Dogs have great ears. Your dog can hear sounds over a wider range of frequencies and at a greater distance than you. Unfortunately, dogs pay a price for their superior hearing abilities. A dog’s ear design contributes both to his advanced hearing and to many ear problems he may experience. Ear mites, infections and aural hematoma are the most common conditions. Read on to discover the symptoms of ear disorders in dogs and how to prevent and treat them.
Also called ear mange, ear mites (otodectes cynotis) are tiny crab-like parasites that live in the ear canals, and sometimes on the body of dogs. They feed on earwax and other secretions in the ear canal. Ear mites do not usually bite, but they can cause a bacterial infection or severe inflammation in your dog’s ears.
Symptoms: If your dog is suffering from ear mites, you may find he excessively shakes or tilts his head; or rubs and scratches his ears. You may also notice hair loss around his ears or odor emanating from within his ear canal. To check for ear mites, look inside your dog’s ears for a thick, dark brown substance. Mites can sometimes be seen as small, white moving dots.
Prevention and Treatment: Ear mites are very common, and very contagious, so it is best to keep your dog away from other dogs – or any furry animal – who suffers from them. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, take him to the veterinarian. Ear mites can be persistent, but they are easy to diagnose and you can treat your dog at home. Your veterinarian will clean out your dog’s ears and prescribe anti-mite eardrops. It usually takes four-to-six weeks of treatment to effectively eliminate the mites.
Ear infections are common in dogs – especially dogs with floppy ears – and can be caused by the following factors:
- Trapped foreign bodies, especially the seedpods of common weeds.
- Use of eardrops or cleansers that irritate the ears.
- Health problems such as hormonal imbalance, allergies and food intolerance.
- High humidity and swimming, which can leave your dog’s ears moist and create a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
Symptoms: If your dog has an ear infection, he may scratch at his ears or shake his head. You may also find that he has debris or unpleasant-smelling discharge in his ear canal or on his ear flaps, or that his ears are red and hot.
Prevention and Treatment: Keep your dog’s ears dry, and check and clean them once per week. Ask your vet to show you how. If you think your dog may have an ear infection, take him to the vet as soon as possible. Ear infections in dogs are painful, and if left untreated they can spread to the middle and inner ear and cause serious damage. Depending on the seriousness of the infection, your vet will either prescribe antibiotics or simply clean the ear out with solutions.
If your dog shakes his head and ears excessively, due to a problem on the inside, he may develop a hematoma. A hematoma is the result of a blood vessel breaking in the earflap. Symptoms: If your dog develops a hematoma, his earflap will swell noticeably and feel hot to the touch.
Prevention and Treatment: A hematoma is painful and although it will heal on its own, it is wise to take your dog to the vet. Your vet can lance the area to relieve the pressure and let the healing begin. The surgery may also prevent ridging and scarring on the earflap, which may result if you let the hematoma heal on its own.
Ear problems, especially infections, in dogs can be hard to eradicate – but usually because people are not good at following the treatment procedure. Sometimes ear infections require several visits to the vet, and a change of medication. It is very important to ensure that you follow your vet’s recommendations, and continue to bring your dog in for check-ups until the problem is completely eliminated.