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Those Beautiful (and challenging) Cocker Ears!

Those Beautiful (and challenging) Cocker Ears!

The ears of the Cocker Spaniel are among its most appealing features - long, silky, and truly emblematic of the breed.  But, as long-time Cocker breeders and owners know - those ears can cause more problems than almost any other aspect of the dog.  We asked three well-known and respected Cocker Spaniel breeders in the United States for “tricks of the trade” they can recommend to keep “those Cocker ears” healthy and clean.

Regina Beinhauer, Normandy Cocker Spaniels, Venetia, Pennsylvania, with

Harriet Kamps, Kamps Cocker Spaniels, Sparks, Maryland

As much as we love those gorgeous, long ears on our Cockers, they can easily present problems that require regular attention and cause our dogs a lot of discomfort. 

Ear problems can be hereditary, as the size of the dogs’ ear canal can play a large role in the health of the ear.  Small, warm, moist ear canals that are difficult to clean will harbor infection more easily than larger canals. 

Food allergies can also trigger ear infections and can be difficult to diagnose. 

So, what do we do once we discover that the dog has a problem?  Better yet, what can we do to prevent the problem?

The hair on the underneath flap of the ear should be kept as short as possible at all times.  This will help air circulate, and also make it easier to treat should there be an infection. 

Severe ear infections are treated with antibiotic drops, or your veterinarian may prescribe ointment containing prednisone, which helps reduce swelling, inflammation, and also gives the dog some relief from itching.   Oral antibiotics can also administered, and if the infection is due to yeast, an antifungal will be required.

If the ear problem is diet-related, a change in diet may help. 

Certainly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

*Check your dogs’ ears routinely.

*Use a good veterinarian-recommended ear cleaner weekly to help prevent problems.

I prefer Malacetic otic, and Harriet likes Vet Solutions.  Both are good products.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to begin more aggressive treatment at the first sign of a problem, OR, check with your vet.

Laura Heidrich, Laurent Cocker Spaniels, Manhattan, Illinois

I have been a breeder of our dear Cocker Spaniels for over 20 years, and large ear canals are something I always try to breed into my dogs. 

Narrow ear canals were a problem in one of the “lines” of black cockers I owned.  Those dogs all had a problem with multiple bad ear infections, swelling, and calcification – much more so than dogs from other lines.  Some actually required surgery to remove the entire ear canal because of the calcification.  Fortunately, at that time I was working for a vet who was one of the top surgeons in this field, so the dogs went on to live long, happy lives as pets.

I have learned to be conservative in the use of the “purple ear cleaner” favored by many Cocker owners.  I used this formula for many years, and always thought - the more the better!  But…not so!  Recently, my favorite buff girl Twinkie developed canine vestibular syndrome – an inner ear infection/disorder.  She suffered with dizziness, which affected her walking, and she developed a severe head tilt and lost most, if not all, of her hearing.  She has recovered somewhat, but not completely.  I researched the “blue powder”, and found that it has been associated with deafness and birth defects, especially if the mixture is heavy on the gentian violet or “purple” part. 

I have now found an ear cleaner called “T-8 Keto” that does a great job.  It contains ketoconizole, which kills fungus (and yeast is a fungus).  Using this, my dogs’ ears have been much cleaner and not yeasty at all.

I generally advise puppy clients to clean the ears whenever they bathe their dogs – or once a week, whichever comes first.  Following this regimen definitely helps to ward off the dreaded “Cocker ears”!

Stephanie Kaul, Samamari, Sunnyvale, California

My favorite tips for helping keep your Cocker’s ears clean:

  • Before bathing your Cocker, put a cotton ball in each ear so that water doesn’t get into the canal.  Excess moisture is typically what leads to ear infections.
  • After bathing the dog, squeeze some commercial ear cleaner into each ear and gently massage from the base of the ear upward to loosen any debris in the ear canal.  The alcohol in the cleaner will also help dry up any moisture that entered the canal during the bath.
  • Use a cotton ball to clean out the loose debris from the immediate opening of the    ear.  As with human ears, do not put cotton swabs into the canal, because they push debris and ear wax further into the canal, which can lead to infection.

 

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