Dog Manual

Care of the Ears

Proper ear hygiene consists in keeping the hair of the ear clean and thoroughly combed out, free from parasites at all times, and in maintaining the cleanliness of the inside of the ear. To clean the inside of the ear, dampen a piece of absorbent cotton with alcohol, squeeze out the excess moisture, and clean out all the accumulated scurf as far down into the ear as the finger can conveniently reach. There need be no fear of doing damage to the inner ear, for the finger simply cannot penetrate that far. The cleaned surface should be dried with a piece of cotton. The next step is to put some boric-acid powder on the back of a spoon handle or other convenient object and dump the powder into the ear. Then manipulate the ear so that the powder will penetrate as far into the ear canal as possible. After this is done to both ears, allow the animal to shake out the excess powder. A clean film of boric-acid powder will remain. It is apparent that there need be no concern about putting too much powder into the ear since the animal will shake out the excess anyway. If this procedure is followed about two or three times a week, it is very unlikely that the dog ever will be affected by the common ear ailments.

Ear ailments in dogs are many and varied in number, and their proper diagnosis and treatment are naturally a problem for the veterinarian. However, there are two very common difficulties of which every dog owner should be aware. These are ear canker and ear hematoma.

Ear Canker

Ear canker is a disease characterized by an inflammation of the lining membrane of the ear. Medically, it is called otitis. It is a common ailment of all dogs though it is encountered most often in long-haired dogs with large, floppy ears. It is most amenable to treatment in its earliest stages but becomes resistant as the disease progresses. Though the condition is purely a local one, it causes the animal great discomfort, and in an advanced form the animal may feel such distress that it may sulk and lose its appetite. Since this can lead to the gravest consequences, prompt treatment is advisable.

Otitis is usually the result of improper ear hygiene. Incompletely rinsed-away soap, hair mats, ear wax, fleas and other parasites may start the condition. If dirty ears are improperly cleaned or not cleaned at all, the accumulated filth causes an irritation of the ear membrane. The animal shakes its head violently and intermittently digs at its ears. The lowered resistance of the irritated membrane predisposes it to infection because the ever-present germs are always ready to do their damage when lowered resistance gives them an opportunity to do so. Long-haired, large, floppy ears serve to trap the infection and therefore are favorable to the development of the condition. As the disease progresses pus may accumulate, portions of the ear membrane may erode, and the resultant matter may give off a sour, nauseating odor. If the disease is allowed to progress still further, constant digging at the ears and shaking of the head may lead to loss of sleep and to exhaustion, depression, loss of appetite, and ultimately even to the death of the animal, though it would have to be a peculiarly negligent owner who would permit the progress of this disease to a fatal termination.

The treatment of otitis consists in the removal of the cause. In minor conditions, it is sufficient to remove the matted hair, to clean the ear thoroughly, and to apply some antiseptic preparation to the irritated parts. The procedure, outlined above, for the general hygiene of the ear is quite adequate to treat mild cases though, instead of repeating it only two or three times a week, it will be more effective if it is done every day until the condition is cured. In resistant cases, where no improvement is clearly apparent in a week, the case should be given over to a veterinarian.

In most instances, the veterinarian will prescribe a series of ear treatments until the inflammation is completely eliminated. If any fragment of the inflammation is permitted to remain, there will often be a recurrence of the condition. In serious cases of otitis, the series of ear treatments is extended. If the condition has advanced too far, even the best germ-killing and healing agents will be ineffective, in which case the veterinarian must resort to surgery. However, the conscientious pet owner will rarely neglect his animal until such a drastic alternative is necessary.

Ear Hematoma

Hematoma is the term applied to a cyst or tumor filled with blood or blood products. Hematoma of the ear is very common in dogs. It is caused by an injury or severe irritation and is characterized by a soft, puffy, usually painless but annoying swelling which may occur on the outer surface of the ear but more often appears on the inner, and causes the normally upstanding ear to hang to one side. Though it is a local condition which will not impair the general health of the animal, prompt veterinary attention is necessary in order to avoid certain undesirable consequences.

Ear hematomas usually result from neglected inflammations of the lining membranes of the ear—in other words, from ear canker. The constant shaking of the head and the vigorous scratching of the ears are the direct and most common causes of the condition. Ear infestations of lice, mites, ticks, or fleas can also cause the digging and scratching that may lead to hematoma. The condition may more rarely come about as the result of a severe injury to the ear.

Ear Hematoma
Proper treatment of hematoma is surgical, so it is a job for the veterinarian. It consists in incising the swelling, removing the contents, and treating the wound in such a manner that healing takes place from the inside out. If the hematoma is simply incised, and no precautions are taken to make the wound heal from the inside out, then the condition may recur.

Treatment is generally successful. If it takes place before the hematoma becomes too extensive, healing will be complete and damage to the ear will be negligible. A common aftermath, which often cannot be helped, is that a normally upstanding ear may sometimes permanently lose its erectness and fall over to one side. If treatment takes place after the hematoma has wrought considerable damage, the ear may develop a more or less crinkled appearance. In untreated animals, the ear will almost always develop an exaggerated crinkled appearance not very different from that of the cauliflower ear of a well-battered prizefighter.