We hear you, we hear you! You want to know the ins and outs of keeping your dog's ears clean and healthy. Well listen up (or, in this case, read up), because we've got you covered.
Caring for your pets ears is an essential part of their health and well-being. Here are some commonly asked questions – and answers – about dog ear care that can help you take care of your beloved fur child.
What causes ear infections in dogs? Many ear infections in dogs are caused by environmental allergies or food allergies. Parasites, contact allergens, hormonal diseases and even foreign bodies can also cause inflammation in the ear canal and subsequent infection. Some dogs simply overproduce ‘ear-wax’. There are predisposing factors such as breed, narrow ear canals, ear length/shape and environmental causes such as failing to dry the ear canals after swimming and bathing. All of these underlying issues can set up an environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive.
Should I clean my dog's ears at home? Not necessarily. It’s a good idea to take a look inside your dog’s ears before you reach for the ear cleaner. If your dog’s ears look relatively clean or have a slight amount of light brown wax, if the ears don’t not look red or have an odour, then it’s probably a good idea to leave the ears alone. Over cleaning ears that don’t need to be cleaned can actually be counterproductive and lead to an infection. If you notice any of the above signs, then a visit to the vet is warranted before you reach for the ear cleaner. Your vet will be able to examine the ears and determine if there is an infection. They will recommend a specific ear cleaner and potentially medication and they’ll also give you a demonstration of how to safely clean the ears. Keep in mind that improper ear cleaning techniques can damage the delicate structures of the ear, so it’s best to be guided by your vet. Avoid using ear cleaning solutions that aren’t recommended by a vet, as some of these can actually cause irritation to the ear canal and lead to inflammation and infection.
Why are dogs with floppy ears more prone to ear infections? The long ears that hang down create a humid environment with minimal air flow in the ear canal - this can lead to an overgrowth of the resident bacteria and yeast inside the ear, resulting in an infection.
What are the signs of an ear infection in dogs? Symptoms can vary from scratching to head shaking, to an abnormal stench in the ears, red ear and excessively waxy ear canals. Some dogs will tilt their head to one side and most can be very restless and uncomfortable. If your dog ever shows any of these signs, it’s important to see the vet because ear infections can be very uncomfortable and the earlier they are treated, the more successful the outcome. It’s also vital that your vet examines down the ear canal to look for foreign material and to visualise the tympanic membrane (ear drum).
Should you pluck the hairs inside your dog's ear? Removing hairs from the ear canal was once recommended but is now discouraged by veterinary dermatologists. Unnecessary plucking can irritate the ears and lead to inflammation and infections.
Why should I keep my eyes on the flies? Dogs' ears can be prone to fly bites. This is usually an issue for dogs that are left outside for extended periods. Fly bite dermatitis is a very common problem in Australia. (And, yes, it can be as nasty as it sounds!) The condition is most apparent in the warmer months, when flies are out, about and breeding. Just like you slip, slop, slap when the temp starts to rise, try using a specific insect repellent for pets on the outside of your dog's ears when the weather starts to warm. This can keep those pesky buggers away from your pet. Your vet will be able to recommend suitable products that could help.
Do you have any other tips for taking care of your pet? We're all ears! Let us know how you make sure your pet is living their best possible life.