We know that dogs have ears and in fact, the ears are sometimes the cutest part of their whole head. Some dogs have darling curly and fluffy ears. Some dogs’ ears stand up and some dogs even have one that stands and the other that flops over! Let’s face it, dogs’ ears are really endearing (hehe). But they serve an important purpose for our dogs and there are some things that all dog lovers really need to know.
1. Normal healthy dogs do not shake their heads and flop their ears all the time…or scratch at the ears a lot with their hind feet. If your dog is shaking his head or scratching at his ears, there is something amiss. Pay attention to your dog. If you hear his tags jingling too much, track him down to see why. You need to uncover the root of the problem. Dogs can have things stuck inside the ears that are not supposed to be there, like plant matter. They can get ticks in their ears. They can also suffer from ear infections. Open that ear and see what you can see. If you see nothing odd, but your dog is acting strange, contact your vet and let him/her look. Be aware that the ears are very sensitive so many dog will require some sedation or anesthesia for a thorough ear exam.
2.Your dog’s ear canal is not a “straight shot”. You can see the opening to the ear canal if you look, but to really see the ear drum, one will need an otoscope (instrument designed to visualize the inside of the ear). Even if you have an otoscope and your dog will tolerate the discomfort of a thorough otic (ear) exam, you are still going to need a vet because medications to treat ear infections are only available by prescription and your vet has a ton of training that helps he/she know what is normal and abnormal. The curve in the ear canal also helps protect the ear drum, so be sure never to stick something into your dog’s ear canal, like a cotton swab.
3. Your dog’s outer ear can fill with fluid (usually blood) like a balloon. It sounds like something from science fiction, but it is the truth. This issue is called an aural hematoma and it happens when a blood vessel ruptures between the cartilage layers of the ear. The blood can then fill the space between the layers and make the outer ear, called the pinna, look like a water balloon. The worst part about this problem is the discomfort because there are so many nerves in the ears that the pressure and pain throb constantly until you see your vet to have the aural hematoma drained. Unfortunately, many of them will refill and require an actual surgical procedure to adhere the cartilages together. Excessive head shaking (like #1 above) is usually the cause of the aural hematoma, so you will have to get to the bottom of the head shaking as well as address the fluid.
At the end of the day, it is important to pay attention to all parts of your dog and to call your vet if anything seems abnormal. Never stick anything in your dog’s ear without your veterinarian’s guidance. Remember, you and your vet are on the same team, Team Helping Dogs!
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