Dealing with ‘ear’-itation in dogs |

Dealing with ‘ear’-itation in dogs

Stephen Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

Anyone whose dog has a chronic ear problem will tell you something: whoever made dogs’ ears really messed up.

Dogs ears are made with both a horizontal and a vertical canal which can be difficult to drain. They are also lined with modified sweat and sebaceous glands that secrete a fat rich ear wax. It is a combination originally intended to protect the ear that in modern dog has run amuck.

Many factors contribute to chronic ear problems in dogs. Some breeds have hyperactive glands while allergies, food hypersensitivities and hypothyroidism can cause these glands to secrete high amounts of cerumin. Cerumin combined with moisture is both an irritant and a very favorable environment for yeast and bacteria to grow.

Because of the structure of the ear, dogs with long, pendulous, heavy ears have a more difficult time keeping the ear canal dry whereas dogs with upright ears have less of a problem.

So we have a potentially problematic situation: a structurally flawed ear with a substance that attracts bacteria and yeast. What results can be a vicious cycle of infection and inflammation.

The ear responds by thickening the skin lining the ear and causing the cartilage underneath the ear to swell. This causes the canal space in the ear to get smaller and even less air gets in. The glands become even further irritated and secrete even more ear wax. Are you beginning to see the picture?

If you are having chronic ear problems your veterinarian should try to find an underlying cause. This can save you both aggravation and money in the long run, not to mention make treating your dog much easier. If this is truly a chronic problem insist on having a culture and sensitivity done. This will identify what microorganisms are causing the problem and also tell your veterinarian which drugs will work best.

It is worth the extra cost; for example, treating a 40 pound dog with oral medicine and ear solutions for two weeks could cost double that of the culture/sensitivity.

At Gypsum Animal Hospital, our technicians show our clients how to medicate and clean the ears. I cannot stress how important ear cleaning is; not only in helping to cure the problem but also to keep it from reoccurring.

The ears must be clean before medicating. Imagine taking a shower with a raincoat on. That is what it is like trying to medicate a dirty ear.

Dr. Stephen Sheldon practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He welcomes your questions and can be reached at 524-DOGS (3647) or by visiting

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