Ear infections: How to recognize them and preventative measures

One of the most common illnesses dogs suffer from are ear infections, so it is important to know how to recognize symptoms and respond accordingly.

There are many causes behind ear infections. Some breeds are naturally more prone to it, such as dogs with big floppy ears like cocker spaniels or dogs with a lot of hair inside their ear canal like poodles. Other causes can include ear mites, food and other allergies, some plant parts like foxtail and grass awn, too much moisture from swimming or bathing, and even cleaning your dog’s ears too much.

Ear infections can be largely prevented if your dog’s ears are properly cleaned and maintained. This involves using specific products tailored for dogs, and avoiding other cleaning methods harmful for them, such as inserting Q tips inside their ears, and using alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as ear cleaning solutions.

To properly clean a dog’s ears, you need a vet approved dog ear cleaning solution, a towel, and some gauze. First, pour the solution into the dog’s ear canal gently until you can see the fluid. Then, use gentle circular motions to massage the base of the dog’s ear. This will aid the cleaning solution in catching dirt and debris. Once you finish doing this, your dog will shake his head, which is when the towel becomes useful to hold around his head in order to minimize the mess. Then use the gauze to softly clean the ear flaps of further debris and to completely dry them. You may repeat this process if you notice further ear debris. A healthy dog ear typically is pink, odorless and not inflamed. You should really only clean your dog’s ears if you notice any smell that is yeasty or otherwise bad.

During this process, if your dog appears to be in any pain, or if his ear is not healthy as indicated previously, contact a vet, as the dog may have an ear infection.

Some common symptoms of ear infections include excessive head shaking, excessive scratching of the ears, odor, dark discharge, redness and swelling of the ear canal, and scabbing and crusting in the ears.

There are no home remedies for ear infections. The only way forward is to get your dog checked at the vet and follow the directions provided. Your vet will likely prescribe an ear cleanser and other medicine and instruct you on how to use them.

A lot of ear infections clear up soon after treatment, but if it is chronic there is no need to worry. The treatment will be prolonged to a few more weeks, and you will need to be vigilant and regular in vet checkups and testing. Even after a chronic infection has cleared up, it is important to go for testing as it may return and be more resistant to medication.

Overall, if your dog has ear problems or any other health issue for that matter, your job is to regularly go to the vet and ensure you stick to any prescriptions rigidly.

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