Ear Problems In Dogs

Health care questions and answers about puppies and dogs

All about dog ear problems 
Questions and answers about ear problems in dogs

Every day in every animal hospital veterinarians examine dogs for ear problems.  A critical factor in the development of ear problems in dogs is the anatomy of the external ear tissues... the pinna (ear flap), outer ear tissues, and ear canal provide a perfect incubator for the growth of organisms.  Bacteria, yeast, allergies, excess sebaceous production from the skin lining the outer ear structures all play a role in ear problems in dogs.  And moisture in the ear canal can provide extra assist for micro-organism overgrowth. 

To learn about ear cleaner problems and how to clean a dog's ears, go here

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 I've heard Cocker Spaniels all get ear problems but I've always wanted to own one.  Is there anything I can do to prevent ear problems if I do decide to get a Cocker?  
     And why do some dogs get ear infections and others don't?

A normal, healthy dog ear...
A healthy, normal ear

Answer:    dog ear problems... prevention... why occur
Fortunately not all Cockers have ear problems; but, many do.  There are a number of issues that promote infections in external ear tissues.  (The internal ear structures are those beyond the ear drum and can be seriously affected if the ear drum isAn immune mediated skin and ear problem ruptured.)  Many breeds tend to have oily skin and coats.  The ear tissues including the canal is lined with very thin skin; sebaceous glands pour sebum ("oil") onto the surface and if too much sebum is produced it collects and becomes invaded by yeast and bacteria.  Add a little moisture from bathing, swimming, or ear "cleaners" and any organisms present reproduce even faster!
     Many dogs can swim, bathe and do all sorts of things and yet never have ear problems; others simply are prone to infections, scar tissue buildup, ulceration and discomfort due to anatomy, genetic predisposition, excess sebum production and innate immune competence.
     As with all things relating to optimal health, a proper diet can assist any dog in resisting infections of all sorts.  Placing cotton in the ears can help eliminate water and soap from contacting ear tissues while bathing, and gentle removal of any waxy/oily buildup in the outer ear tissues removes material in which infectious organisms thrive.   

Doctor's Notes
     The persistent use of "ear cleaners" in ears that are already cleaned of debris has been associated with chronic otitis in some dogs.  Routinely flooding the ear canal with ear cleaners when they aren't needed should be avoided.
Do not...
     use "ear medications" or home remedies without advice from your veterinarian.  If there's a problem and the ear drum is damaged the dog's difficulties will surely be compounded!

Microscopic aspects of otitis...
Your veterinarian may swab an infected ear, put the material onto a glass slide, stain the specimen, and look for types and numbers of infective organisms such as yeast and bacteria

How to clean a dog's ears, go here.

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Go to VeterinaryMedicalImages.com to see a number of photos of dogs and cats with various conditions and diseases.  View x-rays (radiographs), surgery images and parasites, too.

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Click on an image to view a larger version in a new window

dog ears waxy dog ear infection dog ear infection dog ear cleaner
Dark waxy material can be 
gently wiped away with
 a Q-tip or cotton swab
This ear has thick, fibrous scar
 tissue building up due
 to chronic inflammation 
Moist infections are common in dogs with scarred and hyperplastic (means overgrowth) ear tissues  Sudden inflammatory reaction in the ear tissues shortly after application 
of an "ear cleaner"

dog ear debris Proper placement of ear medications is important dog ear inflammation dog ear canal surgery
Oily, waxy material from hypersecretion of sebum often signals a low grade stress from bacteria, yeast or allergens This image shows the correct
 placement of medications that 
need to go into the ear canal 
The reddened and thickened outer ear tissues indicate a probable 
allergy and/or yeast infection
This image shows a surgery patient after a Lateral Ear Canal Resection that exposes the horizontal portion of the ear canal

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  My 7 year old Airedale has had a chronic ear infection for over 2 years and we just can't get it to clear up and stay cleared up.  
     Antibiotics orally and topically, ear cultures, flushes, drying agents and even some holistic treatments only work for a few weeks.  Is there anything we can do to eliminate this infection?  The other ear has been normal.


Answer:   ear infection... chronic otitis... what to do
Assuming your veterinarian has checked your dog's ear canal with an otoscope toLT - 031610 - 125x125 F&T be certain there is no foreign matter deep in the canal, or polyps, folds or tumors, it may be time to consider surgery to open the ear canal to allow exposure to the air.
     Often in chronic cases there is a foreign body, polyp, or even a tumor that obstructs the canal and predisposes the ear to long term infection.  The longer the stresses to ear tissues continues the more inflammation causes swelling and scar tissue buildup.  Finally there is such anatomical changes that no medication... oral or topical... that will correct the problem.  
     Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a surgeon who had done the Lateral Ear Canal Resection procedure.  The surgeon will go over the medical history, examine your dog, and make a suggestion regarding the expected benefits of the surgery.
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