Summertime brings with it longer days, sun-drenched vacations, and necessary escapes to the nearest body of water to cool down. For dogs who like to hit the lake, beach, or pool with you, this increased time in the water also increases the risk of painful ear infections.
When water enters the ear canal, the perfect environment – dark and wet – is created for bacterial and yeast to grow in. Dogs swim “doggy paddle” style, with their head above water, but that doesn’t mean that water won’t splash up into their ears, and sometimes, dogs submerge themselves to fetch a stick or water toy.
To prevent ear infections in your dog, you can always proactively place cotton balls in their ears (pre-swim and definitely pre-bath), but after a swim or bath, make sure to dry out the insides of your dog’s ears as thoroughly as you can with a towel or more cotton balls. Never use q-tips because it’s just too easy to puncture their delicate ear drum.
Floppy-eared dogs are most at risk for ear infections, because those lovable floppy ear flaps can prevent your dog’s ears from air-drying after a swim, so if your dog has two of these (floppy ears, that is), take extra-special care to ensure they are dried out as much as possible!
Your veterinarian can even prescribe a special ear wash that you can apply weekly or even monthly to help keep ears clean and free of waxy buildup and bacterial and yeast growth – so if you think your dog would be a good candidate for something like this, ask your vet!
If your dog starts shaking his head repeatedly or without any discernible cause (or effect), starts scratching at his ears, or if you see any redness inside his ears, it’s definitely time to call the vet. It’s easy enough to treat an ear infection in dogs (just as it is in humans), but if they are left untreated, they can spread deeply inside the ear canal and become extremely painful. It’s up to you to notice any changes in your dog’s behavior and appearance, to ensure he’s his most comfortable and happy, since your dog isn’t going to start speaking English anytime soon (though you may be fluent in “dog”).