A lot of dogs have ears that are really bothering them—itchy, painful, irritated—and their people do not realize how much discomfort there are in. Do you have a dog with floppy ears—with flaps that hang down and create the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to flourish? Does your dog scratch at her ears with her back foot (sometimes even getting her sharp toenails inside the flap of her tender ears and yelping when it’s especially painful)? Does she shake her head a lot? Does she sometimes walk with her head at a tilt? I’m going to guess you think all that is normal, that it’s just “things dogs do.” It’s not!
All those behaviors are signs of a dog with irritated, inflamed, even infected ears. But somehow we didn’t get “the memo” that these were warning signs of ear problems. So we let all that behavior continue, thinking it’s “just what dogs do,” not realizing our dogs are really uncomfortable and what’s brewing in the ear canal will surely worsen in the dark, warm, moist environment under there. Until one day we lift up the dog’s ear flap and WHOA! It’s red, smelly, even possibly oozing.
Which means we now take the pooch to the vet, who tut-tuts at how far gone things have become. S/he takes a swab and looks at it under a microscope to see what sort of “science experiment” has been taking place in there. The vet invariably uses an ear wash in the office—some drops in the ear which s/he massages at the base of the ear and then your dog shakes his head violently. S/he sends you home with some of the same ear wash to use daily at home for awhile. Then the vet often gives you a prescription fluid to put in the ear—and if the inflammation has turned to infection, maybe antibiotic pills. Maybe even steroids (prednisone) to calm down the inflammation. So now your dog is all dosed up on prescriptions—which have side effects, of course, as well as the possibility of the problem becoming antibiotic resistant if it reoccurs.
All that happened to me years ago with my funny Cocker Spaniel Amalfi, who I had at the vet multiple times getting all those treatments. His ears were constantly red and smelly under his ridiculously long ear flaps—I just thought it came with the breed. Eventually it become so bad he had to have surgery to close the ear canals completely. Pretty darned radical solution to a problem I could have been addressing weekly (and avoiding the extreme outcome) from puppy-hood. I didn’t know any better. But I always am relieved that people can benefit and learn from my errors—it makes me feel my dogs and cats and I didn’t suffer in vain if you can avoid the same path!
There’s a simple and effective way to keep those ears clean and stay ahead of problems: you can use a gentle but effective ear cleaner regularly, whether you have spaniels, retrievers (especially swimming Labradors), or Weimaraners as I now do, which have a long lovely ear where mischief can brew behind it. In fact, my young Wanda Weimaraner has one ear with chronic inflammation that after two bouts of steroids/antibiotics at the vet I now have under control with weekly use of Zymox ear cleaner with its enzymatic cleanser. There are several ear products to choose from out there, but I invited Zymox ear products to be a sponsor of my NPR radio show DOG TALK® because of my own challenges with this problem and because my vet also carries the professional version of Zymox, so I feel confident recommending it for relief and lasting results.
With summer here—and dogs swimming, which can cause havoc inside the ear that the Zymox ear care products can quell—it’s a good time to develop a new preventive health habit.
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Zymox Dermatology is a sponsor on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.