Pesky Ears!

by Jenny Zablotny, DVM

Ear issues can be a problem for many Newfoundlands. An infection of the external canal or otitis externa is one of the most common reasons for dogs being presented to the veterinarian. Causes vary and so will the solution to the problem.

Normal ears produce a small amount of wax and shouldn’t have an odor. Scratching, shaking the head and a strong odor from the ear can be an indication of an infection. Many owners will treat for ear mites when their dog first has an ear problem. Ear mites are an uncommon cause of itchy ears in adult dogs, unless they have direct contact with feral cats. The parasites are occasionally seen in puppies and are a common cause of otitis in cats and kittens. This is a video showing ear mites through an otoscope:

Chronic infections usually have an underlying cause that needs to be addressed along with the otitis. Allergies, food or inhalant, are a major cause of ear infections. Dogs with seasonal infections could be allergic to a plant that is blooming at that time or molds or mildews due to weather. Some say that dogs that swim are prone to ear infections. That may be true for some dogs, but since many dogs swim in the warmer months when different plants are blooming, it could be that they are allergic to pollen and that swimming isn’t helping the ears. Dogs with non-seasonal ear problems could have a food allergy or have an allergy to some ubiquitous substance such as household dust (dust mites) or wool carpet… Foreign bodies and canal conformation can also be problems. In some areas of the US, grass seeds or foxtails can work their way into ear canals and cause a painful infection. Masses in the ear canal will keep normal drainage deep in the ear creating a perfect environment for organisms. Your veterinarian can help determine what the cause of the chronic infection is and how to best clear it up.

Cleaning the ears regularly can help keep mild infections at bay or under control. Cleaning is a must for more serious infections. There are many videos available online demonstrating how to clean ears. This one is a good example:

Medications to treat ears are as varied as the causes of the problem and should be prescribed by or used under the supervision of a veterinarian. Although an uncommon side effect, many have some potential for ototoxicity. If you notice that your dog isn’t hearing as well when you are using the medication, stop using it and talk to your veterinarian about a different medication.

Otitis externa is a common problem for many Newfs. Working with your veterinarian, you can help keep your Newf comfortable and this problem at bay.

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