Ear Infections in Greyhounds
By: Amy Wolfgang, DVM
Ear infections are a common health problem in Greyhounds and can lead to chronic problems such as discomfort, hearing loss and even ear drum rupture if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. Therefore, it is important to have your Greyhound’s ears examined regularly by a veterinarian to look for any signs of infection.
The following is a list of commonly asked questions and answers about ear infections:
Q. What causes an ear infection?
A. There are 2 main types of ear infections: bacterial and fungal (yeast). The bacteria and yeast are normally present in small numbers in the ear canal. However, when the ear canal becomes wet or damaged, the bacteria and yeast start to multiply and cause an infection. Ways that the ears become wet or damaged include:
– Water accumulation in the ear from bathing, swimming, rain, or snow
– Poor hygiene, unsanitary living conditions, and humidity
– Allergies to food or environment
– Ear mites (small parasites that live in the ear canal, usually obtained through exposure to an infected animal)
– Foreign object in ear canal (plant material, Q-tip, etc.)
Q. How do I know if my Greyhound has an ear infection?
A. Some dogs will exhibit symptoms such as head shaking or scratching at their ears. You may notice a large amount of dark brown wax in the ear canals or a foul odor coming from the ears.
*It is important to note, however, that some Greyhounds do not exhibit any of these signs and the infection may be very deep in the ear canal where you cannot see it. This is why it important to have your Greyhound’s ears examined by a veterinarian with an otoscope. This is a special instrument which can be inserted down into the ear canal to look for evidence of infection. Your veterinarian can also obtain a sample from the ear canal and either look at it under the microscope or perform a culture to determine the type and severity of the infection. This is important in order to be able to treat the infection properly.
Q. How is an ear infection treated?
A. The bacterial and fungal infections can be treated with medicated drops or ointment that is applied to the ear canal twice daily for about 2 weeks. It is important to use an ear cleaning solution to remove excess debris from the ears prior to medicating them. Depending on the severity of the infection, it may be necessary to do oral medications as well. It is very important to use all medications as instructed by your veterinarian and have the ears rechecked after treatment to ensure that the infection is completely resolved. It is also important to work with your veterinarian to determine what caused the ear infection (i.e. moisture, poor hygiene, allergies, ear mites) in order to prevent recurrence.
Q. How can I prevent my Greyhound from getting an ear infection?
A. In order to prevent an infection, it is important to try and determine the underlying cause.
Moisture accumulation and poor hygiene can be prevented by using an ear cleaning and drying solution on a regular basis (at least once a week or anytime water may have entered the ear canal). You can obtain a cleaning solution and instructions for use from your veterinarian.
Allergies to food can be eliminated by putting your Greyhound on a hypoallergenic diet as prescribed by your veterinarian. Environmental allergies can be managed in several ways including oral medications, medicated shampoos/sprays, or allergy injections. An allergy test can be performed on your Greyhound to determine the what the offending allergens are.
Ear mites are treated with a medicated ear drop and can be prevented by keeping your Greyhound away from other animals that are infected with this parasite.
Foreign objects in the ears are prevented by routine ear exams, cleaning (do not use Q-tips as they can break off deep in the ear canal), and monitoring Greyhounds when outside or around small children.
As with most medical conditions, prevention of ear infections is best. However, if an infection occurs, early detection and treatment will most likely save your Greyhound from discomfort and permanent damage to their ears.