Ear sensitivity can be
a bad sign

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Dr. Jim Randolph

Fluffy just loves to have her ears rubbed. She'll sit for hours if you do."

Sounds like a typically innocent statement common to dog owners, doesn't it? Beware! It could be a danger sign!

Normal, healthy dogs like to have their ears rubbed. They're social animals, they like to be around people and their own kind and they like just about any kind of attention we're willing to give them.

"Rub my ears, scratch my throat, pat me on the belly. I'll take any of them or any combination simultaneously."

If your dog, though, especially moans and seems to prefer an ear rub to attention to any other part of the body, it could mean a problem. Low-grade, chronic infection of the ears is a very common problem in dogs. Unlike people, dogs have an L- shaped ear canal that tends to trap water and foreign objects deep in the ear. Being a naturally dark, warm place, an ear canal with water added becomes a dark, warm, moist place . . . a perfect incubator in which bacteria and yeast can grow.

There's a corollary to this story, too. It happened in our office just the other day: "Doctor, Roy used to love to have his ears rubbed, but now he shies away any time we try to touch his ears."

Such is a typical history of a chronic ear problem that has gone undiagnosed and untreated and has turned into an acute, painful problem.

In either case, a complete ear examination is required, and possibly testing such as cytology and or culture and sensitivity tests, in order for your pet's doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.

Ask the doctor to "just give him some medicine" and you're hamstringing him, asking him to prescribe a medication you'll want to work, without giving him an opportunity to find out what the problem is so that he can choose the right medication.

Regardless of the diagnosis or the treatment, though, everyone's goal is (or should be) prevention. A clean ear is a healthy ear. There are probably a dozen or more ear cleaners made by reputable pharmaceutical companies, and your pet's doctor has his favorite. Use it regularly. The best ear cleaner won't help if it sits on your medicine cabinet shelf.

A general schedule that works well is to clean your pet's ears weekly and after every bath, swim, or other exposure to water.

A thorough cleaning, always ending with a drying step, will remove wax, debris and water from the ear canals and create an environment that is hostile for infections to grow.

Keep your pet's ears clean, and you can rub them with one less worry.

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