Q: My Jack Russell Terrier recently went to the groomer to have her nails trimmed. The groomer also cleaned her ears without our request. After the session, she’s been shaking her head and scratching her ears incessantly.
We called the groomer and he said that it could be because she is not used to having clean ears. Please advise if that is true.
A: While it is of good intentions that your groomer took the initiative to clean your dog’s ears, I am a little worried to know that her ears got irritated after the cleaning. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with the reason that your groomer gave.
There may be three possible scenarios – the first being that your dog’s ears were very dirty and were already infected. Cleaning the infected ears can, at times, cause further irritation and redness. If your dog’s ears were already infected before the grooming session, then you would notice that she would have been scratching her ears, shaking her head showing similar signs of ear irritation. You would also detect some foul odour from her ears.
In this case, the infected ears need to be medically treated with appropriate cleaning agents, topical medication and even oral antibiotics and antiinflammatories. An Elizabethan collar must also be put on to prevent further scratching of the already-infected ears.
The second scenario is that your dog’s ears were in perfect condition but she had an adverse reaction to the ear cleanser that your groomer used. Such a reaction is classified as an allergy, which causes mild to severe redness, swelling and even pain. It could then lead to incessant shaking of head and scratching of ears.
If the allergy was mild, it should have resolved within a few hours. A severe allergy where your dog scratches her ear badly could lead to secondary trauma and exacerbate the irritation, which could result in severe bacterial infection. Medical attention is needed should bacterial infection set in.
The last possible scenario is that the cleaning method used by the groomer was inappropriate and had caused damage and pain to your Jack Russell’s ears. If you suspect this is a possible cause of your dog’s shaking and scratching, you have to bring her for a thorough medical checkup of her ears to establish the integrity of the eardrums and ear canals.
* This article was updated on 9 July 2020. It first appeared in Pets Magazine, 9 Oct 2013.