Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Ear Disease


Roger McKinley

Duck shooting doesn’t seem to cause many concerns for our canine companions, usually only a few cuts and bruises that are insignificant compared to the enjoyment derived from the exercise.

However getting damp in water for long periods can give rise to a flare up of ear disease (otitis externa).

Some dogs seem prone to this, often due to an underlying skin allergy or just the makeup of their ear anatomy. Prolonged moisture in the ears promotes growth of yeasts and bacteria leading to irritation, inflammation and pain. This, left untreated, can lead to more serious middle ear disease that is hard to treat and deafness.

Another scenario often seen throughout the year leading to otitis are dogs we see mid-week after the family has decided to give the pampered pet a thorough wash on a weekend when humidity levels are high which prevents the ear drying out quickly.

Symptoms to watch for include

  • Excessive head shaking
  • Pain on touching the ears
  • Attempts to get the back foot into the ear
  • Redness and a wet sounding ear on rubbing the ear
  • A yeasty or putrid odour. This will often attract other dogs to the area.

For prevention

  • Ensure the ears are clean without a waxy build-up. Ear cleansing and drying solutions are readily available for purchase if needed and can also be used to aid in drying the ear out after a big day out in the water/rain.
  • Ensure your dog is dry or can dry off in a suitable environment after the day’s action

Ongoing ear problems can be difficult and expensive to treat .Antibiotics will only be effective for a time before resistant bacteria emerge to turn the situation into a real dilemma for effective treatment.

In these cases there is a surgical approach that may be worth discussing with your Vet. Called a “Zepps” procedure which is a plastic surgery procedure to remove some of the ear canal to allow better aeration of the surrounding skin and preventing infection from taking hold.

The cost can be easily repaid in comfort, less use of expensive drugs, less chance of producing resistant bacteria and stopping a progression to more serious disease and deafness.

Walnuts are a source of trouble for dogs from now on also .Mouldy walnuts are the problem causing serious symptoms if ingested in quantity.....labradors are naturally the biggest breed at risk.

The fungi affecting walnuts can produce a toxin causing

  • Panting
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

Reports from owners suggest that small doses are tolerated with the minor symptoms often seen to come and go. Circumstances (Sods Law) can mean a lot can sometimes become available and eaten to produce life threatening seizures. By a change to the lawn mowing routine this happened to a dog last year with full seizure activity requiring hospitalization and sedatives which fortunately gave our patient time to metabolise the toxin and go home.


Back to ear trouble ...we see a number of dogs encountering a broken blood vessel in the ear ‘Haematoma’ at this time of the year with no apparent ear disease. What is suspected but hard to prove is that an insect bite (mostly Bee sting) causes an allergic reaction causing head shaking and rupture of a blood vessel.

This is hard to prevent but if possible limit any exposure to Bees that become slow moving with the onset of colder weather.


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