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Ears are one of the most sensitive organs in both humans and animals. Dogs suffer some kind of ear infection at some time. With proper cleaning a dogs ears and also taking proper measures to prevent any infections, you can provide your dog a better life ahead.
If you find your dog scratching and rubbing its ear frequently and shaking the head, no doubt it is suffering from some ear infection. The infected ear will also emit some bad odor. Otitis is the name given for the condition where there is inflammation inside the ear canal. Ear infections, if left unattended, can lead to hearing loss and is something that cannot be reverted at any cost.
Cleaning a dogs ears
Ear cleaning is the best method to treat and prevent ear infections in dogs. There are ear cleaning solutions available in the market for this purpose. The solution should be slightly acidic but should not harm the ear or ear drum of the pet. The acidic nature of the solution makes the bacterial or other infection causing organism’s growth impossible.
- For cleaning the dog’s ears, apply some of the solution into the ears and slowly massage the base of the ears.
- The dog’s ear canal is in the shape of L and the debris and other particles favor at the corner of the L. When we apply the solution it loosens the wax, debris etc.
- Excess fluid and the debris are wiped out using a cotton ball. Simple insert the cotton ball and let it absorb the solution along with the debris stuck to it. Repeat the process as many times until the cotton ball comes out clean.
- The process may have to be repeated 3 to several times a day depending on the severity of the infection.
- Care must be given while inserting the cotton ball so that it won’t hurt the ear canal.
- After cleaning inside wipe the exterior and upper areas of the ear as well. Later let it dry.
- Apply the ear medication, if any, after the ear is dry of the solution used.
Precautions while cleaning a dogs ears
- Use only appropriate sized cotton ball to wipe the ears. If the dog is smaller use smaller balls.
- Use the cotton ball as a barrier not allowing the fluid to go out of the canal as well as for absorbing the excess. Keep the cotton ball in place while massaging the other side so that the debris is sticking to the ball as it loosens.
- Continue cleaning as long as the pet co-operates or the cotton ball comes out cleaning.
- Do not use Q tips to clean the solution. The Q tips can push the debris further into the ear and will be difficult to clean out.
- Be gentle and patient with the pet. It may not co-operate with the actions and the process may take longer.
- Even though cleaning the ear may be done at home, for severe ear infection it is better to be done by a veterinarian as it can be painful for the dogs and might need anesthesia.
- Rewarding the pet for patiently sitting through the ordeal will encourage them to have it cleaned the next time.
- Do not force the dog to sit for the ordeal.
- Continue the cleaning process regularly for at least once a week even after the infection is treated.
- Never use alcoholic solutions, hydrogen peroxide etc to clean the ears as it can damage the ear drums and can irritate any inflamed skin tissues inside.
- Do not go deep into the ear canal as it can damage the inner ear. If the debris is deep inside seek a professional assistance than try doing it yourself.
- Remember to sanitize your hands before starting the cleaning process.
What causes the ear infections in Dogs?
- Allergies: Food allergy, flea allergy, and allergy towards pollens, dust, mites etc can cause ear infections.
- Bacteria invade the ear canal and cause infections which in most cases are a secondary infection. Frequent bathing and swimming makes the ear canal moist and prone to yeast and bacterial growth.
- Yeast is normally present in the body but when the immune system weakens, they flourish causing infections.
- Ear Parasites: There are many ear parasites that live inside the dog. They usually feed on the ear wax and oil in the ear canal. This will cause some inflammation and infection. It is very small and not found easily until there is a dark colored discharge from the ear.
- Hypothyroidism is the condition when the thyroid glands do not produce enough hormones. This will cause hair loss, skin infections, and can cause chronic ear infections. Here in this case, the ear infection is the symptom of the underlying reason than the main cause. So a dog with severe ear infection should be monitored for hypothyroidism for better treatment.
- Other reasons for ear infections are over production of ear wax. Some external trauma and tumors etc. can also cause inflammation and later to infections. A narrow ear canal is also a reason.
- The common symptom is to see the dog scratching behind and around the ear.
- There will be redness and swelling.
- Yellow or brown colored discharge is seen which can sometimes be bloody.
- A bad odor coming from the ears is another symptom along with crusts or skin peeling from the ear also occurs.
- There might be hair loss around the ear.
- The dog shakes its head frequently.
- It might lose its balance and walk in circles.
- Unusual eye movements are also seen.
- When the ear infection is left unnoticed or untreated for a while it leads to hearing loss.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of the ear infection is done by culturing the ear swab or ear discharge to determine what is causing it. The culture helps find whether it is bacteria, yeast, or parasites. The ear canal is also examined with a magnifying device. Tests are also conducted to check if it is a case of hypothyroidism. An accurate diagnosis is important for target treatment as there could be many reasons for the ear infection.
Treatment is done according to the type of infection. Infections caused by bacteria or yeast are usually treated with antibiotics. Allergies, climatic or other external reasons are dealt by eliminating the chances of infections, ear, cleaning and some hormone therapy as in the case of hypothyroidism. For parasitic and other related infections a thorough ear cleaning is done initially to remove the circumstances that are favorable for the infection and then some medicines are given for inflammation. Regular ear cleaning is a part of both treatment as well as preventive measures.
Homemade ear cleaning solutions for cleaning a dogs ears
a) Essential oils like lavender, Melrose oils etc are powerful antibacterial and antifungal in nature. Cleaning with these oils help in gentle cleaning and kills the infection causing organism. The essential oils are mixed with a base vegetable oil. The ratio to mix them is one teaspoon of the vegetable oil and 3-5 drops of the essential oil. If the mix is kept in dark bottle the storing period can be prolonged. Clean the dog’s ears by simply dipping a small cotton swab in the mix and wipe clean.
For clearing the wax, apply 2-3 drops of the oil mix into the ear canal and massage the outer area. Let the dog shake its head so that the wax comes to the surface and easily removed. Essential oils also help in relaxing them and relieve any illness related anxiety problems. As the oils are natural they do not cause any irritation in the ear and safe to use than any other solution.
b) Water and Apple cider vinegar solution is made by mixing them in equal parts. This solution helps kill the bacteria and also helps in healing inflammation.
How to Prevent Ear Infections
- Do not let the dog’s ear be moist at any time. Wipe the ear dry after a swim or going out in the rain.
- Trimming the hair around the ear helps have better air circulation into the ears to keep it dry. Too much hair can trap pollens or other particles that can later enter the ear canal to cause infection and inflammation.
- Regular cleaning of the ears is the key to prevent recurrence.
- The ear infections depend on the breed also. So breeds that have drooping ears are more prone to ear infections that others. They need special care and regular checkups to keep the ears healthy.
There are many reasons for dog ear infection. A successful treatment depends on proper diagnosis and effective preventive measures. In many cases the exact reason for infection cannot be pin pointed when it is causes by foreign particles. So keeping the surroundings also play a role in effective prevention. Regular cleaning of both the ears and the surroundings are the only way to make sure that the infections are not recurrent.