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Preventing Ear Infections In Dogs

by Sam Mazzotta

Dear Paw’s Corner: My German Shepherd puppy, Max, seems to get an ear infection every other week. He’s miserable, shaking his head from side to side. He hates having ear drops put in—a job that gets more difficult the larger he gets! How can I stop the constant ear infections?
—Betsy J., Syracuse, New York

Dear Betsy: Dogs can be very prone to ear infections. The shape of their ear canal is the most likely reason. Allergies and ear mites vie for the title of top irritant in a pet’s ear canal.

The symptoms are probably very familiar to you. Dark discharge from the ears, accompanied by an unusual, dank odor, frequent head shaking, scratching at the ears, and perhaps some scabbing of the outer ear. A veterinarian can pinpoint redness and swelling inside the ear canal as well.

Treatment should always start at the veterinarian’s office. There, cleaning and disinfection of the ear will be done, and then your dog will likely be prescribed medication—typically eardrops —to be administered for up to 10 days. After treatment is complete, you’ll want to prevent future infections by gently cleaning Max’s ears with an ear cleaning solution for dogs and cotton balls (not Q-tips).

Getting a big dog to hold still for treatment can be a struggle. Here’s one method: If he’s very reactive, try to stand over Max with one leg on each side and his head facing forward, away from you. Hold him under his muzzle and apply the medication or cleaning solution to one ear and massage the base of the ear for 30 seconds. Let go of his muzzle and allow him to shake his head. Repeat on the other side. Finish by gently swiping the ear canal with cotton balls.

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