One of the most common problems in dogs that pet owners miss are ear infections.
Most of us don’t spend enough time inspecting our pups’ ears, and even if we did we might not recognize the signs that something is amiss.
Here are a few things to look out for and tips on how to keep those floppy ears clean.
One of the surest signs of an ear infection is excessive head shaking. Without hands it’s impossible for your pup to get in there and dig out the problem, so he tries to shake it out instead. If you notice your dog shaking his head back and forth multiple times throughout the day it might be time to head to the vet.
If your dog allows you to look in his ears without too much struggle, then regularly check to make sure the insides aren’t inflamed. They should be pink, not dark red and swollen. Often an ear infection will show itself by way of irritation to your dog’s inner and out ears. They can also turn read due to excessive scratching.
Obviously, dogs scratch a lot. Sometimes they seem to scratch just for fun. However, you should know your dog well enough to recognize the difference between his normal scratching behaviors and when it’s becoming borderline obsessive. If your dog continually puts paw to ear it’s a good sign something in there is uncomfortable.
Tilting & Balance Issues
Sometimes the signs of an ear infection are less obvious than shaking and scratching. A bad ear infection can actually throw off your dog’s sense of balance, just like it can in humans. If you notice your dog tilting his head to one side a lot, or he’s having trouble walking in a straight line, there’s a good chance it’s time to get some professional help.
Reluctance to Eat
A lot of owners might not be aware that what looks like a lack of appetite might actually be the result of an ear infection. That’s because your dog isn’t refusing to eat due to a sudden hunger strike but, rather, the infection in his ear is making it hard for him to chew. He’s avoiding his food bowl because either the infection or the spreading inflammation is causing him pain when he opens and closes his mouth.
Nothing will tip you off faster to an infection than a sudden whiff of a yeasty ear canal. It’s quite an unpleasant odor and one that’s hard to miss. If your pup’s ears smell like something that’s been hanging out in a garbage can for a couple of weeks it’s time to get him to the vet, stat.
How You Can Help
If you think your dog might be suffering from an ear infection it’s important to have him checked out by a professional. Your veterinarian will be able to assess the severity of the case and the proper course of action to correct it, whether that be medication or cleanings.
To prevent an ear infection from occurring in the first place you can take a couple of steps on your own. Purchase a gentle, safe ear cleaner at your local pet store and clean them out on a weekly basis. You can use a cotton ball to help clean out in the inside of the ear, but avoid swabs as you don’t want to put anything in too deep.
After bathing your dog, always be sure to dry the inside of his ears thoroughly. Wet ears are a hotbed of activity for yeast infections, so keep them from remaining moist as much as possible.
Ear infections can also be caused by allergies. In this case, it might be best to consider switching your dog to a natural, healthy food that might help boost his immune system.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.