Let’s face it, dogs get their ears wet in lots of situations, whether they’re leaping with abandon into a smelly pond, frolicking in sea waves or getting a good bath at home (usually for being getting covered in mud and dirt).
When it comes to ears, there basically two types; ones that stick up like the terrier or German shepherd, or ones that are floppy, like the spaniel and bloodhound. Whilst both types of ears can be prone to infection, the floppy ones are more susceptible. This is because they effectively block the exit of the ear canal which leads to increased heat and moisture accumulation… the two things that yeast and bacteria just love to make a cosy abode.
Unlike human ears which just have a horizontal canal before you hit the eardrum, dogs ears have both a vertical and horizontal canal with quite a good 45-degree bend in between. Debris, wax, and general mush can get stuck leading to inflammation and ultimately fibrotic narrowing of this juncture. This in turn means the horizontal canal no longer has any clean external ‘air’ entering it, which can quickly lead to chronic mid-ear and inner-ear infections.
If your dog does get an infection, the main signs you will see are: head shaking, scratching, a foul odour and even a discharge. If you notice any of the above signs, see your vet straight away.
So, how can you prevent these infections in the first place? The trick is simple: dry the ears thoroughly every time they get wet and carry out a bi-monthly ear cleaning regime.
Drying and cleaning your dog’s ear:
– Use a towel to dry the outside of the ear.
– Use a cotton pad (slightly larger than the ear canal) or round makeup remover pads to clean out the inner part of the ear flap, starting at the canal exit and moving upwards. Add some ear cleanser to the cotton but do not soak it.
– Gently lift the ear upwards (this straightens out the ‘bend’) as you do this. Never push anything into the ear and do not use cotton buds.
– Once the ear debris is clear, add 2-3 drops of ear cleanser to the ear canal and allow it to enter the ear. Then apply firm but gentle pressure around the ear base (you should hear a ‘squishy’ sound) to mix it well.
Use a cotton pad to remove any excess liquid. If your dog shows any type of pain response in this last step (or before), then it could be the beginning of an ear infection.
The key to having healthy ears is prevention (as most things are in life!). If you ensure your dog’s ears are dried properly after every wet excursion and carry out a bi-monthly routine ear cleansing, your pet is highly unlikely to ever have a problem; and if they do, you will spot it early and have it treated swiftly by your veterinarian.
Veterinarian and Co-founder of MedicAnimal