Your Dog’s Ears: Anatomy and Infection

At some point, your dog is going to have some ear troubles. You may notice a foul odor coming from his ears, see some waxy build-up, or witness him shaking his head. These tips are no substitute for taking him to see a veterinarian if the problem persists, but every dog owner should know how to visually inspect and properly wash out his dogs ears.

Dogs with white fur are notorious for having sensitive skin and ear infections. No matter what color or breed your dog, ear infections are a common ailment and can vary from very mild to chronic and horrible. Treating your dog’s ears can be really messy, so be sure to wear a smock or old clothing before you begin anything more than a simple cleaning.

If you have raised your dog from a pup and if you did everything right, you should have no trouble getting your dog into a comfortable position and looking into his ears. When raising your puppy you should always touch his face and ears and pet him all over while he sleeps and eats and sits with you. This will get him accustomed to being handled when you really need to do something to him. If your dog is not used to this type of attention, you may have a more difficult time trying to do what you need to do to help him.

Ear Anatomy
Anatomy of the normal dog ear; there are three parts to the ear: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The ear flap is part of the outer ear and stands up tall in some dog breeds or flops over in others. Beyond the ear flap is the ear canal and the eardrum. Dogs can have ear problems in all of these parts of the ear.

The middle ear is made of three tiny bones, the Eustachian tube, and an air pocket; these parts can become infected, as well. The inner ear is very sensitive and needs a lot of protection. This is where the brain and nerves all connect and are used for balance and hearing.

Restraining Your Dog
When it’s time to clean his ears, your dog needs to be securely restrained, especially if you are going to be putting a swab into them. One way to keep him still is to place him on a table at a comfortable level for you to work on him. Stand next to him, opposite the infected ear, and drape your arm over his shoulder. Use the fingers of your other hand to open the ear flap and expose the ear.

Another method is to have him lay down. This is better if you have a squirmy dog. Reach over his neck and secure his elbow on the table. As you reach over, keep your elbow on his neck so he will not be able to sit up. With your other hand, pull back the ear flap and insert any ear drops or medications that you need to. Of course, all of these procedures go much more smoothly if you have a helper.

Signs of Ear Infection
There are lots of warning signs that signal an ear infection. Many times, if you are familiar with the signs and symptoms, you can fend off an infection before it becomes a major ordeal. Lots of dogs have reoccurring infections so you will understand what to look for.

  • Redness under flap of ear and into ear canal
  • Discharge, either white or yellow and sometimes bloody
  • Foul odor or yeasty smell
  • Head shaking, sometimes so bad he will be too dizzy to stand up
  • Ear scratching
  • Ear rubbing across floor, walls, or furniture

The Medicine Cabinet
There are some products to have on hand to be prepared for an ear infection. If you have treated one before and know that it could subside with your help, give it a try. If it’s something beyond your expertise or something you’ve never seen before, always check with your veterinarian before proceeding.

  • Cotton balls and swabs

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