Welcome to Cottage Season! Where dogs spend the day in the lake, and their ears turn into a cesspool. Where pollen and mould allergies make ear openings glow like a Chernobyl Meltdown. And you are three hours away from your regular vet… what to do?
First, let’s get a little understanding of ear infections:
What are they?
Ear infections are OPPORTUNISITC. There are no big, bad pathogens floating around out there, waiting to descend upon your dog’s ears and wreak havoc. Ear infections are caused by the bacteria and yeast that are down the ear anyway.
So why do these normally well-mannered organisms suddenly start to cause misery? Because that ear environment changed. Something made the ear hotter (eg allergies) and/or moister (eg half the lake down his ear) and turned it into an INCUBATOR. The bacteria and yeast overgrow, and produce a bonanza of irritating by-products, which causes inflammation, which makes the ear – guess what? – warmer and moister! It is a vicious cycle.
The contribution of the anatomy of the ear
A dog’s ear canal is L-shaped. It goes vertically down the side of the head, then turns a corner in toward the eardrum. Their horizontal canal is the equivalent of our whole ear canal: a short horizontal tunnel at the angle of the jaw with an eardrum at the end. But then, unlike us, dogs have the vertical part of the ear canal too, so that their ear opening is up near the top of their heads. Why is this shape significant?
- Water in the ear – You know that awful feeling: when it happens to you, you tip your short little horizontal ear canal to the side and whop the other of your head a few times. For a dog to get that water to drain out of an L-shaped canal, he would have to hang upside-down by his toes… yeah, that water is not going anywhere.
- Cleaning – I hear this a lot: “I don’t know how he got an ear infection, I clean his ears all the time.” When I ask what cleaning entails, I am told that they wipe the ear opening with a kleenex wrapped over their finger. This is the TIP OF THE ICEBERG. A dog the size of a Lab has about 9 MORE CENTIMETERS of ear canal past that bit your finger gets. You are just not going to get there from here…
So what are you going to do, when you are enjoying cottage life, and the dog has smelly brown shoe polish coming out of his ears, is serenading you with the “ear flop symphony”, and is trying to remove one or both ears from his head with a back foot?
Stay tuned for our next installment: Doggy Ears 101 – Now What Do I Do?