German Shepherds consistently rank in the top 10 most popular dog breeds in the U.S., and with good reason. German Shepherd Dogs—or GSDs as they’re known on the web and elsewhere—inspire respect due to both their intelligence and appearance. German Shepherds have a noble profile and part of that silhouette is the breed’s beautifully erect ears. These alert ears and their keen hearing are one aspect of the dog’s confirmation that contribute to its making an excellent watchdog and family guardian.
German Shepherd Ears at Puppyhood
First-time German Shepherd owners may go through an anxious period of stressing over their pup’s ears and looking for them to stand up on schedule. German Shepherd puppies often have floppy ears through their 20th week of age, at which time the cartilage in their ears starts to become harder and able to keep the dogs ears erect. The general wisdom is that if you’ve seen your puppies ears stand up on their own at some point, they will stay up later. If your puppy’s ears do not stand up around 5 months, then you may want to check into the process of taping the dog’s ears.
German Shepherd Grooming
German Shepherds are not a high maintenance breed in the grooming department, except they do have a tendency to shed, which causes some people to call them jokingly “German Shedders.”
Brushing your dog a few times a week is the best way to prevent wearing your dog’s fur out for a night on the town on your best pants. German Shepherds don’t tend to have much of a doggy smell to their coat and frequent bathing is unnecessary.
If you do need to bath your dog, avoid getting your water inside your dog’s ears. Instead, use a wash cloth to clean his head and face. Once a month, your GSD’s nails should be trimmed.
Giving your Shepherd good quality, safe chew toys, dental treats or bones to satisfy your dog’s innate urge to chew and to keep his teeth clean and tartar free, especially on the back molars. Acclimating your dog early to canine toothpaste can also set a good precedent for dental health.
German Shepherd Ear Care
At least once a week, check your German Shepherd’s ears. Look for dirt and any signs of redness or a bad smell, which indicates an ear infection is brewing. Simple accumulations of dirt can be gently cleaned out with a soft cotton cloth. The good news for Shepherd owners is that ear infections are most common in dogs with floppy ears. Because a German Shepherd’s ears are erect, air can circulate within the ear and your dog’s ear canals stay dryer than some other breeds. But German Shepherds still get ear infections for other reasons, including exposure to environmental elements, ear mites, and yeast imbalances.
If your dog’s ears are healthy and pink, you don’t need to do anything. However if there is any smell coming from around your dog’s ears, or your dog is shaking his head or scratching at his ears, get a small flashlight and look as far down into the ear as you can for signs of dirt or gunk. A healthy ear should be pink and reasonably free of wax build up and dirt. If you don’t see anything but still smell something, reach as far into the ear canal as possible with a cotton ball and see if you come up with any colored waxy substance.
If your Shepherd has an advanced case of ear mites, you may see black grime, similar to coffee grinds on the inside of your dog’s ears. Use a good quality ear treatment product like EcoEars for Dogs to both clean his ears and clear up any infection. You will want to follow the ear cleaner’s instructions, and it’s advisable to repeat the treatment process again 14 days later to kill any newly hatched eggs.
Ear Infection (Otitis Externa)
Ear infections usually start with the portion of your dog’s ear called the outer ear, which simply means the part of his ear projecting beyond his head (not the outside ear surface). The term for these ear infections is Otitis Externa, and these infections can be very painful. If an infection of your dog’s outer ear is left untreated, it can quickly travel downwards, affecting the delicate middle and inner ear, too. This is not only painful but dangerous due to the possibility of severe, long-term damage and potential future problems in balance, deafness and even life-threatening issues.
Both fungus and yeast are common factors, and treating ear infections with EcoEars will clean up both of these infection causes when caught early. If your dog has a tendency towards ear infections, check his or her ears every day or two for any of the warning signs you’ll learn to recognize (bad odors from the ears, shaking his head frequently, or tenderness around ears).
Some German Shepherd owners inherit dogs without knowing their full history. If your GSD was a rescue, you may find yourself battling a host of skin and ear problems. Shepherds, like other dogs, can end up being allergic to fleas and losing a great deal of hair on areas that they can chew on while trying to get relief from the itch, like on their backs near the base of the tail.
Sometimes after clearing up most external problems, ear infections are the last, lingering complaint and they may come and go. Remember that ear infections can happen as a result of general food allergies, ear mites, bacteria, or a reaction to medications previously prescribed for your dog.
Antibiotics and Other Prescriptions to Treat Ear Infections – Use With Caution
Antibiotics can cause ear infections to become chronic or recurring. Antibiotics used to treat ear infections can cause yeast infections as a side effect. Also, prescriptions for ear infections may include hydrocortisone. Keep in mind that these steroids are hormones, and therefore they can have dramatic side effects —steriods have the potential to affect seemingly unrelated body functions.
A Few Helpful Tips
- Calm and encourage your dog with a reassuring voice as you treat his ears for regular cleaning, and treat the infection early. Early intervention avoids serious issues. Finish an ear treatment session with a dog biscuit or other reward.
- You should not use multiple products at the same time in the ears. However, you can use other Vet Organics products like EcoSpot Hot Spot Spray to treat your German Shepherd’s other skin problems.
- If your German Shepherd tends to shake his head or hold it to one side, you may want to check to see if he has an ear infection, with possible secondary yeast and bacterial infections. You can take him to the vet to diagnose and treat the conditions, or clear up both of these conditions as well as clean his ears with EcoEars.
- If there are signs of serious infection like bloody discharge or fever, take your dog to the vet.