DOG EAR PROBLEMS
The inside lining of the ear is normally smooth with a small amount of wax buildup. Many problems can cause the ears to become irritated, inflamed, or infected. Any of these conditions left untreated can lead to more complicated problems, including inner ear infections, hearing loss, and hematomas.
A hematoma occurs when blood vessels rupture in the ear flap and cause a big swollen ear. Abscess formation within the brain is a potential risk with long-term bacterial ear infections. Most dogs let you know their ears are uncomfortable by scratching, shaking, or tilting their heads. Breeds with long floppy ears and narrow ear canals, like Cocker Spaniels, are especially at risk as well as dogs that are swimmers and those that live in warm, humid environments. Vets often use terms like “cocker ear” and “swimmer’s ear” to describe ear problems in these dogs.
* Itchy, red irritated ears.
* Unpleasant ear odor.
* Brown, black, or yellowish discharge from ears.
* Ear mites are most common in adult cats and puppies. These microscopic mites have hairs on their body that irritate the ears. They are also responsible for the itching and the dark brown coffee-like residue. Mites live their entire life cycle within the ear but are contagious and can be spread to other pets in your home. Check all the animals in your home once mites are diagnosed.
* Inhalant allergies to pollen, mold, dust, tobacco smoke, etc. are very common in dogs. In addition to itching their ears, many dogs also lick their feet and rub their faces. Ear infections associated with these allergies often recur until the underlying cause of the allergy is determined and treated.
* Flea allergies can occasionally involve the ears.
* Small numbers of yeast normally live in the ear. Large numbers cause a yellowish, smelly, waxy buildup. Dark, deep ear canals with minimal airflow promote an ideal environment for yeast to flourish.
* Bacteria often infect the ears. Bacterial ear infections generally result in a painful smelly pus-type discharge.
* Trauma to the ear from foreign materials like plant seeds or even over-aggressive ear cleaning can also result in painful inflamed ears.
(NOTE: An otoscope is designed (and illuminated) to allow complete examination of the ear canal.)
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* Your vet will examine a sample of the ear discharge under the microscope. This is called a cytology and will identify the cause of the problem. The most effective treatment will be determined according to whether bacteria, yeast, or mites are present. For long-term and/or recurrent ear infections, a culture of the ear discharge pinpoints the exact type or types of organisms present. The laboratory can also determine the medication best suited to eliminate the organism and cure the infection.
* Calendula makes an effective ear cleaning solution. Put one teaspoon of Calendula along with half a teaspoon of sea salt into one cup of water. Squirt the cleaner into each ear canal and massage for five to ten seconds. Use a cotton ball or piece of gauze to remove the debris.
* Mixing equal parts of white vinegar and water also makes a good ear cleaning solution.
* The ear infection is cleared once the residue is gone, along with the odor and discomfort. After that, cleaning out your dog’s ears once a week helps prevent recurrences and allows early detection of new problems. Never clean any deeper than you can see and avoid Q-tips.
“Milbemycin” is the active ingredient in the product Sentinel, a monthly tablet labeled for prevention of heartworms, fleas, intestinal worms, and ear mites. Selamectin is a new monthly product approved in dogs (and cats) and is effective against ear mites, sarcoptic mange, heartworm and fleas.
If your dog continually scratches and shakes its head because of an ear infection, the blood vessels in the outer flap of his ear can be damaged. Blood will leak into the ear flap and causes a large swollen ear called an Aural Hematoma.
Treatment involves surgery to drain out the blood. The key is trying to prevent the ear form refilling which is difficult and recurrences are common. Surgery is generally indicated to remove ear tumors and polyps.
For recurrent severe infections or excess wax, use Silicea 30c: two whole or three crushed pellets every 12 hours for three treatments. Allow no food 30 minutes before or after treatment. Wait one month, then reassess.
For allergic, red, irritated ears try Pulsatilla 6c (windflower): one pellet every third day for 30 days. Allow no food 10 minutes before or after treatment. In chronic cases your vet may recommend Tellurium 30c. The usual dosage is one tablet twice daily for three days, then once a week until the ears are healed.