Infections & General Maintenance Tips for a Healthy Ear
By: Mary Lou
Retriever owners will, at some point in their dog’s life, be faced with the
dreaded “itchy and smelling” ear syndrome.
If you see your dog shaking his head excessively and/or scratching at
either one or both ears, he (or
she!) could have a problem! If
detected early, and diagnosed property, ear infections are easily treated at
home. However, if ignored, the
easily treated problem can escalate into a more serious problem!
Also, keep in mind that because Golden Retrievers have flop-ears, they
are more susceptible to infections rather than dogs with erect ears.
Dogs with erect ears have the added benefit of their ears getting more
“air” to keep them dry!
The three types of
ear infections that I am familiar with are:
Outer ear – This is generally confined to the ear canal
area and stops at the ear drum;
Middle ear – This affects the area of the ear right inside
the ear drum;
Inner ear – This is the area that is closest to the brain
and will involve the bones of the inner ear;
Most ear problems
(infections) start out in the Outer Ear. The
dog will shake his head often, scratch with more intensity, rub his head on the
carpet, moan while rubbing his head, and generally show other signs of
discomfort. When you lift the
earflap, the flap itself will most likely be red and inflamed, as will the outer
portion of the ear. You may also
notice a brown discharge. The
discharge color can range from a light brown to a dark brown.
This discharge may have an odor. This type of infection could be either a
bacterial or yeast related infection. A diagnosis by a veterinarian is the best
route to take if this is the first time you are faced with an outer ear
infection. Your vet will most likely
dispense ointments or drops and these can be administered at home.
While bacterial and
yeast related infections are the most common, other causes of Outer Ear
infections may be a result of allergies (including foods), ear mites or foreign
bodies in the ear such as plain old dirt, water (if your dog is a swimmer),
plant material (if your dog is a roller) and of course, those nasty fleas and
ticks! Repeated outer ear infections can become “chronic” if not cared for
properly and this will set the wheels in motion for Stage 2—Middle Ear
Infections are usually a direct result of chronic Outer Ear infections.
Chronic Outer Ear infections will weaken the eardrum and thus, the
infection moves downward! Tilted
heads, balance problems and nausea should give you the first clue you are now
dealing with a Middle Ear Infection. This
infection is more difficult to diagnose and treatment is more intense.
Ointments and drops can’t reach the infected area, so oral antibiotics
are usually prescribed.
Ears that have been
neglected and overly damaged because of chronic untreated infections can often
result in hearing loss. Over time,
the ear canal thickens, the ear cartilage may turn into bone and thus, the dog
may appear to be deaf! Prescribed
drops, ointments, nor antibiotics will reserve this condition.
Surgery is the “only” option and it is, I have been told, quite
painful to the dog!
If after reading
this article and checking your dog’s ears, you find that they are a pretty
pink, debris free, and smell quite fresh….what should you do to keep them that
Keep the ears clean and free of wax and debris build-up.
Gently wipe out with a cotton ball moistened with an ear cleaning
solution prescribed by your veterinarian or a solution sold specifically for ear
maintenance. It is best to avoid
using a cotton swab, such as Q-Tips. Using
a Q-Tip can actually push any wax and/or debris back down to the eardrum.
When you bathe your Golden Retriever, place a cotton ball in
each ear to avoid water getting into the ear canal.
If you swim your Golden Retriever on a regular basis, you may also want
use a “drying agent”.
Lift your dog’s earflaps on a regular basis and “take a
sniff”. If there is trouble
brewing, you will see the start of the brownish discharge and your nose should
let you know also that something is starting!
Now, should you lift your Golden Retriever’s earflap
and see “red”…and smell toxic fumes, the first thing you need to do is
call the vet and make an appointment!
Make sure you use up the entire prescription of drops or
ointment that the veterinarian prescribes! Just
because the ear starts to look better in a day or two, don’t be fooled!
If you do not finish the medication, as prescribed, the infection will
return! Also, if there is no
improvement in a day or two, call your vet!!
After that, and for a period of time until the dog’s
ears are 100% healthy again you should:
Keep the ears free of excess hair (scissor it out).
Hair can trap dirt and wax and overall just be a nasty place for bacteria
Make sure you continue to lift those “flaps” and take a
“sniff” on a regular (daily) basis!
Make sure you use the cotton balls when bathing and use a
drying agent if you have regularly swim your Golden Retriever.
While I strongly recommend consulting your
veterinarian for a diagnosis before attempting any “home remedies”, for the
occasional “outer ear” yeast-type infections, I have used the following with
One part Isopropyl alcohol and 2 parts white vinegar. Put in
a needle-less syringe, squirt in the ear, massage the ear canal and wipe out.
Best done outside or in a shower, the shake response is immediate!
DO NOT use this preparation if the ears are highly inflamed, as it may
sting! This solution is better used
for an occasional ear cleansing of a healthy ear.
To soothe irritated ears before you are able to get your dog
to the vet, brew CHAMOMILE TEA and allow it to set out to room temperature. Put
15 drops in each ear, gently massage and then allow dog to shake remaining tea
out. If really severe, add a little VITAMIN E to mixture as well. VITAMIN E
promotes healing. Use a cotton ball
to dry the ear.
Olive Oil is also a nice ear bath.
Warm it and then allow it to reach a soothing temperature.
Again, put about 15 drops in each ear, gently massage and allow dog to
shake. Use a cotton ball to dry the
Slightly diluted Hydrogen Peroxide will also loosen earwax.
Two good “commercial” products that I have used
over the years are Bio-Grooms “Ear Care-Ear Cleaner” and “Wonder Ear”
powder, which is manufactured by Chantilly Kennels.
The final flip-flap on “ears” is regular at-home
maintenance can avoid problems and the sooner a problem is identified, diagnosed
and treated, the sooner your dog will be back to his happy Golden Retriever
“life is a party” self again!
Until next time, remember…. "The great
thing about a dog is that you can make a fool of yourself in front of him and
not only will he not scold you, but he will frequently make a fool of himself,
too." – Unknown
above information is based on my personal research and first hand experience
with my Golden Retrievers. I can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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