It's springtime in the U.S., and soon veterinarians across the country will be seeing an increase in ear infections. The warm wet weather can be one cause, but another common culprit is the increasing prevalence of tall grasses such as foxtails, arrow grass, and grass awns. These sharp grasses can lodge in your dog's fur as he or she runs through the grassy fields and can get into your pup's ears where they can work their way deep into the ear canal and become difficult to remove. These grasses irritate the ear, which causes your furry friend to scratch them. The constant scratching causes breaks in the skin that can allow bacteria and yeast to grow, leading to an ear infection. Here's what you need to know to reduce the risks these pesky grasses pose.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
If you see your furry friend shaking her head or continually scratching her ears, take a look inside the ears. Are they red, hot, bleeding, or inflamed? Is there a bad odor? Are they showing balance or coordination problems? Do you see a discharge or dark, crusty scabs? If so, it's important to consult your veterinarian promptly. An infection or foreign body can penetrate or spread to the middle and inner ear causing damage to the ear canal and ear drum, which can lead to hearing and equilibrium problems
Your veterinarian will use an otoscope to look deep into your dog's ears to find the source of the problem. If it's an embedded foxtail or grass awn, your veterinarian will need to remove it—which may or may not require sedation. He or she may also take a swab of the infected ear to determine the microorganism causing the infection. Once identified, the infection can be treated appropriately. The doctor will likely thoroughly clean the ear and send you home with cleaning materials and antibiotics.
If you and your pup live near areas with lots of weeds and tall grasses or you often visit them while out walking with your dog, it'll be hard to prevent contact with foxtails and other sharp grasses. But you lessen the likelihood that the grass will cause an infection. After these field trips, check your pup for foxtails and other sharp grasses. If they are in the outer ear canal or ear flap and easily removed without getting into the ear, carefully remove it. If it is deep within the ear, don't try to remove it yourself, because you might push it deeper into the ear canal and perhaps rupture the ear drum. Also check the rest of your dog's body, tail, belly and between her toes, as foxtails will embed themselves most anywhere and cause problems.
For additional information, you will want to contact Murrells Inlet Veterinary Hospital.