DOG ears are a precise, complex, fine-tuned organic instrument. The School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University did a study on frequency ranges of animal hearing. They found that dogs can hear in the 45 KHz range. By comparison, humans can hear in the 23 KHz range. In addition, dogs hearing range exceeds four times the distance than ours. They can actually pinpoint the exact location of the sound.
THE ear canal is L-shaped. It goes straight down and then turns into a right angle toward the brain. Past that turn is the ear drum. There are three parts; the external, middle and inner ear.
THE external ear is the visible part on the outside of the head and the canal. The position or set is classified into four groups.
- Close. The ears are near each other.
- Wide. The ears are further apart.
- High. The ears are above the eyes.
- Low. The ears are below the eyes.
There are six different shapes.
- Bat. The ears are blunt shaped with rounded tips. Boston Terriers have bat-shaped ears.
- Rose. The ears fold back from the head. Bulldogs have rose-shaped ears.
- Tulip. The ears are upright and the edge curves forward. Shelties have tulip-shaped ears.
- Heart. The ears are wider at the base than at the tip. Poodles have heart-shaped ears.
- V. The ears are long and triangular. Basset Hounds have V-shaped ears.
- Triangular. The ears are pointed and upright. German Shepherds have triangular-shaped ears.
Most ear problems are found in the external ear.
THE middle ear is filled with air. It contains the ear drum, mallet, anvil and stirrup. These transmit sounds to the inner ear. Problems here can affect balance.
THE inner ear is filled with fluid. Sound changes from airwaves to the nerve impulses, then onward to the brain. It contains the temporal bone, Organ of Corti and the eight cranial nerve. Problems here can result in deafness, facial paralysis and balance issues.
A healthy ear is pink on the inside with no odor or discharge and no exterior hair loss. Like any fine-tuned instrument, there are a host of issues that affect its precision.
- Allergy Otitis. It is the most common cause of recurrent ear infections. The usual culprits are food, environmental, mold or dust allergens. The ears are itchy and inflamed and are usually accompanied by itchy paws. Additionally, there may be an odor or black, gunky discharge.
- Tick, flea, fly and mosquito bites as well as mites and demodex can cause ear pain, itching, swelling, hair loss and crusty skin.
- Foreign bodies, such as foxtails, cotton balls, ingrown hairs, cysts and resin powder (used to pull ear hair) can become infected. You may see the obstruction with a flashlight, but do not probe. You will only make the problem worse.
- Due to the warm moist environment, floppy-eared dogs are prone to staph, yeast and bacterial infections. I shave the inside of the ear of those dogs that are prone to recurrent ear infections. The ears may feel warm to the touch, their head may tilt in addition to a discharge and odor. While rare, an ear infection can spread internally or cause peripheral vestibular syndrome.
- Water in the ears can set up the environment for a yeast or bacterial infection. Water can enter the ear canal from bathing or swimming. You should clean out wet ears with a good quality ear cleaner.
- Externally, cancer may appear as dark, scaly or hairless patches.
- Hormonal disorders such as diabetes, thyroid or Cushings can cause hair loss and itchy red skin.
- Psoriasis-like crusting along the ear margins; in itself is not bad, generally points to an underlying medical condition. The list includes skin calcifications due to Cushings, sarcoptic mange, seborrheic ear margin dermatitis, vascular and other hormonal disorders.
- The high velocity dryer can blow out an eardrum. It is best to protect the ears with a Happy Hoodie when using this dryer.
- Puncture wounds need treatment BEFORE they close up. If allowed to close, the trapped bacteria will cause an infection or sepsis (blood infection).
- Hematomas are caused by trauma, vigorous head shaking or immune-related disorders. The dog has swollen, squishy-feeling ear flaps. They can burst open if left untreated.
- Wounds caused by playing, scissors or other grooming equipment. Cuts along the ear margins have a harder time healing. I don’t recommend styptic powder; it burns on contact.
BOTH hematomas and wounds can bleed profusely. Ricky and Dr. James Schachtel will demonstrate how to wrap an ear injury before transport to the vet.
FIRST assemble the contents needed from your first aid kit. You will need a nonstick bandage, antibiotic cream, 0.2% chlorohexidine rinse, vet wrap, cotton roll and gauze pads. Clean the wound with the 0.2% chlorohexidine rinse and pat dry.
PLACE a non-stick gauze pad with antibiotic cream over the wound area. Lay injured ear over the top of the head.
Add gauze on both sides of wound and apply pressure for 3-5 minutes.
Wrap under the jaw and on both sides of the uninjured ear. This will prevent the wrap from falling off.
Cover cotton roll with vet wrap.
Place a cone around the head to prevent the pet from removing the bandages.
Bring him to the vet.
AS you can see, there are many issues affecting the ears. Proper diagnosis by a veterinarian is critical for treatment and recovery.
It is with great appreciation to Dr. James Schachtel and VCA Northside Animal Hospital in Danbury, CT for their assistance in writing this article. Please visit them at www.northsidect.com.