As a pet owner there’s lots of things we have to understand about our dogs, and learning to notice the signs of ear infections is one of them.
This is something we’ve experienced since lockdown with Patch and he’s had a series of ear infections that we are still trying to get under control.
Seeing your dog scratch and shake its head isn’t uncommon, these can be telltale signs of an ear infection and something that can cause your pooch a lot of pain.
Because of COVID restrictions, we’re not able to go in the consulting room at the vets and we’ve had lots of different treatment, suggestions and advice from his vets.
All of this has been out in the car park and as an owner with no veterinary background, it can be a lot to take in.
This isn’t a criticism of the vets, it’s just something that’s part of the lockdown life we are all living.
His vet thinks the recurring infections are due to an allergy and as well as tests, we’re in the process of putting him on an elimination diet to see what he’s allergic to.
By chance, I met vet Cristina Diaz-Madronero at an online event and she kindly sent a copy of her book The New Pet Parent.
As well a being a vet, Cristina is a qualified animal dermatologist, so her support couldn’t be more welcome for Patch and I at the moment.
In her book is loads of information for new pet parents, and a fantastic section on ear infections and how to care for your dog’s ears.
In this post she shares her advice on what to do if your dog has an ear infection, and how to keep ears healthy once they’ve recovered.
So how can you spot if your dog has an ear infection?
Firstly you might notice them scratching their ears and shaking their head more than usual.
Ear infections can also be accompanied by ear odour, and brown, yellow or bloody discharge… nice, right?!
But why do they experience ear infections?
Cristina says: “Dog’s ears have a self-cleaning mechanism which allows the dirt trapped in the depth of the ear canal to be expelled outside over time.
“However, when this mechanism is disturbed due to large amounts of dirt accumulation, the ear canal is unable to expel the excess debris; this can act as a ground for bacteria to grow, leading to ear infections.”
This is why ear cleaning is so important, as it can help to remove excess debris from their ears which could build up and lead to infection.
Cristina’s tips on keeping ears healthy
If your dog has large and floppy ears you should check them every couple of weeks, but if they appear dirty clean them!
If your dog’s ears are erect, then you can check them monthly and clean them when necessary.
Some dogs, like Patch, need their ears cleaning more than others especially when they have a history of ear infections.
It might sound stressful, having to clean their ears, and in an ideal world a vet nurse or vet would do this for you.
But you can make this an enjoyable and more cooperative experience for you and your dog by using treats.
What to do if you think your dog might have an infection
Although cleaning your dog’s ears can help to prevent ear infections, if you suspect anything is wrong, it’s best to get some expert advice.
Cristina says if you have any concerns, go straight to your vet. She says: “Before you clean your dog’s ears, please take time to inspect them first.
“If they appear red, sore, inflamed or you can see any discharge from them, please take them to the vet as soon as possible, don’t clean them yourself.”
How to clean your dog’s ears
If they are okay to clean yourself, Cristina recommends using veterinary approved ear cleaner.
While there are suggestions of home made solutions online, she says these are to be avoided,
Cristina explained: “The recipes can sometimes include damaging ingredients which can cause more pain to your dog.”
This is Cristina’s step by step guide to ear cleaning that we have been following:
- Stay away from using cotton buds (q tips) as these can cause damage to your dogs ears
- Get your dog to sit, give them a treat and let them smell the ear cleaner bottle, give them a treat
- Hold the earflap and find the entrance of the ear canal. Pour the ear cleaner inside until the ear canal is full and give your dog a treat. Avoid placing the bottle inside the affected ear as this could cause contamination, if this happens don’t panic just clean with an antibacterial wipe
- Gently massage the ear canal for 30 to 60 seconds. When you hear a squidgy noise it means the ear cleaner is working
- Cover your dog’s head with a small towel. Your dog will start shaking its head as soon as you stop massaging them so having a towel ready will help to stop the ear discharge getting everywhere – gross!
- Get a small piece of cotton wool, roll it up and place it inside the ear canal, when it’s inside twist it in a clockwise direction. This will help to absorb any excess ear cleaner and remove debris, when you’re doing this give your dog a treat. Repeat until the cotton wool is almost clean. There shouldn’t be any blood, but if there is stop and contact your vet
- You can repeat the process the next day if you couldn’t get everything out of the ear with the first clean
When you’re cleaning your dog’s ears be aware that over-cleaning could cause irritation too.
Another suggestion if your dog is suffering with ear problems is that you can buy some of the products your vet would recommend online.
With Patch, as Cristina suggests, we have been using Virbac Epiotic ear cleaning solution recommended by our vets.
As we know we need to care for his ears regularly, I’ve been able to find the same product online on Animed Direct for £9.64 for 125ml.
But while you can save money online it is key to ensure you are using the product recommended from your vet.
So if you are looking for advice on your dog’s ear health, I hope you’ve found Cristina’s tips helpful.
Her book is packed with advice for all kinds of things you might face as a pet parent, and everything is explained in a clear way that is easy for dog owners like you and me to understand.
With thanks to Cristina for gifting her book and helping me share advice on this post.
You can find out more about Cristina and get a copy of her book on her website at www.newpetparent.com/
And follow her on social media
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/newpetparent/
On Instagram: www.instagram.com/newpetparent/
If you found this post helpful, you might like to read How to clean your dog’s teeth or How to keep your pet healthy in winter with Hannah Capon