Cleaning Dogs’ Ears

My poor Deva has an ear infection and I am having that “Bad Mom” feeling even though I know I’m a good mom. Ironically, the 5 poodles have spotlessly clean ears and the American Eskimo mix has the infection. The reason for this? Simple. I’m always concerned about poodle ears because infections are common among poodles (not among my poodles they aren’t). In fact in some reports ear infections have come up as the number one, most common ailment that vets see dogs for. Deva is the only dog here who goes to a groomer and I have assumed that the groomer cleans her ears and all is well. Deva gave no indication that she had an ear problem.  Some dogs will paw at their ears or shake their heads or even yelp when you go to scratch behind their ears if it’s bad.  It was only noticed during a vet exam when I took her to see him about her back problem.  The dogs most likely to get ear infections are those with long hair whose hair also grows in their ears and with ear flaps that hang down over the ear openings; poodles, cocker spaniels and such. I have heard that labs are also prone to ear infections even though they don’t fit the usual criteria.

If you keep your dogs ears clean and check them regularly you will stay on top of the situation and even if an infection occurs it won’t have time to get very bad before you deal with it. (Deva’s ear infection cost over $300 to deal with and I’m not certain that we’re finished yet.)

First, remove hair from ears. Some dogs, like the poodles and cocker spaniels have hair growing inside their ears and this hair must be removed regularly. If you do this about once a month it won’t be too hard on you or the dog. Most dogs don’t mind this very much and some even fall asleep on my lap when I’m doing it.   If the dog isn’t used to behaving well while having her ears messed with, use treats and start very slowly. (See the article on Grinding Nails and proceed the same way.)

You’ll need:

Ear powder, tweezers (especially for smaller dogs), ear cleaner, cotton balls and/or q-tips.

Sprinkle a very small amount of ear powder in the dog’s ear. The powder absorbs the moisture and makes the hairs easier to grip. You can do this without the powder but it’s much easier with it and a bottle of ear powder will probably last years if you only have one dog. Grasp a couple of hairs at a time between your thumb and forefinger and “pluck” them out. Do not grab a bunch of hair, do not use hemostats. If you are at all reluctant to do this or unsure of how to do it have your vet show you how on your next visit.  (Your vet should be happy to show you this. If not you need a different vet.)  Keep plucking a couple/few hairs at a time until all hair is out of the ear canal. With little dogs it can be more difficult to reach inside of the ear and you may need tweezers. Be careful not to grasp the little hills and valleys that make up the inside of the ear.

Once the hair is removed pour the ear cleaner into the ear then massage around the base of the ear.  Wipe out the inside of the ear with cotton balls or q-tips. (You don’t want to jam the q-tip down the dog’s ear but you really don’t have to worry too much about pushing too far because the dog’s ear canal is L shaped making it difficult to hurt the ear drum.) If there is black gunky ear wax be careful not to push it further down into the ear. This is a sign of infection and

The ears may have a little wax normally and some dogs – especially diggers – may have some dirt but there should not be a lot of gunky black in the ear. This is a sign of infection and should probably be seen by the vet.  Cleaning the ears every week or two and pluck the hair once a month. This should keep the ears nice and clean and alert you early to any signs of infection.

Marlene Riofrio Tepper’s Ruby Jean. Ruby Jean has her own facebook fan page.

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