Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Veterinary Technician gets "Schooled" in Ears

Last week, Susie and Tango (HOTLR alumni) had their annual check up. You know the routine, heartworm test, vaccination update if needed and since both of them are approaching senior status (8 and 6), I also opted for a senior profile blood panel. I'm happy to say that both of them were deemed in perfect health. But then we had yet to proceed to the official "physical exam".

Once again both dogs check out great.

Heart and lungs = normal.
Skin = normal
Weight = perfect
Nails = trimmed
Eyes = normal

I must admit to you that both of my Labs received a "C-" grade on their ears.....and I am a veterinary technician....Oh, the shame.... (The picture is from my own dog, but was taken after 3 days of treatment..)

If you have Labs then you probably know about Otitis Externa (OE). And if you have Labs and you don't know about OE, you should learn about it immediately.

Have you ever noticed a foul, yeasty smell coming from your "beloved's" ears? Once you've begun to search out the source of the stench and you lift up one of your dog's silky ears, do you observe a brown chunky discharge. Are your pups ears red and inflamed inside instead of a healthy pink? Does your pup paw and scratch at his ears, shake his head, wipe his face on the rug even though you know that he cannot possibly have fleas???? Does he seem sensitive when you touch or rub him around the ears?

These signs, my friend, are the classic symptoms of Otitis Externa. Here is an important equation to keep in mind.....

Labs + a moist humid climate (+/- swimming) (+/- bacteria) = Otitis Externa

Otitis externa refers to inflammation of the skin and outer portions of the ear and ear canal. It can be as simple as inflammation caused by exposure to water or otitis externa may be a result of a bacterial, allergic or microbial infection. The condition can often occur overnight and as the inflammation and swelling continue can become incredibly painful quickly. Remember how painful the dreaded "swimmer's ear" was that you had as a child?

Treatment varies depending on the presence of bacteria or microbes. Different medications are prescribed to treat the underlying bacterial infection and will also reduce swelling and redness. The most common form of treatment is medicated ear drops that are administered daily for a certain number of days. Sometimes the ears will be "packed" with medication in the animal hospital and will need only be administered the one time. Pain medications are sometimes prescribed as well. If you believe that your dog is in pain, don't be afraid to request pain meds or ask if the prescribed medication has a pain reliever mixed in. It is usually best if you dog returns to the vet after completing treatment to make sure that the infection has indeed been cured.

Left uncured, Otitis Externa can lead to permanent damage to the ear and the sensitive mechanisms required for hearing. Hearing loss and damage to the ear drum can occur. The best preventative measure is to clean your dogs ears on a regular basis, especially after swimming. And yes, I am sad to say, that if they are swimming daily, cleaning their ears daily is probably best. Your veterinarian can recommend a gentle cleaning agent that also acts to "dry" any remaining water that may be trapped in your dogs ears. Prevention is the best medicine.

So, give your pups ears a quick check. If they seem a bit funky, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Follow his/her advice for the quickest and best outcome. I know I am. I've learned my lesson. For more information on Otitis Externa click here: PetEducation - Otitis Externa


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