Ears are very important organs for not only hearing but for maintaining balance and expressing behaviour.
Anatomy of the ear
The ear is split into three parts:
- External ear – ear flap (pinna) and ear canal
- Middle ear – ear drum (as well as eustachian tube and auditory ossicles)
- Inner ear – lies inside the skull
Symptoms of ear problems
Ear problems can be accompanied by many symptoms, including head shaking, rubbing/scratching the ears, excess wax or crusting, pain and redness of the ear, deafness, horrible smell, discharge from the ear and swelling of the ear flap (aural haematoma).
Causes of ear problems
Ear problems can be caused by many different things, the most common include:
- Allergies – pets may show itching and sore skin in other places, and can be allergic to many things e.g. grasses, foods and mites
- Excess wax production – similar to some humans, some dogs can produce too much wax and need their ears cleaned more regularly
- Infections – the ear is a warm and moist environment which allows bacteria and fungi to thrive
- Grass seeds – grass seeds can easily get stuck down a dog’s ear and travel further down the canal causing irritation
- Ear mites – these are little parasites that live in the ear, particularly in young animals
- Harvest mites – noticed as little orange specks of larvae on the ears, face and feet
As a result of head shaking and scratching, dogs can also get an aural haematoma, which is when the ear flap fills up with blood. This needs veterinary attention as often needs drainage or surgery to fix.
What can you do at home?
Not all pets will need their ears cleaned regularly, so it is a good idea to get your vet to check the ears at the annual vaccination to ensure the ear canals are clean. It is also important to use the correct equipment – NEVER use cotton buds.
Step by step guide to ear cleaning:
- Have a helping hand to restrain your pet
- Hold the ear flap with one hand so you can see the opening of the ear canal
- Squeeze a few drops of the cleaner down the canal, and gently massage the base until you can hear a squelching noise
- Use small balls of cotton wall to wipe away the excess wax that comes to the surface of the ear
- Reward your pet so they don’t associate ear cleaning with a negative experience