One of the most common reasons for dogs to visit their
veterinarian is for treatment of sore ears. They are painful and, because your
dog scratches or shakes their head frequently, they can develop a hematoma or
blood blister in the flap of their ear. This means that it is important for you
to not only take care of their ears, but also treat any signs of problems early.
A healthy ear is pink inside the flap (depending on how much hair your dog has) as well as down into the part of the ear canal you can see. There should not be any discharge, nor should the ear smell badly. If there is an ear problem, you will notice that there may be redness in the ear and there might be discharge. Less subtle signs include holding the head to one side and rubbing their sore ear on the floor or furniture to try to get relief. Early treatment means less pain for your dog and quicker resolution of the problem.
Prevention is always better than cure, so basic maintenance is a key part of caring for your pet. Any waxy build up can be gently cleaned away with an ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball or two. Never ever use a Q-tip in your pet’s ear – sudden movement can result in damage to the ear canal or eardrum from the Q-tip. The cotton tip has also been known to fall off, resulting in a trip to the vet to have it removed from deep in the ear canal.
If your dog has long hair around the ear canal, it can be helpful to trim it away to make cleaning easier. The question now is; do you pluck excess hair from the canal or not? There are no studies on whether ear plucking helps to prevent ear problems but current advice from veterinary dermatologists is unless your dog has ongoing ear issues, leave well enough alone. They do not recommend routinely plucking hair from all dogs’ ears, and there is some suggestion that plucking can inflame the hair follicles in the canal, leading to pain and infection. If your dog does have an ear issue, that is a different situation and plucking may be part of their treatment; however, it should be done only on veterinary advice.
Some dogs suffer from recurring or chronic ear infections, which are frustrating for their pet parents. These infections could be due to underlying allergies or possibly bacteria that are resistant to the drugs that are in the commonly used eardrops. If you find yourself and your dog in this position, then you will need to have some further testing done. This may include swabs from the ear sent off for analysis, or even a food trial.
Ear infections are no fun for dogs or their pet parents. The keys to keeping your pup’s ears in good health are to check their ears regularly to make sure all looks okay, clean them gently when needed and see your vet straight away if a problem arises.