Eye and Ear Care
The eyes and ears are sensitive areas for most living creatures, including dogs. It is critical that both be kept free of foreign objects that could cause infection at all times. Sight and hearing problems can be difficult to detect in dogs; for this reason, all abnormal symptoms or behavior should be heeded right away.
Fortunately, the German shepherd breed is not plagued with eye abnormalities that require constant cleaning or with protruding eyes that require careful handling of the dog to prevent injuries. The shepherd's eyes are those of a working dog and don't require much attention.
With that said, it is possible for foreign bodies to injure your dog's eyes. Signs that indicate there might be something in her eye other than what belongs there include pawing at the eyes, rubbing eyes on the floor, squinting the eyes closed, or scratching. If you see your dog performing any of these actions, flush the affected eye with water or sterile saline solution and take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Whether she injured her eye, has something stuck in her eye, or is suffering from the onset of disease, it is critical that the shepherd be examined as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to the eye.
German shepherd puppies begin with folded ears. As they grow, the cartilage in their ears grows and stiffens. For several months, shepherd puppies go through a phase in which their ears flop over — one might be up when the other isn't. Eventually, the puppy matures into an adult German shepherd with erect, open ears.
Open ears are a benefit to the dog in that there is increased air circulation in the ear canal. If a shepherd has an imbalance in the naturally occurring yeast or bacteria in the ear, the ensuing ear infection will not progress as rapidly as it would in a dog that has a flap covering the ear canal. (Ear flaps create a warm, wet area in which yeast and bacteria can multiply quickly.)
Ear infections can occur when a foreign object invades the ear canal, when impure water gets trapped in the dog's ear canal, or as a result of allergies. If you sniff your shepherd's ears on a regular basis, you will be able to tell if an infection is brewing. The smell is strong and distinct. Additionally, an infected ear will produce large amounts of foul-smelling wax, and the area immediately surrounding the ear canal will appear red and inflamed. You might also see a discharge or blood in the ear.
If your shepherd is constantly suffering from ear infections, your veterinarian will likely refer you to an allergist. Determining the cause of a dog's allergies — such as airborne pollen or a particular food — and controlling the allergy may be the solution to your shepherd's problem.
Even if you can't see or smell the ear infection, your dog's behavior might indicate something is wrong. If she's shaking her head frequently scratching her ears, or holding her head to one side, it is very possible that something is affecting her ears.
Do not put off seeing the veterinarian. Ear infections can move from the outer ear to the inner ear, where they are difficult to treat and can cause permanent damage. Chronic ear infections need to be treated, even if they are mild, as they can cause permanent damage to the dog's ears.