Chronic Ear Problems
Joanne Howl, DVM
There's a LOT of complexities to ear problems. But I've got a few of general tips.
- Joanne Howl, DVM
- First, chronic ear problems are often linked to allergies. Now, allergies are
life long and incurable, but that doesn't mean they can't be controlled. If
the dog is allergic, then I'd strongly recommend a vigorous allergy hunt
with a board certified dermatologist -- do the skin testing, etc. This is a
YOUNG dog, and ASD's live a long time, so spending enough money now to get a
clear diagnosis, and enough time to get a real good handle on the allergies
will be worth it over the next 12 years. You'll save a ton of time and money
in the long run by not having to use so much ear goo and see the vet as
often, or on surgery. Treating the allergy as well as the ears is essential.
Both will get better as you treat and understand the allergy.
- Second, hypothyroidism can cause increased problems with allergies and also
can make ear problems extra difficult. Any chronic ear infection warrants a
full thyroid panel.... T4, T3, FT4, FT3, TSH and auto antibodies to T4 and T3.
If your vet won't do a whole screen (Michigan State University), then GO TO
A VET WHO WILL!! A lot of vets still diagnose just on a T4 or a T3/T4.
This is useless, or worse, misleading.
- Third, allergic dogs are often made worse by the stuff you put in the ear.
I've seen a lot of dogs allergic to their medications. My goal with chronic
ear infections is to try like the devil to use as little medicines as
possible. I will usually use oral antibiotics in conjunction with ear
treatments until we can get the ear cooled down.
- Fourth, chronic ear problems should be cultured. You need to know what,
exactly, is growing in there. And you need to follow the culture with ear
swabs to be looked at under the microscope, usually at each recheck. The
bacteria in the ear change with medication, and you need to try to stay only
one step behind, not miles behind.
That is, you need to treat what bacteria is running rampant now, not what the
problem was last month.
- Fifth, thick, gooey products aren't good for thick, gooey ears. They don't
let the ear breath, and they increase the goo. Better to use very liquid
drops (tresaderm, vinegar/water rinses/ Burow's solution with antibiotic
drops) rather than the gooey stuff (Otomax, Liquichlor, etc). There is a
place for the goo, but if I must use goo upon goo, I usually ask the owners
to give a really good ear cleaning (if no ruptured ear drum) twice a week,
with a cleaner I prescribe or 50%vinegar, 50% water mix.
- Sixth, don't stick Q-tips down the ear canal or cram things down the ear to
Vets do this, but they have otoscopes so they can see if they are packing
stuff down in there, and if so they can flush appropriately to get it out.
The outside of the ear harbors a lot of bacteria, and if you slide stuff
from the outside to the inside, you'll drag bacteria into the ear. I've
cured some animals of chronic infections just by changing cleaning
techniques, and a little medicine to get the infection under control. The
point is, it didn't come back.
- Seventh, best way to clean : fill the
ear canal with cleaner, and I do mean FILL. Let it dribble out the ear
because the canal is so full. Let it sit full a few seconds if your dog will
allow it, then gently massage the ear base, trying to rub the internal ear
canals as much as you can. Then jump back and let him shake and shake those
ears. Later, like five minutes, come back and clean the outer ear -- everything
you can see -- with gauze pads, cotton, or Q-tips. But start at the inner
recesses, no further in than you can see, and pull to the outside air. The
dog is going to loosen the crud inside the ear, and sling it to the outside.
This is what you want to get. Next cleaning - soon for nasty ears, like
maybe tomorrow or the next day - more goo will get slung out as the cleaner
breaks it down and the dog applies the laws of physics to the ear crud with
the head shake.
- Eighth, don't instill medications or cleaners into achey ears unless you've
had the canal checked by the vet to make sure the ear drum is intact.
Ruptured ear drums happen in really infected ears, and some medicines will
cause the dog to have a head tilt or deafness -
Reprinted with author's permission from the Internet Livestock Guardian Dog List