If you notice excessive ear wax in your dog's ears, you may be wondering where all that wax is coming from and what you can do about it. Ear wax, medically known as cerumen, can be unsightly to look at and many owners feel repulsed when it also harbors an offensive smell. Keeping those dog ears clean is paramount as excessive ear wax in dogs creates the perfect environment for annoying dog ear yeast infections that may be challenging to treat. Consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment for getting rid of that excessive wax.
Purpose of Wax
The purpose of ear wax is not to do harm; indeed, ear wax has a very noble responsibility: to protect the skin of the ear canal. When ear wax is produced in normal, healthy amounts, it helps keep the ears clean and lubricated and also protects against pesky bacteria, fungi and insects. On top of that, ear wax also helps protect the ears against water and dirt.
What is ear wax made of? It's mostly composed of shed skin cells, hair and secretions from special glands found in the ear canal. Excess production of wax is often seen when there is some sort of inflammation going on in the ear canal. The goal is to push out whatever is causing the problem.
While ear wax in small amounts has a protective function, when it is produced in large amounts, as with almost everything in life, too much of a good thing can cause harm. The moist, warm environment of ear wax makes it appealing to pesky bacteria and yeast. Keeping excess ear wax at bay is important.
Causes of Ear Wax
Excessive production of ear wax in dogs can be caused by several underlying problems. A primary cause of ear problems leading to excess wax production are allergies. When dogs develop allergies, they may scratch their ears repeatedly and this can cause inflammation and increased production or ear wax.
The inflammation and ear wax production can then lead to secondary problems such as increased numbers of bacterial yeast and fungi populations. If the wax produced has an odor to it and there is excess itching, head shaking and redness, there are chances that there may be a bacterial or yeast infection.
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In some cases, presence of reddish brown to black earwax can be caused by the presence of ear mites. Ear mites cause dogs to have inflamed ears and this often triggers head shaking.
At the Vet's Office
Your vet will look at your dog's ears and will take a sample of the goop. By looking at the sample under a microscope it is possible for the vet to determine whether your dog is dealing with a bacterial or yeast infection, or possibly, both.
The next step is usually to clean out the ear so that the excess ear wax and debris is removed. Failure to clean the ear properly before using ear medication can lead to the medication not working considering that the excess ear wax prevents the ear medication from properly reaching the skin that lines the ear canal, explains veterinarian Dr. Louis Gotthelf.
For yeast ear infections, an ear cleanser containing acetic acid such as Epi-Otic or Vet Solutions can help. A twice a day cleaning for one week can solve the problem. If the ear canal then looks normal, the cleaning can be reduced to once daily for a few days and then every other day. Afterward, as a way to prevent problems, the ear cleaning can be done just twice weekly, suggests veterinarian Dr. K.
Another great product is Zymox, an enzymatic product that can be instilled once daily for 7 to 14 days. During use of this product the ears don't need to be cleaned, but they should be cleaned afterward using an ear cleanser solution as described above.
Bacterial infections require antibiotic ears drops such as Baytril Otic. Bacterial infections caused by pseudomonas, can be very challenging to treat .
Dogs with suspected food allergies are often put on a hypoallergenic diet for at least eight weeks. Dogs suffering from flea bite allergies are often put on products like Frontline, while dogs with ear mites benefit from Tresaderm. If there is significant inflammation, vets may also prescribe steroids.