Listen Up! Take Care of Your Pup’s Ears

If your dog frequently shakes his head, rubs his ears along the floor or furniture, or has foul
smelling discharge from his ears, he may be suffering from an ear infection, also known as otitis externa. All breeds of dogs can develop infections, but for some, it is a chronic condition.

Get Help

It is important to seek treatment for ear infections as soon as possible to help prevent
the infection from migrating from the external ear canal to the middle or internal ear canal. Longstanding, severe infections can invade the inner ear and result in vestibular disease, which manifests as improper balance, disorientation and head tilt. Also, ear infections are very painful. Often dogs will scratch their ears so severely to try to numb this pain that
they will cause bleeding. This will then set up additional skin infections if not treated.

Exam Time

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough ear examination as well as collect samples of debris from your dog’s ears for microscopic identification. Sometimes there are ear mites that require specific treatment. A culture and antibiotic sensitivity test may also be performed to specifically identify the species of bacteria and yeast that may be present.
Antibiotics, ear cleansers, eardrops and pain control medications may be prescribed. A professional ear flushing may also need to be performed. If your veterinarian practices complimentary medicine, acupuncture and herbal formulas may also be prescribed to
relieve the infection and discomfort.


The most important thing to accomplish is to find the primary underlying problem. Curing this underlying problem will help
prevent future infections.


Dogs who swim often (especially those with long ears that trap water) can develop infections if contaminated water is lodged inside the ears. The combination of heat and moisture can allow normal ear bacteria and yeast to overgrow, resulting in infection. If your
dog does go swimming, it is important to gently cleanse and dry the ears afterward.
It is also beneficial to keep the fur short inside of your dog’s ears. Have your veterinarian or groomer gently shave the inside of the ears. Do not pluck the fur as it can cause inflammation and pain.


This is a disease resulting in decreased thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormone is important for many functions including regulating metabolism and immune system
health. If the thyroid hormone level is too low, several skin diseases can develop,
including ear infections. Dogs with chronic ear infections should be tested for hypothyroidism. The test consists of a thyroid hormone analysis as well as thyroid stimulating hormone level determination. Specific treatment for hypothyroidism is then initiated.


Allergies to either environmental allergens such as plants, dusts, and moulds, or allergies to certain foods, may cause ear infections. Your dog can be tested for allergies. If positive, special foods can be prescribed, as well as allergy serum injections if they are allergic to
environmental allergens. Adult dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year and seniors should visit the vet twice. It is also important for pet owners to regularly
examine their pets from head to toe, including looking inside the ears. If disease or discomfort is suspected, prompt evaluation by a veterinarian is important to prevent development of severe infections.

Diagnosis: Kennel Cough – Symptoms and Treatment

If your dog spends a good deal of time around other dogs, he may be at risk of contracting kennel cough. A common infection also referred to as tracheobronchitis or bordetella, kennel cough is a highly contagious form of bronchitis that affects a dog’s trachea. It is rarely serious, however, and often sorts itself out in one to two weeks.


Kennel cough is caused by airborne bacteria and viruses and is contracted when a dog is exposed to multiple versions of these pathogens. Therefore, dogs that spend time around other dogs, such as in dog shows and kennels (hence the name!) are most at risk.


Basically, your pooch will appear to have a nasty cold. Symptoms usually begin to appear three to five days after exposure. A harsh, hacking cough is the usual telltale sign, along with sneezing and retching, and some dogs will produce a foamy white discharge, your should take your dog to the vet if you see these symtoms. The average length of infection is seven to 10 days. Some dogs may become lethargic when infected, but others can carry on being their active and happy selves, eating, sleeping and playing normally.


According to Ian Buffett, DVM, who runs a mobile service in the Toronto area, the best treatment for kennel cough is to isolate your dog from other dogs and let the infection run its course. If the infection lingers, however, antibiotics are recommended. In some cases, cough suppressants are also prescribed.


If your dog will be spending time around other dogs, try to ensure the space is well ventilated due to the airborne nature of the infection. As well, be sure to keep your dog’s toys and food bowls separate from other dogs. Immunization is available but, because of the multiple pathogens involved, it is impossible to keep a dog fully immunized from kennel cough. “A vaccine will reduce the severity of the illness, if a dog is exposed. It won’t get as sick for the duration of protection,” says Dr. Buffett.

For dogs that are at risk of exposure to kennel cough, vaccination once a year is recommended. In fact, many kennels require proof of vaccination. It is a good idea to vaccinate your dog a few weeks before the potential exposure in order to allow immunity to build up. Dr. Buffett also reminds pet owners that a dog with a strong immune system has a better chance at fighting infection. Optimum nutrition and exercise go a long way in keeping your pet happy and healthy.