A dog’s normal ear is like a funnel – wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, with an ‘L’ bend as the canal nears the ear drum. The outer ear, or pinna, comes in various sizes, shapes configurations. The flap can be upright like a German Shepherd Dog, flop down like a Labrador, or somewhere in between like a Border Collie. Genetics, individual anatomy, underlying diseases (think allergies) and lifestyle activities all play a role in predisposing your pooch to ear trouble.
Our Pets of the Month for April are two dogs who experienced the frustrations of ear infections that required several veterinary visits, sedation to effectively treat, and diligence on their owner’s part to finally get resolution. Smokey the Bear is a 2.5 year old Bernese Mountain Dog and Wally is a year old Chocolate Labrador. Each of these happy Seattle dogs developed ear infections that were painful and challenging to treat, yet with persistence on everyone’s part and sedation for comfort, both dogs are healthy now.
Providing the best treatment plan depends on finding out what is causing the problem so it is important to be able to look down into the ear canal with an otoscope. At Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital here are the things the doctors look for:
- Do we see any evidence of parasites like ticks or mites which can inhabit the canal?
- Is the ear canal swollen, red, painful as might happen with allergies?
- Is there discharge that suggests a yeast or bacterial population?
- Is there a foreign object like grass awns or wax/hair plugs which may be obstructing the ear canal?
- Is there a growth or polyp in the ear?
- Are there other health issues that may also be affecting the ear?
Some ear problems like grass awns may be quite evident, yet other ear issues require sampling of the ear debris. Looking under the microscope for evidence of mites, abnormal cells, bacteria, or yeast and some infections require cultures to select the correct antibiotic medication.
Ears are normally very sensitive and getting a good look down into a painful ear can be quite challenging. In addition, removing grass awns or wax/debris deep in the ear canal can be uncomfortable at a minimum; add in 100+ pounds of body weight or a squirmy young dog and you can see why it may be difficult for your veterinarian to collect the necessary information or treat an ear without the benefit of sedation.
Both Wally and Smokey had ear infections that were being treated properly but the infections were not resolving completely so Dr. Robin Riedinger suggested sedation. The sedation allowed us to collect additional samples, confirm our diagnosis and to thoroughly clean the entire ear canal without pain to the patient. Wally and Smokey happily snoozed through their procedures and the additional information we gained allowed us to tailor their medications to achieve resolution.
Here are some pointers to help keep your dog’s ears healthy and comfortable:
- Get in the habit of looking at the inside of your dog’s ears on a daily to weekly basis; the earlier you discover a problem the sooner it can be addressed.
- Use a dog specific ear cleanser periodically to rinse wax and debris from the ear canal; consult your veterinarian for the best plan for your dog.
- If your dog swims regularly, has a history of allergies, or has been diagnosed with ear infections in the past – pay particularly close attention to their ears as repeat infections can happen.
- Look for signs of an ear infection or issue such as head shaking, excessive scratching or rubbing, redness, odor, discharge, swelling, or evidence of pain.
- If your best friend has an ear infection, work closely with your veterinary team to ensure that the infection is resolving. Sometimes this requires a change in medication, additional testing and / or sedation to help your dog heal.
If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or ear infections in particular please call us at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital – we are here to help.