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When Was The Last Time You Checked Ears

At some point in every dog’s life, he or she will likely have an ear issue.  While most common for floppy-eared dogs such as hounds or those with heavy ear-hair growth, like Lhasa Apsos, all dogs can suffer from ear discomfort.  What disorders are most common?  How can you tell if your dog is suffering?  Most importantly, how should you treat your dog’s ears?  Listed below are a few guidelines for proper (and improper) ear care.

The most obvious sign that something is wrong with your dog’s ears is incessant scratching and head shaking.  If suffering from an ear infection, your dog may hold his head at a cocked angle.  Pawing and rubbing his head against the floor and furniture, as well as general malaise, are also signs he is uncomfortable.

To investigate, first find a person your dog trusts and ask him or her to help hold your dog’s head.  Ear problems can be painful, and your dog’s first instinct will be to run from you if you try to handle the ear too much.  As gently as possible, peer into the ear, and use a flashlight if necessary.  If you see inflammation, redness, excessive wax, dried blood, pus, or notice a strong, yeast-like smell, contact a veterinarian.  Although your first instinct may be to try and relieve your dog’s problem yourself, avoid the temptation to do so.  Never place anything into your dog’s ear canal, not even a Q-Tip, as dog’s ears are composed of extremely sensitive tissue that can easily be damaged.

One cause of ear discomfort is excessive wax build up.  Some breeds, such as German Shepherds, are especially prone to this condition.  Wax build up is generally harmless, but can lead to more serious problems such as infection and pain.  Dogs prone to heavy wax production should be checked every 3 – 4 weeks and have their ears cleaned, either professionally or at home.  A veterinarian can prescribe a mild ear cleaning solution, and also teach the proper way to clean a dog’s ears.

A second common problem is ear mites.  These are insects that dwell in a dog’s ear and sustain themselves on ear wax and skin oils.  Their presence can cause inflammation and irritation, and occasionally infection.  Ear mites look similar to coffee grounds, and severe infestations can clog the entire ear canal.  Contact a veterinarian if you suspect your dog has mites, and never try to remedy the problem yourself.

Dogs can suffer from yeast infections in their ear canal as a secondary symptom to underlying causes such as allergies, a tumor, a ruptured ear drum, or a bacterial infection.  Besides excessive scratching, your dog will also have what appears to be scabbing around the ear opening, as well as a strong ear odor.  He may also appear to have a loss of balance and hearing.  Treatment typically involves an anti-fungal ointment.

A hematoma is a secondary symptom of an ear infection or other ear problem.  When a dog excessively shakes or scratches his head, the ear flap can become blistered and inflamed.  The liquid from the hematoma will have to be drained, and the underlying cause treated.

Ear problems are common among dogs, especially for certain breeds.  Do not panic if your dog has an ear issue, as most are not serious and are entirely treatable.  Do, however, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible, as even mild issues can lead to permanent damage and hearing loss.

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