Written by Anna Hollisey
Written by Anna Hollisey
For so many dogs, ears are a defining characteristic. Whether they’re straight and pointy like a German Shepherd or Husky, big and floppy like a Spaniel or Poodle or purely decorative with no apparent practical function like some of the pups at FOTP HQ! No matter what they look like (or how effective they are), it’s important they’re well looked after. If your dog gets recurring ear infections, there could be an underlying cause. In this article we’ll look at common causes and treatments.
Healthy ears are dry and clean – and a small amount of wax is normal. When your dog has an ear infection, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
Ear infections are caused by an increase in yeast or bacteria inside the ear. This imbalance occurs when the ear can’t do its job properly – for example, there’s a foreign body inside, or the body’s immune system is malfunctioning. When your dog has an ear infection, here are the main causes that your vet will consider:
Sadly, some dogs are genetically predisposed to suffer from ear infections. This is largely due to the shape of their inner ears: for example, Cocker Spaniels have floppy ears which create a warm, moist environment that harbours bacterial growth; Shar Peis have very small ear canals where debris can become trapped; and Poodles tend to have excess hair growing inside their ears.
Unless your dog has ear mites, their ear infection is unlikely to be contagious. You don’t need to be too concerned about letting them mingle with their best canine buddies. But it is wise to wash your hands after handling your dog and use a separate towel for rubbing down their ears, such as after they’ve been swimming.
Take your dog to the vet to have their ear infection checked. They’ll confirm whether your dog has an external, middle or inner ear infection – and prescribe the right medication to help you deal with it quickly. This may include a cleanser as well as steroid or antibiotic ear drops.
The vet will usually take a swab to test the ear debris and may order blood tests if they want to check for an underlying disease.
Preventing recurrent ear infections in your dog depends on the cause of the infection.
For example, you can prevent an ear mite infection by keeping your dog’s monthly flea and tick treatments up to date (and ensuring you use a brand which guards against ear mites).
If your dog loves swimming or romping in grassy meadows, you should check for seeds and dry their ears carefully after walks. There’s no need to stop them from swimming: if their ears are healthy, they can continue to enjoy the water.
If your vet suspects an allergy, diagnosis is your first challenge. Your vet may prescribe a food which has none of the major allergens (dairy, wheat, egg and beef); it will take 6 weeks to see whether it eliminates your dog’s symptoms. Seasonal or environmental allergies can also cause ear infections, and you can get an idea about the cause by looking at your dog’s recent hangouts and seasonal charts. For this type of allergy, avoidance is the main strategy. You will have to avoid areas and times of day where the pollen count is high or, in the case of dust mites, keep the home well-vacuumed.
Regular ear-cleansing can help to keep your dog’s ears in top condition. You can buy medicated cleanser which has a special dispensing tip, making it simple to squirt into the ear. Look for a solution containing natural actives: alcohol can irritate some doggy ears.
Once you’ve applied the solution, wipe it around and out gently using gauze or cotton. Be sure that you don’t push any debris down into the ear canal. This treatment might be surprising to your dog at first! As long as they aren’t in pain, keep trying, little and often, until they’re used to the idea.
Skin and gut health are intertwined. To support our dogs’ digestive health, we’ve developed a special supplement – it’s called Soothe. It is a blend of powerful postbiotics which can improve your dog’s immune response and gut health. There is Omega-3 fish oil, famously good for calming inflammation, and egg membrane to reduce free radicals. Read what other customers have said about improving their dogs’ health with Soothe.