Take care of your dog’s ears

Take care of your dog’s ears
Highlights

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.

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.

Otitis externa, the inflammation of the outer ear canal is a most common presenting complaint in dogs. It is critical to remember that the term otitis externa means only inflammation of the ear canal, without implying any underlying cause; therefore, dogs with acute otitis externa treated symptomatically with no attempt to address causative factor(s) will likely experience recurrences of ear disease.

Unlike man, the dog ear canal has two components: a vertical part and a horizontal part that make cleaning of entire ear canal difficult at home.

Signs to watch - The skin that lines the outer ear often becomes red, itchy, and painful. Pus, waxy material, and other debris can accumulate. Ear Problems can cause head shaking, scratching and rubbing, a foul odor, abnormal behavior or even irritability, and hearing loss in long-term situations.

Otitis externa may be caused by organisms and foreign substances entering the ear canal from the external environment, the middle ear and Eustachian tube, or from the systemic circulation.

Certain factors predispose to otitis externa in the dog, such as anatomically pendulous ears; Narrowing of the ear canal; increased numbers of glands and hair follicles in the ear canal; chronic exposure to water (via swimming, etc.) and increased moisture in the ear canal; trauma; Allergies (e.g. Atopy, Food allergy, etc.) are also common causes of ear diseases in dogs.

After obtaining a complete medical history, your veterinarian can perform an ear exam in which a tiny light source or otoscope.

Your veterinarian may also gently swab inside the ears and examine the contents under a microscope to look for parasites, bacteria, yeast, fungi, and abnormal cells. In some cases, a small sample of skin (biopsy) can be removed. In very bad cases or recurrent cases special radiography tests (CT or computed tomography or MRI) may be advised.

Never insert anything (cotton-tipped swabs) into the ear canal. Cotton balls may be used for wiping dissolved wax and cleaning fluid from the inner surface of the pinna (ear flap), but cotton buds or tips only push debris back into the deeper parts of the canal, which is counterproductive and could be dangerous.

Visible improvement in comfort should be apparent within 24-48 hours of beginning treatment for otitis externa.

Head-shaking, rubbing of the ears on the ground, constant pawing or scratching at the ears, or signs of pain on touching the ears may indicate an ongoing disease process, and likely inflammation, in the ear.

Do not pluck hairs from your pet’s ears. This activity can traumatise the skin and lead to more inflammation, not less.

All cases should be rechecked periodically (10-14 days) to determine the response to treatment, and to watch for signs of recurrence.

Therapy should be continued for a long enough time period (2 or more weeks) to ensure the otitis does immediately recur, or persist as a chronic form of the disease.

If the dog fails to respond to initial therapy, then repetition of diagnostic tests is recommended to determine if the underlying cause was originally misdiagnosed or if the underlying cause has changed.

The key step in preventing acute otitis externa from becoming chronic is to determine what underlying disease induced the alterations and resolve or control this primary problem.

Aural Hematoma:
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.

By: Dr Kallahalli Umesh
The writer is a Waltham Scientific Communication Manager at Mars India

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