My Dog Has a Discharge From His Ear
Your dog's ears are critical to his daily routine. Of course, they're an important source of auditory information, but they also help maintain normal body temperature by radiating excess body heat. When a dog's ears become clogged with wax or discharge, they function poorly and become uncomfortable and often smelly. The good news is that most ear problems can be managed, and sometimes even cured, at home using commercially available products.
What to Look For
A quick examination of the ear flap and the auditory canal it protects will give you most of the information you need. Start by observing the external ear flap, or pinna, for abnormalities such as puncture wounds, hair loss, and irritations. Next, gently lift the flap up, flattening it against the top of your dog's skull to expose the ear canal beneath. This will give you a clear look at the inside of your dog's ear flap and into the entry to your dog's vertical ear canal.
If you need to get a sample of the discharge in your dog's ear, get a cotton swab. Using your nondominant hand, hook your dog's collar with your pinky and ring finger. Grab the tip of the flapped-over ear between your nondominant thumb and index finger. Now use your dominant hand to place the cotton swab in the entry of your dog's ear canal, using a gentle twirling motion. Don't go in further than half an inch, then slowly withdraw the swab while lightly swiping the sides of the canal.
What to Do
The following questions will help you identify the type of problem you are dealing with and, in turn, dictate the type of treatment you need to begin:
What does the discharge look like? Normal ear wax may vary from slightly yellowish to tan in color, but with some dirt mixed in may end up looking darker. The normal amount shouldn't be copious. Anything more than 1/8 teaspoon for small dogs, 1/4 teaspoon for medium-sized dogs, and 1/2 teaspoon for large-breed dogs should be considered suspicious. Often, the appearance of the material in the ear canal is enough to suggest a diagnosis:
• Black and granular discharge, like coffee grounds, usually means your dog's ears are infested with ear mites. To treat them at home, purchase an ear flush, an ear mite medication, cotton balls, rubber gloves, and cotton swabs. Take your dog to a safe area where spatter will be easy to clean up afterward. Plan on treating the ears twice daily. Wear clothing that is easily laundered.
Now here's what to do:
This treatment does not require the week on, week off, week on treatment. Instead a ten- to twelve-day treatment course should do. If you don't notice any progress after three days, however, you should see your vet.
• Brown to dark brown discharge with a distinct, pungent, "fermenting" odor usually means that your dog has a fungal ear infection. These infections, which are caused by yeast organisms, usually arise after exposure to moisture while swimming or being bathed. They can usually be corrected using the treatment outlined above, but substituting an antifungal lotion or ointment for the ear mite medication. This could include any of the human vaginal yeast infection medications, such as Monistat. Like a bacterial infection, the treatment should only be necessary for about ten to twelve days.