Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.Morgan getting an ear exam from his vet, Dr. Armendariz.

Sometimes Whistle’s shakes his head and scratches his ears. This makes me wonder if his ears are bothering him.

Cornell University Hospital for Animals sees lots of dogs with serious ear disorders.  While most ear infections can be remedied easily, some are only treatable with complex surgeries. In a recent issue of their newsletter “Dog Watch,” they discussed canine ear disease.

One condition treated by an operation when it is in its advanced stages is a chronic infection called otitis externa, a painful condition that can lead to partial deafness if left untreated.

Just like our ears, dogs’ ears are delicate equipment. Deafness can be congenital or acquired. Noise trauma, or certain antibiotics or anesthetics can sometimes cause deafness. Just like us, canines can also gradually have their hearing affected by aging, particularly if they are eight years or older.

How can you recognize the early signs or ear problems?

An affected dog might:

  • Shake its head persistently and
  • Scratch at one or both ears.
  • Fail to react to voice commands
  • React as if ears are painful when touched

Upon inspection you might notice:

  • Inflamed or swollen skin on the underside of the ears
  • Foul-smelling discharge in outer ear canal.

A trip to your veterinarian, where he or she can use an otoscope to look inside the dog’s ears, might be necessary to diagnosis the condition.  A microscopic examination of what is in the ear canal might also be needed to pin down the type of infection and medication needed.

I took Whistle to see to his veterinarian for a check-up. Luckily in his case, the ear scratching and head shaking were not indications of anything serious. My vet suggested that I used a mild ear cleanser specifically designed for dogs and a cloth to keep his ears clean.