This blog series expands on some of the tips to help our Full Circle Vet readers understand the normal mammalian ear. The ingredients to look for and to avoid in ear cleaners and a deeper look at the principles of caring for inflamed or infected ears both conventionally and from a holistic medicine perspective.
The Normal Ear
The normal dog and cat ear consists of the visible outer ear flap called the external pinnae, a vertical and horizontal canal formed by a muscle and soft tissue attachments around flexible cartilage lined with skin containing small hair follicles and secretory glands, that leads to the ear drum. All this is referred to as the external ear If your veterinarian writes “otitis externa” on your diagnosis sheet, your pet has inflammation of this part of the ear.
The middle ear consists of the structures between the ear drum or tympanic membrane and the temporalis bone of the skull. The inner ear is a system of fluid filled canals and membranes that ultimately connect to the auditory nerve. Otitis media or otitis interna refer to inflammation it the middle or internal ear compartments.
Hearing is a complex mechanism which starts with the outer ear gathering sound waves. Dogs and cats can move their ears and better amplifying their sound reception. The air which is vibrating from sound touches the ear drum which transmits the movement to several small bones in the middle ear which in turn “ tap” on the inner ear causing the fluid to vibrate innervated membranes. The many tiny nerves coalesce into the auditory nerve and sound is identified by the brain.
Caring for the Normal Ear
When you lift your dogs ear flap or look into your cat’s ear, you may see a small amount of brownish waxy debris. This is normally produced by the ear secretory glands. The skin that lines the ear should be a pale pink. There should be no pain on gentle handling of a normal ear.
Think of the external ear canals as an extension of your pet’s skin. This unique tunnel is a microenvironment with a careful distribution of secretory and immunologic characteristics which are designed to keep the ear healthy without help from humans. As soon as you put something in your dog’s ears… you change this environment and not always for the better. ANY cleaner or product instilled in the ear carries the possibility of causing sudden deafness or ototoxicity. So our first rule of holistic care for healthy ears… Leave the ear canals alone.
The only exceptions to this are dogs with very hairy ears that may not get infections but get heavy waxy balls accumulating in the hair, breeds with abnormally narrow ear canals where normal wax has difficulty exiting and breeds with extremely heavy thick ears that obstruct the normal movement of wax out of the ear. In these cases, using a gentle cleaner that softens and breaks up wax may be necessary.
If you live in the Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford area, or utilize Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives services from other areas of Nova Scotia, please call 902 461 0951 to book appointments. You can also put in an appointment request online. Ears health is important so if you have concerns or questions let us know.
Participate in the Full Circle of Veterinary Care!
Our dynamic, passionate and dedicated customer care team wants you to experience inspired, integrated veterinary health care. Our broadly educated veterinarians, technologists and clerical support staff meld conventional veterinary medicine and surgery with diverse special interest fields including: nutrition (commercial and home prepared feeding plans), diagnostic ultrasound, acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, canine rehabilitation, feline focused medicine and more. Take the first step and join us online at www.fullcirclevet.ca to learn more and to link to our Facebook page.