A dog’s ability to hear is one of its most important senses, second only to the sense of smell. Dog ears have evolved to enhance and sharpen their acute sense of hearing, giving them the ability to hear sounds at much higher and lower frequencies than humans.
Unfortunately, ears are also a great place for problems to occur. You can pick up problems early by regularly checking your dog’s ears. Normally the ears should look and smell clean and they should be free of wax and dry skin. There should be no hair-loss, nor redness of the skin and no pain or discomfort when you touch them. If ANY of these signs are present, a check up is needed.
What causes ear infections?
Grass Seeds are frequent causes of ear problems in spring and summer. They are usually easily seen during a check up but will often require sedation to remove them. Grass seeds will cause infection and migrate into the inner ear if not removed.
Ear mites will cause an ear infection. They must be diagnosed by looking in the ear with an otoscope. They are very contagious and will spread easily from dog to dog and also from dog to cat. Fortunately however, they are easily treated!
Bacteria and yeasts are two of the most common agents involved in infection. They are usually secondary causes following a primary irritation such as an allergic reaction or irritation from swimming. These organisms cause inflammation and ulceration of the ear canal resulting in wax and exudate build up. They require specific medications to be given over time to treat them. A swab of your pets’ ear will be taken and examined under the microscope to determine which medication is required.
If an ear infection is too serious we will recommend that the ear be cleaned and treated under anaesthetic to ensure the pet does not feel any pain and to ensure the problem is thoroughly treated.
Please remember that infected ears are very painful and will not get better by themselves.
What happens when an ear gets infected?
Ear infections are common and are generally easily treated if the problem is addressed promptly. When the ear becomes infected the ear canal becomes inflamed and the delicate lining becomes thickened and produces more wax. The normal cleaning mechanism breaks down causing wax and inflammatory exudates to accumulate in the canal and eventually fill it up. Bacteria and yeast organisms thrive in this environment and cause more inflammation.
When the infection reaches this stage the dog will normally be shaking its head and even pawing at the ears. Exudate is often visible at the opening of the canal and the ear will be smelly.
How can you prevent an infection?
Careful monitoring of the dogs ears for early signs of inflammation will help detect the early signs. If your dog is prone to infections we recommend the regular use of an ear cleaning agent.
Careful drying of the ears is also required each time your dog has a bath or goes for a swim!
Why are rechecks required?
We will always recommend a follow up check if your dog has been diagnosed with an ear infection. This check is to ensure the infection is clearing up as expected and to provide intervention if it is not.
Compliance is KEY when dealing with ear infections, if for any reason you do feel you are able to adequately medicate your dog, please let us know!
Stopping the treatment too soon will guarantee a recurrence of the infection and may set up a highly resistant infection.