Rule 1: Clean Your Dogs Ears Under Veterinary Advice Only
PLEASE Do not use milk, olive oil or any other home made recipe in your pets ear. If you are concerned about your pets ears bring your pet to your local vets for advice. This page is a guide for pets who have been to see their vet and require more information/back up information on how to apply the treatment that has been prescribed as well as general information about ears. DO NOT put anything in your pets ears except under veterinary advice
Ear infections (also known as otitis externa) are one of the most common health problems that vets see in general practice. There are many reasons why dogs can develop ear infections and there is almost always an underlying cause:
- Anatomy- the shape of the ear canal. A lot of breeds have floppy ears and some have narrow and hairy ear canals. This makes them more prone to developing ear infections as heat and moisture can be trapped in the ear canal
- Swimming and getting water down their ears can also make them more prone to getting ear infections
- Polyps and growths down the ear canals
- Getting something stuck in their ear, such as grass seeds in the spring/summer months
- Parasites such as ear mites
- Other underlying health problems such as chronic allergies also result in recurrent ear infections and can be very difficult to manage
Ear infections can be very painful and uncomfortable for dogs and if left untreated they can become very difficult to treat and cause lasting damage to the ear canal. The inflammation can cause a narrowing of the ear canal and in severe cases rupture of the ear drum and even deafness.
Signs that your dog might have a sore ear include:
- Shaking their head a lot and scratching at their ears
- The inside of their ear flap might look red and inflamed- look at the inside of the ear flap to get to know what’s normal for your dog (it should be a pale pinkish colour)
- The ears might look crusty or there may be brown, black, yellow, or even green discharge coming from their ear
- They may have smelly ears
- They may be sore to touch
If you think your dog has any of the above clinical signs then it’s best to have a vet check their ears using an otoscope. The vet may also take a sample from the ear using a cotton bud. This sample will be looked at under a microscope for signs or infection, such as bacteria, yeast, and inflammatory cells. Based on these results, an appropriate ear treatment can then be given. This is usually a topical ear drop, but may also include oral medications to help with inflammation and pain.
It’s likely that your dog will need at least one follow up appointment to check that the infection has been fully treated, after which the vet can talk to you about ongoing ear cleaning. In some cases, several follow up appointments are needed. This will depend on the underlying cause of the ear infection, its severity, and response to treatment.
Chronic underlying allergies (also known as atopy) can result in the ears flaring up several times throughout the year. Your vet can make a plan with you regarding staying on top of this with regular ear cleaning.
In chronic or severe cases, your dog may need an anaesthetic to flush the ears and an ear swab may need to be sent to the laboratory to check what kind of infection is present. Often ear infections are very painful and dogs will not allow a thorough exam and cleaning while they are awake.