Ear cleaning is just one of the essential responsibilities of being a dog owner. All dogs, regardless of shape, size, or age, should have their ears cleaned every now and then, but there are some dogs that require frequent cleaning, especially breeds that are prone to ear infections.
Before we dive in, there are three important things that you should know from the get-go about your dogs’ ears:
1. Dog ears are sensitive, just like humans’ ears are, and require regular maintenance to keep infections at bay.
2. Dogs generally won’t want to get their ears cleaned, so you’ll have to be patient and work with them — it’s best to make it an enjoyable and stress-free experience as much as possible.
3. You can cause serious physical damage to the ear canal if you aren’t extra careful and take the proper steps when cleaning out the gunk in their ears.
Dogs’ ears are sensitive, and periodic and regular at-home examinations and cleanings will allow you to detect any signs of ear infections or issues early-on. Neglecting the maintenance of healthy dog ears could lead to ear problems and infection, which could further transition into chronic disease or hearing loss.
How Can I Help Prevent Ear Infections?
Regular cleanings are a great and efficient way to help your dog or cat avoid painful discomfort or infections. Your safest bet is to use mild ear cleaners specifically designed for pets. It’s important that you check your dog’s ears at least once a week and perform routine cleaning and at-home examinations. Here’s a few tips you can follow to help prevent ear infections:
— Dry your pet’s ears after they take a bath or go out for a swim. Moisture is one of the key causes of ear infections that often goes overlooked.
— Remove excessive hair on your dog’s ears. This can be done by a groomer, or you can ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper technique for removing excess hair in the ears.
— Regularly clean your dog’s outer ear with a mild ear cleaner intended for use on pets. Dampen a cotton ball and gently clean the outer ear. Ensure that the outer ear is not soaking wet. Proper steps on how to clean your dog’s ears with an ear cleaner will be discussed later in this article.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has an Ear Infection?
Sometimes, it’s normal for our pets to exhibit signs of ear irritation, but how do we differentiate that with an ear infection? As your pet’s owner, initially keeping an eye on your dog’s everyday behavior and physical health will indicate when your dog begins to show signs of acting abnormally that may require a visit to the vet. Some symptoms of a possible ear infection include:
— Dark, smelly discharge from the ear
— Crust or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
— Ear redness and swelling
— Scratching, pawing, or rubbing at the ears or the surrounding area
— Head shaking or tilting of the head
— Hearing loss
— Foul odor emitting from the ears
— Sensitivity or pain around the ears
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections in canines are often caused by bacteria. Unlike the human ear canal, which is horizontal, the ear canal of dogs’ ears are vertical, making it susceptible to foreign bodies such as debris and moisture to enter the ear canal and stay trapped, eventually accumulating and resulting in the build up of excessive ear wax. Aside from foreign bodies, one common cause of infection is the result of built-up moisture from bathing, grooming, or swimming, which can inhibit growth of microorganisms. According to the American Kennel Club, the most common factors that contribute to ear infections include:
— Drug reactions
— Endocrine disorders
— Excessive cleaning
— Foreign bodies
— Meningitis or encephalitis
— Mites (more common in puppies than in adults)
— Thyroid disorders
— Wax buildup
How To Clean Your Dog’s’ Ears
Like mentioned in the first part of this article, dogs generally won’t want to get their ears clean. As important as it is, it’s also equally important that you don’t get any potential gunk on you! It’s recommended that you clean your dog’s ears inside the bathroom, or somewhere that you wouldn’t mind a potential mess.
What Do I Need to Clean my Dog’s Ears?
When cleaning your dog’s ears at home, it is best advised not to use Q-tips, as they could push debris further down the ear canal or damage the sensitive parts of the ear, which could lead to further complications. All you need to clean your dog’s ears are a safe-grade and good quality ear cleaning solution, cotton balls or gauze, and treats to reward your furry friend to reinforce positive behavior.
You’ll also want to steer away from using alcohol. Alcohol can damage sensitive parts of the inner ear canal. Aside from that, any general application of alcohol to an open source will usually sting, and you can only imagine how painful and uncomfortable that would be for your pet!
Use mild ear cleaning solutions specifically designed for pet use. For instance, InnovetPet’s PurOtic Ear Cleaners are absolutely free from alcohol and sulfates and are made of natural extracts. Their line of products are the safest and most effective, suitable as both a general dog body and dog ear cleaning solution.
Steps to cleaning your dog’s ears with an ear cleaner:
1. Have your dog sit in front of you on the floor, and position his rear between your legs to secure him. For large dogs, have him sit at the corner of the room. Doing this allows a secured position where you can control him, in case of any sudden jerking movements, which could cause severe damage and perforate the sensitive tissue in the ear.
2. Gently hold one ear flap up vertically, but firm enough to expose the inner ear and ear canal.
3. Squeeze enough ear cleaning solution into the ear so that it fills up the ear canal, but does not overflow. Do not allow the tip of the ear cleaning solution to get in contact with the ear. If this happens, wipe the tip with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol to prevent further spread of any bacteria or yeast.
4. Continue to firmly hold the ear flap up vertically and gently massage the base of the ear, just below the ear opening for 20-30 seconds. Doing this step allows the solution to move around in the horizontal inner part of the ear canal to soften up any residue and hardened ear wax buildup. You will know that the solution is properly working when you hear a squishing sound as you massage the base of the ear.
5. Wipe away any softened debris from the inner ear canal and the ear flap.
6. Allow your pet to shake his head to naturally remove any remaining solution and debris from the innermost ear canal.
7. Again, gently, but firmly, hold the ear flap up and wipe away any remaining solution and debris.
8. Repeat the steps above for the other ear.
Buying a quality ear cleaning solution and cleaning your dog’s ears at home can save you a lot rather than spending money on frequent trips to the groomer or veterinarian! Once you start cleaning your pet’s ears, you probably won’t want to go back.
However, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overwork it and clean your dog’s ears too frequently. Over-cleaning can also lead to ear infections. A cleaning of the ears once a week should be sufficient enough to keep them clean, but not overclean either.