For such a proportionately small area of your dog’s body, ears can present a number of problems that can not only make your dog uncomfortable, but can actually threaten your friend’s general health, especially if there is a bacterial infection present. Although any breed of dog can suffer from ear problems, dogs with floppy ears will be more likely to develop problems simply because less air will reach inside. Dogs that are in the water a good deal, such as retrievers, will also be more prone to ear difficulties.
As with most things, prevention is probably the best approach to take with your dog’s ear health. Your dog’s ears should be cleaned every week with a mild cleaning solution and cotton balls. Not only will this help to prevent the buildup of wax, which can cause itching, but will also help you spot problems when they are just beginning. Always check your dog’s ears after he or she has been outside – not only could your dog have picked up a tick or two (we have taken ticks out of our dogs’ ears many times), but plant parts, especially seeds that are designed to be transported by animals, could have found their way into the ear canal. When your dog is experiencing troubles with his ears, they will quickly make you aware that something is wrong. If you notice your dog shaking or tilting his head, scratching at his ears, or running the side of his head along the floor, these are clear indications that something annoying is going on in the ears. Very often, a bad odor will emanate from the ears as well. Dogs with ear problems will feel not only itching, but also pain, so a visit to the veterinarian is definitely called for to get an exact diagnosis of the cause. Wax buildup is the easiest of the ear problems to solve, and often a thorough cleaning will solve it. A liquid cleaner is put into the ears, which are then massaged. Allow your dog to shake his head to clear out the excess liquid, then use a cotton ball or gauze pad to finish cleaning.
Ear mites can cause intense itching in your dog’s ears and you can detect them by the presence of their dark red crumbs of scat. They are sucking your dog’s blood and what you see is generally their feces. Your veterinarian will prescribe an acaricide (substance that kills mites) to wipe out the population. Often, only one or two applications will be needed.
Bacterial infections will produce a nasty smell as well as pain and itching. There may be pus present. These infections, if untreated, can spread from the middle to the inner ear, causing chronic, difficult-to-treat problems. Antibiotic ointments will have to be used to kill the bacteria, and be sure to follow through with the entire round of prescribed treatment.
Yeast infections are very common and yeast loves to grow in damp, warm conditions – exactly what may be found in your dog’s ears. The intense itching caused by yeast can make life a misery for your dog, and not only will you be able to see an overgrowth of yeast in the ears, but there will be a sour, ‘yeasty’ smell. Prescription medication from your vet will take care of this.
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