Who doesn't love to give their dog a good scratch behind the ears? And those ears come in all different shapes and sizes from long and floppy to short and upright. There's a lot to know about your dog's ears from common ear problems to tips for living with a deaf dog.
Here are some fun facts about your dog's ears you may not have known:
Ear issues aren't always easy to spot, but there are some noticeable symptoms such as:
You may also see other behavioral signs, such as your dog tilting their head to the side or scratching at the ears a lot. If the ear problem has started to affect their hearing, you might detect signs of deafness as well. For instance, your dog may not respond when you call them, bark when there's a knock at the door, or come running at the sound of their leash.
If your dog or new puppy is having hearing issues, you should contact your veterinarian. They can perform a thorough physical examination and refer you to a specialist if necessary. Your dog's hearing can be checked using electrodes to sense electrical activity between the ear and the brain. This is called brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing. If your puppy is diagnosed with congenital deafness, it can't be reversed.
Some of the most common ear problems for dogs include ear infections and mites. Dogs can also injure their ears if a foreign object gets lodged in them.
Ear infections can happen to any dog, but they can be more prevalent in long-eared breeds, like Bloodhounds, Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers. Those long ears can provide a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, which are the most common causes of ear infections. Ear infections can also occur more often in dogs who have a lot of hair growing in their ears, like Poodles.
Dogs with allergies are prone to chronic ear infections. Allergies can irritate the skin lining the ear canals resulting in inflammation. Excessive wax production occurs creating the perfect environment for naturally occurring yeast and bacteria to flourish. The ears become itchy, and as the dog scratches, paws, or rubs at the ears, they become more inflamed creating a vicious cycle of discomfort.
If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, you should take them to the veterinarian. The veterinarian can look inside the ears with an otoscope to see what’s going on. They may take a sample from the ear for testing to help confirm the diagnosis.
Your veterinarian will likely treat an ear infection by first gently cleaning the ear. After that, they'll use an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection or an anti-fungal medication to eliminate a yeast infection. Ear infections can also be a symptom of an underlying illness, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's Disease, which your veterinarian can rule out.
Treatment for ear infections, mites, and other common ear issues can be covered by a pet insurance plan. See options for your dog now.
Ear mites are tiny parasites that nourish themselves on the wax and oils found in your dog's ears. These small critters move around in the canal and make the ears feel itchy. As your dog scratches to satisfy the itch, the ears become irritated and inflamed, which can lead to an ear infection.
Ear mites are highly contagious and usually passed between dogs or from cats to dogs. They don't normally affect humans, which means you don't have to worry about catching them from your pup. Symptoms include head shaking, pawing at the ears, and brownish debris, which can build up and cause difficulty hearing.
If you suspect ear mites, you should visit the veterinarian, so they can relieve your dog's discomfort and get rid of the mites before they cause other problems. Mites are typically treated by cleaning the ear and applying a topical medication. Your veterinarian can also prescribe a topical or oral medication that will kill the mites.
Dogs can get foreign objects, such as grass seeds or foxtails, in their ears. If this happens to your dog, please avoid using a cotton swab, tweezers, or other things to try to pry them out. You could end up pushing them further into the ear potentially causing hearing loss. Consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Some dogs just seem prone to infections or other ear issues. That said, there are some things you can do to help keep your dog's ears healthy. For instance:
Remember, ear problems aren't likely to clear up on their own. They are painful and can cause hearing loss if left untreated. It's important to take your dog to the veterinarian if you think something is wrong with their ears. Pet insurance can help you cover the costs of veterinary care for ear issues. Get a quote for your dog now.
Dogs can lose their hearing due to chronic ear infections, injury, or old age. Some dogs like Dalmatians are susceptible to congenital deafness, which means they're born without the ability to hear in one or both ears. But just because a dog can't hear doesn't make them any less lovable!
Deaf dogs can be trained using hand signals rather than verbal commands. You can use American Sign Language (ASL) or develop your own system of signs, such as a motioning down with a flat open hand for "sit." The most important part is to be consistent, so your dog doesn't get confused. It's also helpful to teach a deaf dog to check in regularly by making eye contact with you.
Deaf dogs need the same sort of basic care as hearing dogs, but there are some extra things you can do to help ensure they stay happy and safe.
It is a myth that deaf dogs are more aggressive than others. However, they can get startled and even nip at you if you wake them out of a deep sleep. One way to help avoid this situation is to wake them up with a treat in hand. This will help them associate waking up with something yummy.
If your dog is an anxious type, you may want to wake them up before you go anywhere, so they don't get stressed out looking all over the house for you. You should also remember that deaf dogs can be woken up by vibrations. You should try to avoid stomping around near them or bumping into the chair where they're slumbering.
Like hearing dogs, deaf dogs can get distracted by things around them, like squirrels scampering around the backyard or another dog in your path. If your dog doesn't look at you, you may need to touch them on the shoulder gently. You can also use a laser pointer or flashlight to help get their attention. Just be sure not to shine it in their eyes.
Like all dogs, deaf dogs should always wear a tag and collar. You can add the word "deaf" to your dog's collar, so anyone who finds them won’t expect them to answer to their vocal commands. You should also microchip your dog to help ensure they are returned safely to you.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.
title: A Guide to Dog Hearing and Ear Care
author: Dr. Wendy Hauser