Understanding common ear problems

Ears are a vital part of the body – they not only help in hearing, they also maintain the balance. Hence, it is very important to take care of your
pooch’s ears.

Kritika Manchanda

Kritika Manchanda

The canine ear is divided into three parts – the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The most common ear problems in dogs are caused by parasites, foreign bodies, climatic conditions and allergies.
Causes of ear problems…
Parasites cause extreme irritation and itching in dogs. Fleas are havoc for pets and indirectly for pet parents. Some fleas live on the outside of a dog’s ear flap and cause tissue erosion, in addition to intense itchiness, which leads to scratching and self-inflicted wounds.
Mites, such as otodectic, demodectic and/or sarcoptic mange mites, have a special fondness for the ear of your pet. They thrive in the warm moist area where the air flow is restricted, usually in the ear canals. They feed on epidermal debris and ear wax. In most cases, these are visible to the naked eye in the form of dark reddish brown or black debris throughout the ear canal. Ear mite infections can be serious, if left untreated, resulting in damage to the ear canals and eardrums. In extreme conditions, it can lead to deformity of the ears and even deafness.
Some ear problems occur due to excessively high temperature and high level of humidity. The inside area of the ear proves to be a perfect setting for the growth of yeast and bacteria. This can cause a number of adverse symptoms, including ears that are itchy, swollen, smelly, sore and painful.
Other causes of canine ear inflammation/infection can be fly or other insect bites, wounds from animal fights, ticks, polyps, tumours of the wax-producing glands in the ear canal or other forms of cancer of the ear. Ear tissues can also be damaged by a dog’s nails, as they try to relieve itching by vigorous scratching. The main symptom of any kind of ear infection is frequent head shaking and constant itching.

Dr. Aradhana

Dr. Aradhana

Breed-specific ear problems…
Dogs with long, low-set and low-hanging ears such as the Cocker Spaniel, Bassett Hound and Bloodhound tend to develop various types of ear infections. Dr Aradhana Pandey, a specialist in canine clinical medicine, pet grooming, pet nutrition and behaviour, adds that ear infections and inflammations are also common in dogs with narrow ear canal like Pugs. For breeds who have erect ears like German Shepherd, getting water in their ears while bathing is a common problem which can later lead to discomfort.
While, Dr Pavan Kumar from Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru, adds that German Shepherd has a higher risk of ‘otitis externa’ as compared to other breeds; Basset Hound and Cocker Spaniel have higher risk of ear haematoma, whereas White Boxer and Dalmatian
are seen in a large number of incidences of deafness.
Ear problems…
Apart from these parasitic and allergic infections, the other ear problems include: canine vestibular syndrome, masses within the ear, haematoma
and otitis.
Canine Vestibular Syndrome: This disorder usually occurs in old dogs, but there can be cases where

Dr Neelima

Dr Neelima

even the young and middle-aged dogs can get affected by it. Canine Vestibular Syndrome (CVS) is a condition which develops due to inflammation of the nerves connecting the cerebellum (part of the brain) to the inner ear. According to Dr Aradhana, the dogs suffering from this disorder tilt their head in one direction that may vary from a slight tilt to complete head bending that can lead to sudden loss of balance. The main symptoms include balance problems, vomiting and difficulty in eating or drinking.
As cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls balance, some dogs are unable to stand properly due to loss of balance. Nausea and Nystagmus (rhythmic eye motion) are also common symptoms. Some dogs can also face problem in eating and drinking from their bowls because of balancing problems.
Dr Neelima Paranjpe, surgeon, and leading vet consultant from Mumbai, adds that CVS can occur in two ways. First being the peripheral way, which is more common and the second being the central. Since this problem affects a nerve, the effect can be seen at either ends of the nerve. If it is peripheral, it affects the inner and the middle ear and if it is central then the effect is mainly seen at the other end of the nerve. Talking about the detection procedure, Dr Neelima suggested that MRI (Magnetic Resonant Imaging) is the best way to detect this problem as it gives effective results and the accuracy
is also high.
On asking upon how severely does it affect the canine and what are the chances of a dog to fully recover from CVS, Dr Aradhana replies that the recovery totally depends on the severity of the damage that has been done to the brain. If the damage to the brain is minimal then recovery may occur quickly. If the damage is severe, recovery may not occur at all. In cases when dogs do not recover fully from vestibular syndrome, they normally have a good life. They adjust to residual problems like head tilts and do not seem to be bothered at all by them. She also says that in her practice she has most commonly encountered CVS in Pugs.
Masses Within the Ear: This disorder can be caused by a benign or cancerous growth within the ear. The cause of the development of the mass is generally not known. Often these masses can lead to impaired hearing, irritation, infection, or neurological problems.
Haematoma: It usually occurs when a dog continually shakes his ears to try to get rid of the itching and irritation caused by mites. Due to excessive head shaking, sometimes the tissues get damaged, blood leaks into the tissues and a haematoma type bubble appears on the ear. Speaking to Dr Neelima Paranjpe, we found that Haematoma is nothing but collection of blood within the ear. She explained that there is a layer of cartilage which is made up of a number of capillaries, between the external layer of the skin and the internal layer. Due to extensive shaking of head or constant rigorous movement these capillaries break and as a result blood starts oozing out. The blood starts collecting between the skin and the cartilage, which cannot be seen by the pet parent. In simple words it can also be termed as haemorrhage.
Dr Neelima suggests two ways to treat the problem of Haematoma. The first one being surgery, wherein the internal wound is cut open in a surgical process. The healing takes about 10 to 15 days. The problem with the surgery is that the pet parent has to take extra care of the pet post surgery. Dogs tend to shake their head and get irritated with the stitches and as a result keep itching or scratching their ears. The second option is homeopathy treatment. The treatment takes up to two months to completely heal the ear but the best part is that this method of treatment is totally pain free. The patients who adjust to the extra weight in the ear due to collection of blood are given this form of treatment whereas the ones who tend to become uncomfortable with the added weight are treated surgically.
Otitis: Otitis means inflammation of ear (redness, pain, swelling, heat and loss of function). It causes the ear to become inflamed as a result of a food allergy, plant allergy or an allergic reaction to a parasite such as an ear mite or sarcoptic mange mite. The most common causes of Otitis inflammation are allergies, yeast/bacterial/fungal infections, parasites and stenosis. Depending on which part of the ear is affected it is referred as Otitis Externa (external ear), Otitis Media (middle ear) and Otitis Interna (internal ear).

Easy ear care tips…

  • Make sure you take extra care while cleaning your dog’s ears and do not insert any foreign body or any sharp object into their ears.
  • Do not pour any solution into the ear canal without consulting the vet.
  • If you want to clean the ears at home, always use a cotton ball and the solution suggested by the vet.
  • Be very patient and gentle, because even a little carelessness can lead to serious damage to your pet’s ears.
  • It is a good option to get some help if your pet is really active and is not cooperating.
  • You can also get your pooch’s ears cleaned by a professional.
  • Keep the sessions short so as not to stress out the pet.
  • Treat your pet after he cooperates with you in the cleaning session.
  • If the ear drops are prescribed, learn the technique to put them from your vet.
  • After you give ear drops you should always give some treats to your pet, so that he does not fear the next session and cooperates with you.

(With inputs from Dr Aradhana Pandey, Doggy World, New Delhi; Dr Pavan Kumar, Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru and Dr Neelima Paranjpe, Pluto Pet Clinic, Mumbai.)

dog health

Understanding fleas for better control

The word ‘fleas’ often gives us nightmares – they can make life miserable for our furry friends. Since life cycle of fleas is complex, it is important to know about their life cycle to get rid of them.

The risks…dog health

Fleas are cosmopolitan ectoparasites with a large variety of hosts. For companion animals and humans, the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis and the dog flea Ctenocephalides canis represent the most important species worldwide. Apart from causing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), the ability of fleas to function as vectors for disease pathogens, such as Rickettsia & Bartonella spp. bacteria, Dipylidium caninum (dog tape worm) and some viral pathogens is gaining attention. Consequently flea control with highly efficient ectoparasiticides supports prevention of the direct effects of flea infestation on the pet and reduces the risk of transmission of flea-borne diseases to both pets and humans.

Anatomy of fleas…

Fleas are small (1/16 to 1/8-inch long), agile, usually dark coloured, wingless insects with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm). This is around 200 times their own body length, making them one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.

Flea control depends on their life cycle…

In order to understand how and why treatment options work, one must first understand the flea’s life cycle, since the various modern treatment and prevention products work on different parts of this life cycle. The flea developmental cycle can be completed in as little as 14 days or last up to 140 days, depending mainly on temperature and humidity.

Life cycle of fleas…

There are several stages to its life cycle: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or cocoon, and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle varies depending upon the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and the availability of a nourishing host. Yes… the various flea stages are quite resistant to freezing temperatures. The flea’s host is a warm-blooded animal such as a dog or cat (or even humans!). The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet. During this time period, she will suck the animal’s blood two to three times and lay twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs fall off of the pet into the yard, bedding, carpet, and wherever else the animal spends time.

These eggs then proceed to develop where they have landed. Since they are about 1/12th the size of the adult, they can even develop in small cracks in the floor and between crevices in carpeting. The egg then hatches into larvae. These tiny worm-like larvae live among the carpet fibers, in cracks of the floor, and outside in the environment. They feed on organic matter, skin scales, and even the blood-rich adult flea faeces. Larvae can ingest tapeworm eggs which develop into adult in the adult fleas, which then becomes the carrier for tapeworm transfer to dogs if ingested.

The larvae grow, molt twice and then form a cocoon and pupate, waiting for the right time to hatch into an adult. These pupae are very resilient and are protected by their cocoon. Pupae can survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions and host availability are just right. Then they emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide, all of which indicate that a host is nearby. The newly emerged adult flea can jump onto a nearby host immediately. Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days.

(Dr Mandar Deshpande, Business Manager & Dr Vishal Surve, Product Manager, Companion Animal Products, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd).

Understanding aggression in dogs

Like humans, dogs too have a personality of their own and their behaviour is often  determined by various internal and external factors and aggression is no exception. 

Out of the entire range of canine behavioural traits, aggression is one characteristic, which is by far the most misunderstood and mishandled by humans. For many ‘supposed’ animal lovers, signs of aggression or ferocity have often caused them to resort inhumane practices, such as abandonment, eliminating the incisors and even euthanasia. Then there are people who prefer to keep a distance from anything that looks dog-like. They mostly dread the idea of a dog getting close to them and commonly believe, that all dogs do, is chase and bite people. The fact is that dogs have better things to do in life than chase and bite people all day long. With relevance to the former case, it has to be learnt and recognized that there may be certain physical and psychological factors underlying aggressive behaviour in a dog.
Most people, unfortunately, remain unaware of the existence and outcomes of these factors due to the lack of appropriate education on dog psychology and behaviour. The knowledge of this would help a great deal in avoiding uncomfortable and unsafe situations for the family of the pet, for the animal herself and of course, a complaining neighbourhood.
The foremost thing to learn and understand about dogs is that, they too have personalities of their own. In this regard, it is also important to note that, each dog has a distinct personality, depending on the environment in which she has been allowed to mature. The conduciveness of this environment to the psychological and physical well being of the pooch, is what will determine the possibilities of her displaying varied forms of aggression. A proper recognition of these, go a long way in assisting a healthy co-existence between humans and their canine companions.
Protection: The sense of ‘protection’ is a very common instigator of aggressive behaviour. Dogs have a strong tendency to protect things that they find valuable, such as their food, toys, territory and even their human family members. This kind of aggression is in most cases directed towards strangers, (who, according to dogs, might snatch away or harm their valuable possessions) and normally protects houses from robbers or burglars. Dogs find growling or barking as their only protective weapons.
Fear or anxiety: Dogs and all other animals, are naturally fearful and apprehensive of things, environments and situations, which they are unfamiliar to. These unfamiliar things are often considered to have the potential of being threatening. For example, any dog who has grown up in a quiet and peaceful household, will feel startled and threatened amongst noisy, rowdy or overly active people. In such a case, a dog may bark or pounce to drive the chaos away and defend herself and her human family. From a dog’s point of view therefore, if the behaviour of an otherwise friendly passerby looks threatening or frightening, there is all the reason to act for the purpose of protection.
Ill-treatment: Closely associated with the above mentioned factor, is aggression deriving from ‘ill-treatment.’ In a case where the dog is frequently beaten or hit for varied reasons, the dog might one day begin retaliating through ferocious behaviour, due to the fear of being hurt again. It is, thus, common to see that people who are harsh with their pets usually have dogs who are aggressive in nature.
Maternal instinct: Maternal aggression is commonly observed in female dogs two to four weeks after they have given birth and derives again, from a sense of insecurity and fear. Even the most docile and friendly dog is most likely to display maternal aggression if she has the slightest intuition that her babies might be at risk. It is most advisable, therefore, to restrict any visitors to get a look at, let alone touching, those ‘Oh! So adorable!’ bundles of cuteness for the first few weeks. As far as stray mothers are concerned, it is best for doggy lovers to prepare a cosy and safe place for her and the babies in some corner in a lane, not forgetting to keep a safe distance.
Frustration: It can originate from various factors, prominent amongst them being long hours of confinement and chaining. Besides, certain ‘playing’ methods of pet parents also bother dogs. Imagine someone shaking you up while you are in deep sleep, or someone blowing air in your face, or tickling, poking or trying to stuff you in a pillowcase! One must realize that a dog too has ‘limits,’ a concept that people, mostly children, ignore when it comes to animals. This disregard is most likely to result in a rebellious response from the canine and the only way that she can express this defiance is through a show of aggression.
Play-fighting: As far as ‘play fighting’ between dogs and humans is concerned, it is symbolic of an affectionate exchange of fondness and trust. Here, we may slap and pull or grab our dogs playfully, while they playfully bite or tug our hands or clothes. ‘Play bites’ are extremely inhibited and harmless. Young dogs, however, who are still learning how to inhibit their bites while playing, might at times, unintentionally bite hard. This, by all means, must not be considered as an act of aggression, as it is nothing more than an innocent effort to return your affection.
Pain or sickness: A sick or injured dog often turns irritable and snappy. Snapping, showing of teeth or growling, however, are no more than warnings saying ‘do not touch!’ It is not surprising, therefore, for an otherwise gentle dog to bite a caring owner who is trying to examine, treat or soothe a wound or injury.
Old age: It is common for an aged dog to acquire certain age related medical problems such as impaired vision and hearing or a diminished sense of smell. As a result of confusion caused by these, a dog may not be quick in recognizing and accepting people or situations. Consequently, they tend to get startled and irritated quickly at being approached or handled too often. These reactions also have to do with another trait that is associated with the elderly, including those amongst humans, is the ‘lack of patience.’ We, therefore, see old dogs becoming snappy and less tolerant towards active puppies and ‘over-enthusiastic’ human lovers. Besides these factors, other age related problems such as arthritis also cause great discomfort and pain in old dogs, making a dog less friendly and intolerant.
Dominance: The victims here are usually the pet owners who, from the dog’s point of view, are the subordinates in the ‘pack.’ Obviously then, the dog considers herself to be the leader of the pack, or in literal terms, the leader or head of the family. The fact is that a dog is a pack animal and by natural instincts, will try to establish dominance within any pack that she belongs to. For pet dogs, the owning family, along with the other household pets, form the pack. What’s interesting, is that it is the owners’ behaviour towards the dog, which will determine the development of dominance aggression. If the owners have a habit of feeding the dog before they eat themselves, or allow him to sleep on their own beds, or submit at one bark of demand; the dog will establish a higher rank in the household and begin commanding wishes through a show of dominance aggression.
Redirected aggression: Here, a dog might attack his owner, a stranger or another animal because she is already enraged by another source or in another context. The most common example of this form of aggression is when a man, who is trying to break a fight between two dogs, grabs at the dogs’ collars, tails or legs in the process. The agitated dog will most probably throw a bite at the ‘interfering’ source, without realising who that source is and many times, even considering it a part of the other dog.
So, the next time you see your dog showing aggressive behaviour, try to understand the underlying cause, before labelling her as an aggressive dog. Remember, such behaviour can be controlled with the help of proper training.

Dog health

Understanding canine Hip Dysplasia

It’s very disheartening to see our loving pal suffer from canine hip dysplasia, which causes discomfort and mobility problems. Here are a few ways to improve or eliminate its symptoms.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is the most common development disorder of the hip joint, characterized by abnormal development of the hip joint. It usually occurs in both hind limbs, affecting both hip joints. Its effect ranges from very mild lameness to a crippling disease. Lameness may appear at any age.

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition and breeding of affected animals should be discouraged. The best way is to breed dogs with disease free joints based on radiographic evaluation and who have come from families with disease free joints. Do not breed dogs whose offspring have hip dysplasia. Dogs with hip dysplasia can produce normal pups and normal looking dogs can produce hip dysplastic pups.

How it occurs?Dog health

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The ball (the top portion of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a socket formed by the bones of the hip called the pelvis. In hip dysplasia, there is a loose and improper fit between the socket and the femur, the ligaments which hold them together also become loose, hence causing the ball to slide out of the socket partially in the initial stages (subluxation) and completely in long standing cases. When this occurs repeatedly, the ball gets worn out unevenly, causing erosions on its surface and exposing the underlying bone. Subsequently, bony proliferations occur (osteophytes) eventually resulting in degeneration of the hip joint (Osteoarthritis) and the dog becomes painful, lame and weak in the affected limb.

It is caused by multifactorial-genetics (polygenic-caused by many different genes), environment and nutrition (increased calcium and/or high calorie intake). However, the development of the disease is influenced by body weight, size and rapid growth patterns.

What are the clinical signs?

There are two types of clinical signs :

  • Young dogs who are between 5-8 months exhibit sudden decrease in activity, sore hindquarters, difficulty in rising and reluctant to walk or climb stairs. Initially, it may be noticed once in a while but will begin to get worse over time.
  • Older dogs show intermittent or continuous hind limb lameness after exertion, prefer to sit than stand, stiffness or difficulty in rising, reluctance to run and jump, short choppy steps of the hind limbs, loose or waddling gait, bunny-hopping when running and painful hip joint with decreased range of motion of hip. Shoulder muscles are stronger and thigh muscles are weak. Lameness and pain is usually due to secondary degenerative joint disease (DJD) and osteoarthritis.

How can it be diagnosed?

  • Physical examination : Laxity (excessive looseness of the hip), pain and/or crepitus (caused by rubbing of bony ends) of the hip joints.
  • Radiography : X-rays are taken to see the fit of the femur and pelvis and to look for bony changes in the hip joint. This is done under sedation. The severity of clinical signs often does not correlate with the severity of radiographic signs. Special radiographic procedures are also available to hip joints. Radiographic changes are seen between 6-18 months after which the disease progression is slow. They are graded by the principles laid down by the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) as borderline, mild, moderate and severe based on the radiographic evidence of damage to the hip joints. Another method of evaluation is a Penn Hip distraction method. Please consult your vet for further details of these procedures.

Radiographs are done to screen for presence or absence of hip dysplasia to select dogs who are suitable for breeding.

How can it be treated?

There is no cure but your dog’s pain and lameness can be managed by following certain conservative management procedures :

  • Restricting activity by limiting exercise to several regular 10 minute walks a day on a leash only for 6 weeks. Confinement to a small cage which encouraged the young pup to sit with his hind limbs spread was shown to reduce the incidence of CHD in genetically susceptible pups. 
  • Physiotherapy: Passive flexion and extension of hind limbs over a range of motion and distal to proximal massage helps prevent joint stiffness and reduces wasting of hind quarter muscles. 
  • Weight loss is absolutely essential for overweight and obese dogs. (To determine ideal body weight for each breed, consult your vet.) 
  • A restricted feeding programme during the rapid growth phase in suspected dogs. 
  • Pain control with analgesics: Consult your vet for the appropriate drug and dosage regimen. Do not selfmedicate. 
  • Chondroprotectives like glucosamine and chondroitin can be used. 
  • Acupuncture/shortwave diathermy/therapeutic ultrasound may give temporary relief from pain. 
  • Swimming is also useful – the aim being to build up muscle mass to support the hips. 
  • Surgical therapy: Surgery may be necessary if signs are severe and unresponsive to medical therapy or chronic in nature. 
  • In young patients, Pectineal myectomy (cutting the pectineus muscle) is an alternative to allow temporary pain relief. 
  • Triple pelvic osteotomy (cutting the bones of pelvis, rotating and fixing with special bone plates) are best performed before hip joint changes occur and is performed before the dog reaches skeletal maturity (usually within one year). 
  • Total hip replacements are indicated in skeletally mature animals with severe painful disease. 
  • Femoral head and neck arthroplasty: Surgical removal of femoral head and neck results in a false joint and pain free movement of hip. Best suited for dogs less than 25 kg. It is a common procedure that can be done with minimal instrumentation and gives good results.

(Dr. S. Ayyappan, M.V.Sc; Ph.D, F.ASIF (Swiss) has a Certificate in Canine Orthopedics (Swiss) and a Post Doc in Veterinary Surgery (USA). He can be contacted at: 9841249129/26475988,

-Dr. S. Ayyappan


Did you know?

  • Canine hip dysplasia was first reported in 1935.
  • It is mostly seen in giant/large breed dogs like German Shepherds, Retrievers, St. Bernards, Labradors, etc.
  • Hip dysplasia can never be cured but clinical signs may be improved or eliminated with medical or surgical therapy.
  • The clinical signs may go through periods of exacerbation or remission throughout the animal’s life.

Understanding canine Strokes

One day he’s normal. The next he’s walking funny, eating funny, or losing his balance. There’s a possibility he may have had a stroke. Once considered a rare occurrence, canine strokes are now more frequently diagnosed, thanks in part to advances in neuro-imaging. But don’t confuse the word “stroke” with “heat stroke.” Although related, a “stroke” involves the obstruction or rupture of blood vessels in the brain. And because the brain controls the entire body, a stroke can impact your dog in a number of ways.

What is a stroke?

Like in humans, a dog’s brain relies on a constant supply of blood, which brings oxygen and nutrients and removes waste products. A stroke interrupts this blood flow either through:

  • A blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
  • The bleeding of ruptured blood vessels (hemorrhage) in the brain.

Either instance may result in the death of brain tissue. In addition, dogs sometimes experience “mini strokes” where the blood flow is only cut off for a short amount of time, causing less immediate damage. However, this could be a warning sign that a larger stroke may be around the corner.

Identifying a stroke

Common signs may include a lack of recognition of sensory stimuli on one side of your dog’s brain, resulting in his eating out of only one side of his dish or turning his head to the wrong side when his name is called. He may also have head tilt or turn, loss of balance, blindness, circling, and falling. Of course, these signs may be indicators of other brain conditions, too. If you notice any of these symptoms, have your pet examined by your vet immediately for a proper diagnosis.

What causes canine strokes?

Common causes of strokes in dogs include thyroid conditions, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, arterial diseases, diabetes, blood clotting diseases, heart disease, high blood pressure, bleeding from a brain tumor, and bleeding from head trauma.

Treatment options

Once your dog has had a stroke, there is no specific treatment that can repair the damage done to his brain. Your vet will focus on identifying a potential cause for the stroke in an attempt to prevent another one from happening. Most dogs tend to recover within a few weeks of having a stroke, depending on the location where the stroke affected his brain and the severity of the stroke.