When it comes to dogs that like to swim, ear care becomes of utmost importance. This is especially true for the American Water Spaniel. The ear canal of a dog has a much different shape than a humans. Furthermore, with the American Water Spaniel's ears covering the canal's opening, air flow is greatly reduced. Even in dogs that don't swim, this can provide a warm moist place where bacteria easily flourish. With dogs that do like to swim, adding water to the equation can make things even worse. Ear infections are known to be a very common problem for water dogs. Those who opt for an American Water Spaniel should expect to make ear care a weekly routine.
One of the things that helps a dog hear so well is its long ear canal that comes in two sections. The first passage is vertical, while the second is horizontal. The shake that a dog performs after swimming is quite proficient for getting trapped water out of these passage ways. However, minute amounts of moisture can still be left behind. When combined with the dog's natural body heat and little airflow, it becomes quite easy for problems to occur. The longer a dog goes without proper ear care, the larger a problem can get and the harder it can be to get it healed. Not only are they painful and inconvenient, chronic ear infections can also lead to a reduction in the dog's ability to hear.
Yeast infections, allergies, parasites or sometimes even trapped bits of grass or dirt can be the cause of ear problems in dogs. Because the canal is so long, problems can still strike without warning even with good ear care. About the time an owner sees their dog shaking its head to one side or detects a pungent smell emanating from the dog's ear is usually the time an ear infection is well underway. Owners must act quickly to not only alleviate the dog's symptoms but to keep things from progressing from bad to worse. This typically warrants a trip to the vet where he or she can swab the dog's ears and determine the cause. More than likely a salve that helps restore a natural balance to the ear will be prescribed.
Though it may be tempting to use a cotton swab on a dog's ears, this is strongly cautioned against. A good ear cleaner that flushes out dirt and debris, while keeping a pH balance that is inhospitable to parasites, is all that will be needed. As diet can also affect ear health, American Water Spaniels should stick to their dog food diet, with owners refraining from feeding table scraps or other inappropriate treats.
For the American Water Spaniel who spends a lot of time in the water, a vet may prescribe an ear gel with an alcohol base. After swimming, the gel is applied to the canal and the ears are gently rubbed to help distribution. The gel not only helps evaporate any water left behind in the ear, it also deodorizes with a refreshing scent. However, the gel should not be used if the Water Spaniel has an ear infection. Water Spaniels with ear infections should stay out of the water altogether until the infection is completely healed.