Lovely big-eared friendSome pet owners get to experience more than their fair share of ear problems in their furry wards. A few of you may even be regulars at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services’ dermatology department.

While some ear infections in dogs may be unavoidable, you can help eliminate or minimize the occurrence of many ear infections. Learn more about what you can do to help your dog steer clear of them where possible.

Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs are usually a different type of ear problem than the ear infections we talk about in people but both human and dog ears are comprised of three main parts:

  • The external ear (this includes the ear flap, also called a pinna, and the ear canal leading up to the ear drum)
  • The middle ear (behind the ear drum)
  • The internal ear (inside the skull)

Most times when a person has an ear infection, it is a problem in the middle ear. Dogs (and cats) are most commonly affected by infections of the external ear, also called otitis externa. While animals can experience problems in the middle and inner ear, otitis externa in the external ear is a far more common ailment.

Problems with the otitis externa can be triggered by inflammation caused by something that irritates the skin such as an allergy. This inflammation can lead to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria that live on the skin, eventually triggering an infection.

Ear infections in dogs can be irritating and downright painful. Dogs that have an ear problem often scratch at their ears or shake their head. They may hold the ear in an abnormal position or yelp when it is touched. Ear infections in dogs can also result in increased discharge from the ear that may be foul smelling. Untreated, ear infections in dogs can lead to hearing loss.

How to Keep Your Pet’s Ears Healthier

There are no bones about it, ear infections in dogs are no fun. While some pets are more prone to developing infections due to the shape of their ear canal or an underlying allergy issue, there are things that you can do to help keep your pet’s ears healthier.

Keep tabs on those ears – Knowing your pet and what is normal for him or her is key to being on top of pet ear problems. Be sure to lift up those ear flaps and take a peek once a week or so. Don’t ignore any unusual odors or strange reactions such as vocalizing or avoiding your touch.

Don’t be afraid to clean – Cleaning your pet’s ears is an important part of grooming. Be sure to clean about once a week, or as recommended by your regular veterinarian. Use a gentle cleaning solution and cotton balls to carefully clean the debris from your pet’s ear canal. Be sure to clean after a bath or swimming session this summer. Extra moisture in the ear canal can be irritating and make a great environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive.

Visit your vet – Routine wellness checkups are an excellent way to stay on top of potential ear problems. It is also a great time to diagnose and discuss treatment of problems that may be predisposing to ear infections in dogs such as allergic dermatitis , low thyroid problems, or ear polyps.

Ear problems in dogs plague many the pet owner, but keeping a close eye on your animal friend’s ears and routine cleaning can go a long way towards keeping them healthier. Don’t be scared to clean your dog’s ears. It isn’t hard to do and can make a big difference for many dogs.