Common Dog Ear Problems
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Common Dog Ear Problems
Not many canine ailments cause as much distress and frustration as ear infections. At the animal hospital I worked at, we had owners literally implore front desk receptionists for a same-day-appointments just to give relief to their suffering dogs. This does not come as a surprise since according to VPI Pet Insurance, ear problems are the second most common reasons dogs are seen by vets.
A dog suffering from ear disease is not a pretty sight. It can actually drive an owner nuts just watching their dogs trying to get relief. Some dogs may even turn aggressive if their ears are touched.
Below are some common signs suggesting ear disease in dogs:
- Insistent ear shaking
- Head kept tilted
- Rubbing ears on furniture, floor, paws, etc.
- Sensitivity to touch
- Head scratching
- Hot, red ears
- Scratches on ears
- Discharge from ears
- Odor from ears
- Loss of balance
- Ulcers that do not heal
- Presence of flies
There are several factors causing ear disease in dogs. The most annoying are those producing the itching, pawing, and scratching. Below are listed some of the most common conditions causing ear disease in dogs.
An aural hematoma in dogs is not a primary condition, but it often results as a consequence from excessive head shaking and scratching. While the dog shakes its head and scratches insistently, over time, the small blood vessels will bleed inside the ear and cause notorious swelling causing the ear flap to fill up with blood. The dog's ear flaps will swell up like balloons or marsh mellows, and upon touching them, they may feel squishy and odd. What is even worse is that should an aural hematoma go untreated, a dog's ears may never go back to normal leaving the ears with very unsightly scarring and even permanent deformities.
The classical ear infection indeed, otitis can be external and internal. Other than the classical head shaking and pawing, ear infections can be pretty painful and may progress to the middle ear even lead to deafness should it go untreated. Fortunately, a course of antibiotics is all it takes to give the dog comfort in most cases.
While not really a disease, ear mites have the potential of causing disease. These parasites live in the ear and can be detected thanks to the offensive odor emanated from an affected ear and thanks to the coffee ground discharge left behind. A course of Tresaderm may be prescribed to get rid of these annoying parasites that may cause otitis.
These may follow antibiotic treatments and typically cause a rancid odor, brown discharge, and very inflamed ears. Anti-fungal treatments will be necessary treatment wise. In mild cases, the below home remedy of water and vinegar may be helpful.
Fly Bite Dermatitis
Flies may insistently bite the dog's ears especially in those dog breeds characterized by erect ears. The ears of these dogs will appear with crusty brown-black edges. The dermatitis that develops can be prevented by keeping the door indoors or applying effective insect repellents.
Itching and pawing at the ears may be due to allergies. Allergies may be caused by just about anything, foods, dusts, pollens, chemicals etc. Finding the triggering allergen may be challenging, yet not impossible. If food allergies are suspected, a trial diet may help pinpoint the offending food. Anti-histamines can bring relief and in worse cases corticosteroids and steroid shots may be necessary.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This form of cancer is worth mentioning due the increase of damaging ultra violet rays. White dogs are particularly vulnerable and the ears are often a targeted area due to their exposure to the sun rays and their thin skin. Your vet should prescribe sunscreen suitable for dogs to protect ears, muzzle and nose. Do not use human sun screen as some may be toxic for pets.
This condition affects the inner ear, an area also responsible for a dog's balance. It can occur when otitis progresses to the inner ear. In such cases dogs develop dizziness, in-coordination, head tilt, nystgamus and circling. Medications can be prescribed to give relief from the dizziness. The underlying cause needs addressed.
Preventing Ear Problems in Dogs
Preventing ear disease in dogs takes some care. Should you bathe a dog, remember to insert cotton balls to prevent moisture from turning the ear into the ideal host for bacteria or mites.
Floppy-eared dogs need special care, make sure the ears are kept clean and dry. Erect ears are vulnerable too, mostly from fox tails, grass seeds, or other foreign matter along with insect bites.
If your dog is prone to ear infections and gets hair routinely plucked by the groomer consider that the hair near the ear, once plucked, causes serum to ooze out from the hair follicles creating the ideal environment for bacterial growth. Mats near the ear canal should be removed since they trap moisture inside
Recipe for Inflammed Ears in Dogs
A good home remedy for inflamed ears consists of an equal mix of warm water and apple cider vinegar. This mixture should be applied inside the ear until the exceeding amount flows out. Let the mixture stay in the ear for about 5 minutes. Then carefully wipe out with a cotton ball. If ears appear red and hot, it is best to have your dog seen by a vet as your pet may need antibiotics.
Practice good ear cleaning as a general rule and keep it as a routine. Report any abnormalities to your vet promptly.
In a pinch, a 50:50 mix of apple cider vinegar and warm water is fine, but I wouldn't use it consistently. Once things are under control, cleaning his ears twice a week should help keep things under control.— Dr. Kara, veterinarian
Zymox is an ear product for dogs that has helped many dogs who came to our clinic with annoying ear problems. It is available over the counter.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli