Phuket Dog Whisperer – His master’s voice?

PHUKET: As a canine trainer, one of the key things I hear people talk about is that their dog won’t come back when they call.

I’ll spare you the training psychology behind this for today and focus on another important aspect to a failed recall. It might not be that your dog is blowing you off, he just might not be able to hear you.

Ear infections are no fun, but generally can be easily cured. That said, like many canine infections, you need to catch them early and treat them or you run the risk of things getting much worse. The down side, is that our dogs can’t tell us they have earache. The upside is that they will display signs and signals that while not exactly a large neon flashing signboard, should at least give us an idea that all is not well and it’s time to go to the vet.

A dog with infected ears will display various signs and symptoms such as excessively shaking their heads, scratching at their ears with their paws, or rubbing their heads along the ground.

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Infected ears can also be a tad on the smelly side – an infected ear will be pungently distinct. On top of that, the inside of the ear flap may be red or swollen, from the constant scratching and infection.

Untreated, infections become more severe and shift from the outer ear, to the inner ear which could cause your dog to go deaf. Also, if the nerves within the inner ear become infected, your dog may become disorientated, often tilting their heads or walking in circles. Unusual eye movements (or Nystagmus) can also occur. If you’re dog is acting strange (cue dogs juggling fire balls), or displaying any of the above signals, take them to the Vet for a check up.

So how did this happen? Ear infections are caused by the presence of high numbers of bacteria or yeast cells in the ear, or the introduction of foreign bacteria into the ear. This can happen in a number of ways. For example dogs that swim regularly are exposed to foreign objects in the water and are high risk candidates. Humid climates and overzealous ear cleaning can also increase the dog’s risk of developing some manner of infection.

Some breeds of dogs are prone to endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism and have a higher risk of inner ear infection. Also dogs with allergies are more likely to ear infections than those without allergies. Dog allergies tend to cause inflammation and heat in and around the ears. These conditions help to promote abnormal yeast growth and can lead to chronic infections.

Certain breeds of dogs are more likely than others to develop ear infections for this reason such as Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers.

Certain characteristics of the breed and individual dog ears can make a dog more susceptible to an infection. Lots of hair around, or even in the ear canal reduces the airflow which leads to an increased incidence of infection, as can long, droopy ears which can prevent air from entering the ear cavity.

The treatment required depends on the type and severity of the infection. That said, medicinal drops or ointments are usually the order of the day and need to be administered over a period of time to ensure the infection is completely cleared.

One can also find various homeopathic remedies that can help alleviate ear infections. These usually include soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as Tea Tree Oil or Chamomile.

Other homeopathic remedies are known for their pain relief or anti-fungal properties both of which may be needed depending on the cause of the infection.

Dog Whisperer is Phuket Gazette columnist Russell D Russell’s feature series covering all things special about our four-legged friends.

Russell D Russell IACP, ADPT, UKCBC is a professional canine trainer and behavior specialist. He can be contacted through

— Russell D Russell

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