
- After 20 seconds let go of the ear, and allow your dog to shake the liquid out of their ears. After they’ve finished shaking their heads you can clean out the entrance to the ear canal to ensure that there is no excess liquid left over.