Many dog owners would be familiar with the symptoms of an ear infection in their much-loved pet. Scratching at the ears, shaking the head and crying in pain are all indicators that something is amiss in a dog’s ear canal. If untreated, chronic ear disease can result in ongoing discomfort as well as thickening and narrowing of the ear canal which may need surgical correction. Otitis externa (or disease of the outer ear) can also spread inwards and affect the middle ear leading to head tilt and loss of balance. If you want to know exactly how to prevent ear problems for your dog just keep reading!
A dog’s ear canal is quite different from ours. It is longer and mostly vertical whereas ours is horizontal. This makes it more difficult for the ear to be self-cleaning and can allow debris and moisture to accumulate.
Because ear infections are so painful and can have long term consequences, it’s important that pet owners know how to look after their pet’s ear canals. This is one situation where prevention is better than cure and there are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of ear disease. Here are some suggestions that will help you to keep your pet’s ears clean and healthy.
1. Know your breed
Some dogs, such as the Chinese Shar-Pei, have very narrow ear canals which allow wax and other secretions to collect in the canal. This can make it difficult to keep the ears clean which can result in secondary infections. Other dogs, for example, the Bassett Hound, have pendulous ears and they can trap moisture and reduce air circulation in the ears. If you share your life with a susceptible breed, you need to be vigilant and constantly check your pet’s ears for signs of inflammation or infection. Look for any sign of redness on the inside of the ear flap or at the entrance to the ear canal. You may also notice some discharge from the ear canal or even an unpleasant odor; these too can be early indicators of a problem. If any abnormalities are noted, then have your dog examined by your vet.
2. Keep your dog’s ear canal dry
A chronically damp ear canal, such as those belonging to dogs that swim often, can cause a breakdown of the skin lining the canal. This interferes with the protective skin barrier and allows bacteria to multiply. If your pet loves the water or if they are bathed frequently, make sure you protect their ears from water and dry them thoroughly afterward. This can be done by putting a cotton ball in the ears during bath time and using a drying agent regularly, particularly after swimming.
3. Don’t pluck your dog’s ears
Historically, dog owners and groomers have plucked excess hair out of the ear canals to allow better drainage and air circulation. Veterinarians now recommend against this procedure because pulling the hair out of ear canals causes inflammation and secondary infection – the exact conditions that owners are trying to avoid. There are very few dogs that have so much hair that it causes problems in their ear canals and if your pet is one of these, they may benefit from hair removal. If your dog has an ear infection and the hair is preventing the medication contacting the skin of the ear canal then your veterinarian may suggest removal.
4. Manage any underlying medical conditions that are contributing to ear issues
Primary ear disease in dogs is very rare. Most cases of otitis are secondary to another disease process which has an effect on the skin lining the ear canal. Examples of such diseases are ear mites, foreign bodies or hormonal disease. In one study of 100 dogs with chronic ear disease, scientists found that in almost half the dogs, allergies were the root cause of their problem. Diagnosis and treatment of allergies can involve food trials, skin prick testing and desensitizing injections. Medications such as corticosteroids and antihistamines can also reduce inflammation in the ears and prevent ongoing issues.
5. Clean your dog’s ears regularly
This helps to maintain a normal and healthy ear canal. The use of an appropriate cleansing agent on a weekly basis will prevent the accumulation of ear wax and reduce the risk of inflammation. The RUBOLD Natural Dog Ear Cleaner is one of the best product for this purpose as it gently clears the ear canal of debris and wax and helps to protect against infection. This product is only derived from Natural Ingredients and completely free of harsh chemicals like parabens, sulfates, alcohol, MEA or DEA. You can safely use it in conjunction with medicated solutions like epi otic ear cleaners. It is also suitable for puppies over the age of 12 weeks.
"A little back story: My dog has chronic ear infections, it's been occurring since we had her, she was about 5 months old, she'll be 4 soon. It's gotten soo bad this last year. First only it was only 1 ear then this year it was both, her ears would stink soo much and would feel hot to the touch, flaky. I've tried ear cleaners from the store but they just don't work. The only thing that worked was my sisters ear infection cleaner she got from the vet but within a week or 2 her ear infection would come back.
This thing is a miracle worker! I really thought she was going to be stuck with her ear infections for the rest of her life. After cleaner her ear canal and wiping the inside of her ear with this, I can see improvements in a day, I haven't used it again, but will continue to clean it a few times this week then once a week afterwards. As of now, her ear isn't smelly, the flakiness is gone and I can tell she's happier, she isn't scratching at her ears anymore." - Susan Thao
To clean a dog’s ears, several drops of the cleaner are put into the ear canal and the canal is massaged gently. This moves the liquid down into the canal and helps to break up waxy build-ups. The canal can then be gently wiped out with a cotton ball to remove the cleaner. Your dog will also shake their head after their ears have been cleaned and this will expel any excess liquid and debris. Never put a Q Tip in your dog’s ear because it can traumatize the inside of the canal. Wash the ear weekly or two-weekly unless your vet has recommended a more frequent cleaning schedule. That will be sufficient for most dogs; over-cleaning can cause softening of the ear canal lining and actually promote infection. You can read reviews and learn more about this product by clicking the image below:
6. Seek treatment early
If, in spite of your best efforts, your dog does develop a sore ear then make an appointment with your veterinarian straight away. In many circumstances, an early diagnosis and treatment plan means sore ears are returned to health much quicker. Your pet’s pain will be eased sooner too. Make sure that you follow your veterinarian’s advice closely and take your pet back for any recommended rechecks to make sure the infection has resolved. This will avoid it becoming chronic and more challenging to manage.
Most veterinarians would agree that they frequently have to treat dogs for ear infections. They’re a common cause of distress and discomfort for pets and can be stubborn and difficult to resolve completely. However, if you follow these steps you can reduce the chances of your much loved canine companion suffering from painful and inflamed ears.
Have a question about your dog's ear health? Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to find an answer for you!
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