My seven-year-old Poodle keeps getting ear problems. He’s been to the vet three times this year alone. Is there anything we can do to stop his ears keep causing problems?
Graham Finch advises…
Ears are a complex topic and there have been whole textbooks devoted to the subject. Let me try to give you a summary in a couple of paragraphs, with some things you might be able to try. In general terms, ear problems occur as a result of primary problems, secondary problems and perpetuating factors. Primary problems are the underlying disease processes that causes ear symptoms – commonly this will include, parasites (ear mites), allergies (both food and environmental) and hormonal problems (such as an underactive thyroid). Checking out these various factors is a really good idea, as treatment can then be directed at the underlying cause. Secondary problems are the anatomy of the ear. Some breeds have naturally long, floppy ear flaps or narrow ear canals, which can affect drainage and the microclimate within the ear canal. Some dogs produce excess wax, which then clogs up the canal and some dogs naturally have very hairy ears – such as Poodle breeds. This is where cleaning comes in, as removing debris from the canal regularly – generally two to three times per week – will improve drainage.
Perpetuating factors are the small number of bugs that naturally live down the ear canal, which usually do not cause issues, but if the canal becomes inflamed or very waxy, tend to go wild and cause infections. This is where our ear ointments come in and are usually applied into the canal once or twice a day for about a week. As you can see, it’s well worth having a chat with your vet and seeing what they think about the possibility of underlying disease and routine care.