Ear infections are very common in dogs and those cute floppy eared pets are much more susceptible than those with upright ears. Unlike humans, the ear canal of a dog is almost vertical making it easy to retain moisture and debris.
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or yeast, however excessive hair or wax, ear mites, moisture (after having gone for a swim), foreign bodies (such as grass seeds) and allergies can be contributing factors. We often see ear issues in the spring and summer months after dogs have been swimming, there are more grass seeds around and allergies are likely to be flaring up.
If your dog has a sore ear they will likely be shaking their head, holding the head to the side, scratching the ear or rubbing their head on the carpet or furniture. You may notice an unpleasant odour from the ear or see some discharge or crusting in their ear. Sometimes the ear can be swollen or look red and it may be sore to touch.
It is good to get into the habit of regularly checking your dog’s ears for any abnormalities such as discharge, redness and odour, so that an infection can be picked up quickly.
You can clean the external ear with a soft cloth however it is not recommended that you poke anything into the ears in an attempt to clean as you may cause further trauma. If you suspect an ear infection or that something is caught in your dog ear it is best to see your Veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the cause of the infection and take appropriate steps for treatment- either as ear drops or sometimes a sedation is needed to clean the ears and remove any foreign material.
As an ongoing way to help avoid moist ears and ear infections in your dog, your vet may advise regular ear cleans at home. It is imperative to seek veterinary advice before attempting this as the needs of a troublesome ear vary from dog to dog.
Written by Dr Selma Fuijkschot BVSc