by Karen Leshkivich DVM
Bloodhounds unfortunately have an ear designed for trouble. Those wonderful long, low set ears are great at trapping debris, moisture and heat producing the optimum dark environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.
If you notice a foul odor or debris in the ear canal when you lift up that soft, long ear flap or if they are shaking their head, scratching at their ears, or rubbing their head on the floor or furniture, your hound may have an ear infection (otitis).
The most common culprits of ear infections are yeast (often a very dark brown buildup in the ear canal) or bacteria such as E. Coli, Staph or Pseudomonas. There are many predisposing factors to ear problems, other than their ear conformation. Activities such as swimming, or always laying on one side to sleep can result in an ear problem. Foreign bodies (weeds, grass, etc), tumors, or polyps can lead to ear infections. Underlying systemic problems such as hypothyroidism or allergies can often show up as only an ear problem.
Ear infections can progress from the outer ear canal into the middle or inner ear with serious consequences such as a head tilt, vestibular disease (balance problems) or facial nerve paralysis. With chronic ear problems, the ear canal can become very irregular and narrowed, and may even require surgery for relief. The best treatment is prevention. You should routinely check and clean your hound's ears at a minimum of once a week.
The best way to clean the ears is with the help of an ear cleaning solution made for use in dogs. There are many available, but some of my favorites are R-7 ear cleaner, Oticlens, Oticalm, Nolvasan Otic, and Epi-Otic.
Open up your dog's ear by holding the ear flap upward to form a sort-of-funnel, to see the opening of the ear canal. What you see is the opening of the vertical canal. Squirt a good amount of ear cleaner into the opening. Close up the ear by placing the ear flap over the canal opening. Gently massage the base of the ear near the skull. You'll hear the solution squishing around (as well as your hound moaning and groaning). Take a cotton ball and place it over the tip of your finger and gently wipe out any debris from the outer ear canal. Let your hound shake his head (you may want to step back a bit). This will bring debris up from deeper in the ear canal from the horizontal canal to the vertical canal where you can wipe it out. If the cotton ball is still very dirty, repeat the process. Don't use Q-tips, or try to reach down too far into the ear canal, you only end up pushing the debris in further. Let the centrifugal force of the head shaking and the ear solution to do a lot of the work for you.
It will depend on what is growing in your hound's ears as to what medication to use. It is best to have your vet do a smear from the ears and look under the microscope to determine if it is mites, yeast, or bacteria. If there is bacteria growing in your hounds ears it may be necessary to do a culture and sensitivity to determine the best medication. Sometimes it is necessary to use an oral antibiotic in conjunction with topical ear medications (especially with Pseudomonas infections). For medicating the ears, always clean them first, instill the medication, then massage the base of the ear to distribute the medication deeper into the ear canal.
Check your hound's ears routinely and keep them clean!
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