Dog ear problems, what can go wrong and how to care for them

A dog’s sense of smell is known to be acute, but don’t discount his sense of hearing! A dog’s hearing is crucial, and if he develops infections or can’t hear properly, you not only deprive him of all the delicious sounds in your house and neighborhood but you prevent him communicating properly with other dogs too.

When giving your dog a weekly check, you should make sure his ears are perky and healthy. Deafness in your dog can point to an infection or illness. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to have his ears examined regularly, so incorporate this into your routine with him as early as possible.

Areas to concentrate on when looking your dog over, is to check the outside flap for cuts, bits caught in the fur, sore places, abscesses and infections. This task is made simpler in sleek dogs with shorter fur as any cuts are easily observed. For breeds of dogs that have longer fur and ears, you might have to be more meticulous when examining his ears. For instance, dogs with longer ears like the spaniels require that you tease the fur out carefully to check the skin hidden beneath the fur before any cuts or blood blisters from scraps with other animals can be observed.

Pay attention to the ear canal by gently drawing it backwards and upwards so as to get a good view towards the eardrum. Check to see if the ear canal seems to be wet or shows signs of inflammation that require a vet’s attention.

Tiny white mites and parasites can plague dogs. If mites are present you may notice a black, crusty exudate which is the telltale sign of mite infestation. Mites feed on earwax and the resulting debris harbours bacteria. Over time, this leads to inflammation and infection of the ear canal. To get rid of the mites, you will need to obtain an antibiotic treatment from your vet. The course of treatment would last for three weeks to catch the mites at all stages of their development.

Wash your dog’s ear gently with a mixture of warm water and an ear wash solution recommended by your vet. It is important to remove as much moisture as you can by drying his ears adequately, as moisture encourages the growth of bacteria. Dissolve a few drops of a prescribed insecticide in some carrier oil and use the oil to massage the ear gently so that the oil gets in contact with the inner reaches of the canal. This is to be done once a week and after two weeks, your dog should have a clean ear and won’t be shaking his head or trying to scratch it.

Never put Q-tips or anything similar down the ear canal to dig out any ear wax – you may well damage the lining of the ears or puncture his eardrum. You should pay attention to chronic ear infections, as it could be a sign of allergies or other problems. If washing and cleaning alone don’t help alleviate the problem, it would be advisable to let your vet deal with it.