Rufus is an energetic, one year old Groodle who was brought in to see us after his owner noticed him shaking his head a lot. When she checked his ears she found them to be to be quite smelly and on further inspection noticed a dark coloured wax inside the ear.
Dr Stacy examined Rufus’ ears and found a build up of dirt and debris inside the canal. A sample of the debris was examined under the microscope and otitis externa was diagnosed, which is caused by the overgrowth of yeast (known as Malassezia). As Rufus’ ears were very painful, a general anaesthetic was given and an ear flush was performed to thoroughly remove the debris.
Ear infections are quite common in dogs but what causes them? The most common causes are; ear size and shape (dogs with long floppy ears are predisposed to infection due to limited airflow and drainage), environmental temperature and humidity, lifestyle such as swimming, foreign bodies such as grass seeds, allergies to food, pollen or dust and parasites such as ear mites. When the ear becomes irritated it tends to produce more wax which then becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeasts to grow which then causes further infection. Bacteria and yeasts are one of the most common agents involved in ear infections and are often the secondary cause following a primary irritation, in this case Rufus’ ears had a build-up of hair and debris in his ear canal causing the irritation.
For this reason it is very important to do regular checks on your dogs ears and become familiar with what your dog's healthy ears looks like and watch out for signs such as; unusual discharge, head shaking or scratching, unpleasant odour and pain when touching their ears.
Rufus is feeling much better now but he is still being treated with twice daily ear drops and ear cleaner for his ear infection at home. His ears will need to be checked regularly to ensure an infection does not reoccur.