Common Sources of Ear Problems in Dogs
By John Gilpatrick –
The discomfort that comes when you have an earache hardly needs elaboration, but imagine for a minute that your ear — inflamed and filled with water or wax — can’t be cleaned or improved by your own hand. You can’t voice your pain or your need for help, either. All you can do is shake your head back and forth over and over until someone notices, diagnoses the problem and administers what is necessary to nurse you back to health. So is the life of your beloved dog when he or she comes down with an ear problem of some kind, and ear problems are extraordinarily common in dogs.
Dog’s Ear Canal
A dog’s external ear canal, where most problems occur, is longer and more vertical than a human’s, making it easier for something like water to make it into the ear canal and stay there. Additionally, a dog’s ear canal is lined with skin and contain glands and hair follicles (just like the skin on the outside of its body), making its ears prone to the same kind of irritants that affect its paws, legs, back and head.
(Dr. Christine Cain, DVM and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Dermatology & Allergy Service.)
7 Common Dog Ear Problems
Allergies: The most common cause of dog ear problems is an allergic reaction of some sort. Allergies can be caused by food ingredients or environmental irritants such as pollen or dust. Itchy, inflamed ears and paws are symptoms of an allergy. Switch to a low-allergen food that does not contain wheat, soy or corn. Often, switching to a higher quality dog food reduces allergic reaction ear problems. Keep the environment as dust free and clean as possible.
Ear Infections: If you have a drop-eared dog, ear infection may be on ongoing problem. The warm, moist environment created by the fold in the ear flap is ideal for bacterial growth. Yeast and bacterial growth will cause odor in the ears. If the infection is confined to one ear, your dog may tilt her head in an attempt to equalize pressure. The ears may feel warm to the touch.
Debris in ears: Foxtails, plant awns and other debris can get inside a dog ear. Look inside your dog’s ear with a flashlight; debris can wedge itself quite deeply. Do not insert anything inside your dog’s ear-you may cause further damage.
Parasites: Ear pain and itching associated with parasites can cause ear problems in your dog; tick bites, mites and fleas can cause swelling, hair loss and crusty skin.
Trauma: An ear injury can cause swelling or a dog ear hematoma. An animal bite or other trauma can allow blood and fluid to accumulate between the cartilage and the skin of the ear flap. Even vigorous scratching or head shaking can cause this condition. The ear will become swollen and disfigured. An ear hematoma should be drained and surgically corrected. If untreated, the ear will be permanently disfigured.
Hormone Disorders: Certain hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism and adrenal malfunctions can cause ear problems. You may notice poor coat quality, behavioral changes and hair loss in addition to itchy, reddened skin around the ears.
Other Causes: In rare cases, ear problems are the result of a hereditary disorder such as dermatomyositis (a connective tissue disorder in Collies and Shelties) or seborrhea which causes hair loss and scaly skin. Cancerous condition such squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma may also affect the ears; check for darkened or scaly patches of hairless skin.