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Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida, Inc
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Ear Care

 

GRRMF rescues many golden retrievers each year with chronic ear problems. It’s very common in the breed, and if left untreated or not treated correctly and consistently, ear problems can become chronic and affect the dog’s quality of life.

One thing that's very important to remember, the ears are basically skin turned “inwards,” so dogs that have skin problems tend to have ear problems also. You usually have to treat both at the same time.

There are generally three types of ear problems: 1) Yeast 2) Bacteria and 3) Mites.

Yeast is the most common cause of ear infections, especially for dogs who swim a lot. It is a normal inhabitant of the ear but when it overgrows it causes redness, odor and itchiness. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. If your dog is prone to ear problems, you can prevent them with regular ear cleanings. This can be done through a homemade mixture of 50% vinegar / 50% water, or ready-made solutions available at pet supply stores.

Regardless of what brand or mix you use, the ear cleaner should do two things:

  • It should be able to break down the waxy substance in the ear; and
  • It should make the ear environment such that it is hard for yeast to grow; usually this means it will make the inside of the ear acidic.

Once a yeast infection starts, you will need to consult with your veterinarian for appropriate treatment – rinses no longer will be enough. Your veterinarian will diagnose a yeast infection by looking at the ear discharge under a microscope. The usual treatment is a prescription anti-fungal agent, such as Otomax or Tresaderm.

If a yeast infection is left untreated it can progress to a bacterial infection, which is more serious. Bacterial infections are usually painful and have a very strong odor. Bacterial infections can cause the dog to be physically ill, including vomiting, anorexia and fever. These infections must be treated aggressively. The infection can also progress to the middle or inner ear. If this occurs usually the dog will have a distinct head tilt or may lose its sense of balance. Treatment is the same for yeast, except the cleanings are done more frequently, and the dog will also be put on antibiotics. If there is no improvement after 7 days, a culture and sensitivity of the ear should be performed to choose the appropriate antibiotic. Usually the dog is on antibiotics for a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks. If left untreated, the dog will eventually incur irreversible damage to the eardrum. Also, if the antibiotics are stopped too soon, the infection will just come right back.

The third, and by far least common , cause of infection are ear mites or Otodectes Cyanotis. Ear mites do not live in the environment. They have to be passed from animal to animal. If your dog does not come in close contact with any other dogs or cats, there is no way that he can get mites. Ear mites cause severe itchiness of the ears, and there is usually a black, tarry wax present. Mites are treated with cleaning, as described before, and a good anti-mite medication.

If your dog has an occasional yeast infection or an infrequently bacterial infection, it is no cause for alarm if it gets treated. If your dog continues to have problems then the underlying causes must be investigated. Some causes can be environmental, swimming a lot, bathed frequently and getting water in the ears. Other causes can be hormonal or hereditary such as hypothroidism, food allergies or flea allergies. Finally, growths in the ear can cause persistent or recurrent ear problems.

Prevention is the key. Goldens should have their ears thoroughly cleaned at least once weekly. If they swim, the ears should be cleaned at the end of the day on the day they are in the water.

 

Golden retriever image - Jenna