Ear problems in dogs

Ear problems in dogs

The ears of a dog are sensitive and you need to check them regularly to make sure that everything is alright. This is especially true for dog breeds where selective breeding have led to ears that are very different from the ear configuration that we can se in wolfs and wild dogs. If your dog has long and floppy ears, the warm and moist air that becomes trapped under them can serve as an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Some dog breeds, such as the popular Cocker spaniel, have very narrow ear canals and are therefore prone to inner ear infections. Check your dog regularly to detect early signs of infection, e.g. redness, foul smell and/or “dirt”.

When you get a puppy and bring it for its first veterinary check up, ask the vet for professional advice about how to clean the ears of your dog. Improper cleaning can actually increase the risk of ear problems. If you use Q-tips or similar to clean out the ears of your dog, you might involuntarily push debris further into the ear where it can cause serious problems. Strong cleaning solutions or overzealous cleaning can irritate and damage the sensitive skin and increase the risk of secondary ear infections. Your veterinarian can tell you more about which type of ear cleaning regiment that is recommended for the dog breed and your particular dog. Some dogs have ears that are virtually carefree and “self-cleaning”, while others need a lot of care to stay healthy.

Ear problems in dogs can be caused by a wide range of factors, including foreign bodies, parasites, micro organisms, tumours, and skin problems such as allergy. Among the parasites, ear mites are among the most common in the ears of dogs and can lead to ear canal inflammation. Ticks and fleas are also found of dog ears, but can of course be found all over the body. Unfortunately, some dog owners assume that virtually all ear problems in dogs are due to ear mites and treat their dogs for ear mites without first obtaining a proper diagnosis and rule out other possible factors. This exposes the dog to unnecessary treatments and can force the dog to wait several weeks before receiving a treatment that will actually cure the problem.  

Among the micro organisms capable of causing ear problems for dogs we will naturally find bacteria and viruses, but also fungi. Yeast infections are fairly common in dog ears, especially in breeds with long and floppy ears. A yeast organism named Malassezia pachydermatitis is especially fond of colonising the ear canals of dogs.

If your dog suffers from reoccurring ear problems and sticking to the cleaning routine recommended by your vet does not help, it is time to look for an underlying cause. Your dog might have an allergy that causes persistent scratching, which in turn causes small wounds that can be colonised by opportunistic bacteria, fungi, etcetera. Hypothyroidism is another health problem that can lead to ear trouble, since hypothyroidism can make the skin of the ear thicker and increase the release of exudates inside the ear canal.

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