Treating a German Shepherd Ear Infection
Your German Shepherd’s Ears
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 otherwise known—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 contributes to GSD's as excellent watchdogs and family guardians.
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 which keeps the dog's 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 five months, then you may want to check into the process of taping their dog’s ears.
German Shepherd Grooming
German shepherds are not a high maintenance breed in the grooming department. They do, however, have a tendency to shed, which causes some people to jokingly call them “German Shedders.”
Brushing your dog a few times a week is the best way to prevent wearing your dog’s fur on your best pants for a night on the town. German shepherds don’t tend to have much of a doggy smell to their coat, which means frequent bathing is unnecessary.
If you do need to bathe your dog, avoid getting water inside your dog’s ears. Instead, use a washcloth to clean his head and face. Your GSD’s nails should be trimmed two to three times per month depending on how quickly they grow.
Giving your shepherd high-quality, safe chew toys, dental treats, or bones will satisfy your dog’s innate urge to chew, which will also keep his teeth clean and tartar free, especially on the back molars. Acclimating your dog to canine toothpaste (not human toothpastes this can be toxic), early on in the relationship can also set a good precedent for quality 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. A light accumulation 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 will stay dryer than some other breeds. However, 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 the ear projecting beyond his head (not the outside ear surface). The term for these ear infections is Otitis Externa. 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 with balance, deafness, and even life-threatening issues.
Fungus and yeast are common factors. Treating ear infections with EcoEars will clean up both of these infections when caught early. If your dog tends to get ear infections, check his or her ears every day or two for any of the warning signs. You’ll learn to recognize symptoms such as bad odors coming from the ears, frequent head shaking, or tenderness around ears.
You might also 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 they can scratch and chew while trying to get relief from the itch, like the base of the tail.
Sometimes after clearing up the most obvious problems, ear infections can be the last, lingering complaint. They may come and go. Remember that ear infections can happen as a result of general food allergies, ear mites, bacteria and yeast, or a reaction to medications previously prescribed for your dog.
Antibiotics and Other Prescriptions Used to Treat Ear Infections – Use With Caution
Antibiotics used to treat ear infections can cause yeast infections as a side effect. Also, prescriptions for ear infections may include hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone is one of the lowest dosages of steroids available, which is why we often see it sold over-the-counter. However, they can have dramatic side effects —steroids have the potential to affect seemingly unrelated body functions.
A Few Helpful Tips
- Calm and encourage your dog with a reassuring voice as you clean his ears and apply the best remedy for the infection. Early intervention avoids serious issues. Finish an ear cleaning 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. 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 a serious infection, like bloody discharge or fever, take your dog to the vet immediately.
For more information about ear infections, check out these resources:
Craig is a lifelong pet owner and dog advocate with a special interest in animal and human longevity. He founded Vet Organics to develop an affordable, all-natural, safe and effective ear infection remedy for his dog, Lucy, whose chronic ear problems could not be solved by the vet.