By Sue Ogden
We will probably all at some point end up at the vet’s with our furry friends with ear problems, as it is a problem we cannot always see. Ear problems can be deep seated and we sometimes do not know how bad it is, until it is confirmed by a vet.
Some of the more common problems can include:
Ear Mites: The main indication of ear mites can be shaking of the head, or scratching at the affected ear or ears. Ear mites can be common in puppies and they are easily spread to other puppies within the litter. The mite will irritate the lining of the ear canal, and this in turn will stimulate the production of earwax. The mites are just about visible to the naked eye so long as the puppy or adult dog stays still long enough. Treatment for ear mites is an insecticidal eardrop which will eliminate the mites. It is important that if you do find an outbreak of ear mites, that you treat all dogs and puppies that you have; the mites are capable of living on the outside of the ear, so you should give all dogs a bath using an insecticidal shampoo.
Foreign Bodies: As we live in a country with some amazing grasses, we often see these grass seeds in our dogs’ coats, unfortunately we don’t often see if they get one inside their ears. This is a common problem, as if your dogs are anything like mine, they find it impossible to ignore anything on the ground, and spend a lot of time with their heads in the bushes. Unfortunately this is the time they can often get in to trouble with grass seeds on the inside of the ear flap (Pinna). If your dog suddenly starts to shake its head rather violently and the ear becomes painful for you to touch, then it could be they have a grass seed inside the ear canal. If it is not visible then it may mean it is deep seated, with the only real option for you to take the dog to the vet, where they will be able to look down the canal with an auriscope and can remove any grass seed they see using special forceps. It is important that you do not attempt to remove anything like this, as you could cause a lot more damage in the process.
Infections: If your dog is unlucky enough to suffer an ear infection, then a trip to the vet is the best way to treat this. There are many different types of infection, and your vet is the best person to diagnose and treat these. Infection of the outer ear (Otitis Externa) will undoubtedly produce a discharge; dependant on what type of infection is present the discharge will vary in colour and texture. A bacterial infection will usually produce a thick yellowish discharge, a yeast infection will usually produce a blackish runny discharge, with the mite infection usually producing a black and gritty discharge. Any sort of discharge needs veterinary attention. If left untreated Otitis Externa can lead to the middle ear infection Otitis Media, which can result in a far more serious condition such as a ruptured eardrum. These infections can be treated using antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, to prevent the infection spreading and turning to Otitis Media, as in some cases the only treatment for this condition is to surgically remove part of the ear canal.
Hair loss: There are some breeds that are susceptible to this, for example the Yorkshire Terrier. You may notice that the older your dog gets, the thinner the hair becomes on its ears and nose; this is common in the Yorkshire Terrier and leaves them with a smooth leathery feel. Unfortunately, if it is due to generic predisposition then there is little that can be done, but other causes of hair loss on the ears can include Sarcoptes Mange Mites, Ringworm, or hormonal imbalance. In most breeds the Sarcoptes mange mites infest the tips of the ears, causing very noticeable itchy, crusty lesions and hair loss. The fungal infection known as Ringworm also favours the ears, causing hair loss, but no itch or inflammation. If your dog suffers symmetrical thinning of the hair on both ears, this can be a very early sign of hormonal imbalance; blood tests can be taken to ascertain hormonal imbalances.
When out and about, sitting in a café or in a queue in the post office, I often hear people talking about their dogs, and they will say, “Oh that big old deaf lump, I stood there for ages calling him in from the garden. Well he will be waiting outside the door when I get home”. The question we should be asking is: could the dog actually hear its owner?
As ever, if in any doubt, consult your vet and take his/her advice. Do not try to do anything at home without first getting correct instruction from a professional.
Sue Ogden is a professional dog groomer living in the Algarve. In her regular column, she provides readers with information on how best to care for their pets. Trained in the UK, she studied nursing, breeding, grooming, nutrition and kennel management. 910 851 140