Dog Ear Problems And How To Treat Them


Does your beloved pet suffer from dog ear problems? You might be surprised to know that he’s not alone. According to a Veterinary Pet Insurance survey, dog ear problems are the second most common reason for vet visits.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues and how to treat them.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Problems

Signs that your pet has dog ear problems can be any of the following:

– Shaking his head
– Too much scratching at his ears

dog scratching ears

– Reddening of his ear flaps
– Yeasty odour coming from his ears
– Subtle clues such as a slight constant tilt of his head or ears being held at different angles from each other
– A wet discharge or dry, dark substance in his ears

Causes & Fixes of Dog Ear Problems

Below are some reasons for your pet’s ear problems and corresponding fixes.

1. Cause: Lifestyle

Does your dog spend a lot of time in the water? Swimming is a great activity for your pet but leaving his inner ear canals damp makes them a prime breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

Fix: Use a towel or cotton to gently dry the inside and outside of his ears after his swim.

2. Cause: Parasites

Ear mites can invade your dog’s ear canals. They produce a dry, dark substance in the ear that looks like coffee grounds.

Fix: You can treat a simple case by carefully swabbing his inner ears with mineral oil to clean them and kill the mites. If they persist, consult your vet.

3. Cause: Allergies

Your dog could have an ear allergy caused by his food or environment.

Fix: Look for healthy dog food that doesn’t have excessive grain or sugar in it. Too much grain and sugar can cause natural body yeast to grow exponentially and produce the yeasty infection in his ears. Apart from fixing his diet, antihistamines and fatty acid supplements can also be prescribed by your vet.

It’s also helpful to clean his ears regularly with a special ear cleaning solution until the dog ear problems disappear. Depending on the severity of his problem, you may also need to use corticosteroids and look into immunotherapy.

4. Cause: Foreign Objects

Your dog can get foreign objects like grass seeds easily lodged in the L-shape of his inner ear. This can cause irritation which leads to infection in the long-term.

Fix: If your dog’s ears look red and moist, take him to your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will prescribe an internal or topical medication to treat your dog’s ear infection.

5. Cause: Genetic

a. Hormonal abnormalities
Too much or too little of some hormones (thyroid, adrenal gland, and sex hormones) can give your dog ear problems, along with skin problems.

Fix: Consult your vet for proper medication.

b. Hereditary diseases
Some breeds or lines are prone to dog ear problems. Shar Peis are prone to primary seborrhea, collies get dermatomyositis, and some other breeds can get tumours and melanomas in their ears.

Fix: Consult your vet.

By gawd, aren’t these puppies cute?!

c. Natural ear structure: Cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, and other dogs with long ear flaps are more likely to have ear problems. This is because their ears naturally provide a dark, moist environment for bacteria.

Fix: Ear cropping shows little to no effectivity and is viewed as cruel by most experts. Instead, check out our prevention list below.

How to Prevent Dog Ear Problems

Apply correct cleaning guidelines

You actually don’t need to clean your dog’s ears regularly if they are healthy. This is because too much cleaning can upset the pH balance of his ears. Some light brown ear wax is normal and in fact necessary for healthy ears.

The occasional inner ear cleaning to get rid of dirt and wax buildups should be enough to keep your canine buddy happy. To clean, apply a gentle ear cleaner (like Oti-Clens and Epi-Otic) into his ear canal, then massage the base of his ear for 30 seconds to loosen the debris inside.

Use a cotton swab to lightly wipe the loose debris and excess cleaner out of the insides of his ears. Keep doing this until no more debris comes out. Use a towel or more cotton to gently wipe your dog’s ear flap area dry afterwards.

Cautionary don’ts:

  • Do not attempt to clean the parts of the ear you can’t see.  This is unnecessary and can damage your dog’s ears.
  • Do not use Q-tips.  Not only can they damage your dog’s ears and cause him pain, they also just push debris and dirt deeper into the ear canal and can cause infections.
  • Do not use alcohol or any irritating solvents to clean your dog’s ears.  They will cause him intense pain and inflame the inner tissues.
  • Don’t clean his ears with any cleaning solution unless you know for sure your dog has no inner ear injuries.  If he has a weakened or perforated eardrum, the solutions can make it worse.

Keep your dog’s ears dry

Too much moisture in your dog’s ears is bad news, as bacteria and yeast love to breed in moist, dark places. You can combat this by clipping the excess hair around his ears to allow more air flow, and making sure to dry his ears after activities where he might have gotten his inner ear flaps wet (swimming, playing in the rain, bathing, etc.).

Check your dog’s ears regularly for foreign objects

After your dog’s been outdoors, groom his ears under the flaps and check to make sure no foreign objects are lodged inside.

Do not let the dog groomers pluck ear out of your dog’s ear canals

If you take your dog to a professional grooming parlour, request them not to pluck the hair out of his ear canals (which they normally do). This is because plucking the ear canal hair causes serum to ooze out into the canal, and bacteria then tends to grow there and lead to ear infections.

Remember, consistency is the key to keeping your dog ear problems away.  Keep those ears dry, clean, and well-aired for a healthy, happy dog!

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Hayley Mae


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