You love your dog and want to do everything possible for him. And of course you take him to the vet for his annual jabs and health checks, or when he’s truly sick or injured. But there is much you can do to keep him and all of his working parts in tip-top shape, thus avoiding extra vet visits while keeping him happy, healthy and smiling. Ear maintenance is one of those routine chores, and it isn’t as gross as it sounds if you keep it up regularly. How often you need to do it depends upon your dog. For those procedures that must be carried out by a vet you may wish to consider financial help from payday loans online to keep your pet healthy.
In truth every dog should have its ears cleaned from time to time but some breeds, usually the floppy-eared sorts such as hounds, spaniels, pointers and setters, may need more frequent and painstaking cleaning than others. As well, some dogs may develop ear issues such as increased wax buildup as they get older.
First, a little anatomy…
Your dog's ear is a fairly complex structure. The outside flap is called the pinna, which flops in some dogs, stands up in others, and some dogs can’t make up their minds if they want to be floppy-eared or pointy-eared, so they strike a nice compromise. Immediately inside the ear is the external canal, which extends down the side of your dog’s head and becomes the vertical canal, and then takes an inward turn and becomes the horizontal canal. It is covered with skin and also contains cartilage, which is what creates all those ridges and creases you see on the surface. In addition the external canal has glands that secrete wax and various other substances into your dog’s ear. At the end of the external canal is the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum. Beyond the eardrum is the middle ear, and beyond that the inner ear. As with humans, these structures are associated with hearing and balance. The external ear canal is the area to focus on when cleaning a dog’s ears.
The reason you need to keep your dog’s ears clean
The ridges of the external canal are a breeding ground for ear wax and debris buildup, and some dogs are more prone to that than others. Buildup of these substances can cause irritation, also known as otitis, and left untreated this can turn into a bacterial or yeast infection, which can be very painful [not to mention smelly]. Inner ear infections can also affect a dog’s hearing and balance – just as with people. External ear infections can cause itching and pain, which can also lead to middle and inner ear infections. Sometimes a dog with itchy or sore ears will shake its head so violently that it can rupture blood vessels in the ear flap, which can cause a pocket of blood in the flap called an aural haematoma [cats can get this too]. Left untreated a haematoma can cause permanent deformity the ear – “cauliflower ear.”
Some breeds have the dual whammy of floppy ears and a genetic predisposition to ear infections: Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, for instance. But many other dogs with long, floppy ears need to be monitored closely too because bacteria and yeast tend to thrive in areas where there is poor airflow to the ear canal. For all breeds, keeping those ears clean will help prevent irritation and infections [as will keeping the dog flea-free, since fleas can also cause allergies and violent itching that can lead to a haematoma or infection].
Gather your supplies…
You will need a few items:
- Ear cleansing solution – there are numerous good quality commercial varieties; ask your vet for a recommendation if you are confused. But you can save yourself money by making your own, particularly if your dog doesn’t have major ear issues. Some experts recommend mixing one part table vinegar to two parts water. But if you don’t want your dog to smell like a salad, try mixing a solution of sweet oil and olive oil in equal parts. Pour your homemade solution into a squeeze bottle or dropper bottle, or get a bulb syringe with a tip that is about an inch long [for a larger dog a little bit longer is okay]. Avoid ear cleansers that contain alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can cause irritation.
- Cotton balls, cotton pads or gauze squares
- Tweezers or hemostats [for dogs with too much hair in the ear canals]
- A soft hand towel or a couple of washcloths
Now get busy. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be over with.
It’s probably best to do the deed whilst the dog is in the tub or outside, as he will almost certainly shake his head and that gunky stuff in his ears will go everywhere. Carefully inspect the dog’s ears before cleaning them so you can get an idea of how dirty they are. Also take a whiff; if you detect a strong cheesy odor that’s a sign of bacterial or yeast buildup [in fact ear problems, rather than body issues, are often a source of “doggy odor”]. If the dog’s ears have a lot of extra hair in the ear canal you may need to trim or pluck it. You may be able to take care of the problem with your fingers, tweezers or the hemostats. There are also special ear powders made for dogs that can help you grip the hair. Your vet or groomer can give you more information.
Do one ear at a time. Gently hold your dog’s ear flap up and squirt a few drops of cleanser on the inside of the flap, close to the ear opening. Some dogs are more squeamish about this than others, and may try to squirm out of your grasp or even snap at you. (If your dog is the snappish type, a muzzle might be in order.) Some dogs are real babies and will whine if you just look at them cross-eyed, but if your dog hollers as you mess with his ears, slow down a bit and be extra gentle. Never use excessive pressure when squeezing cleanser into the ear.
Once you have the cleanser in the ear you’ve conquered the big hurdle. Before your dog can shake his head, massage the base of his ear to help distribute the cleanser. You should hear a smacking or sloshing sound. Then let go of your dog and let him “shake” – but be ready for a lot of brown, gunky debris to go flying in all directions. That’s perfectly normal.
After your dog has had a good shake, it’s time to use the cotton or gauze and your finger to wipe out the ear canal. Don’t hesitate to put your finger in the ear canal as far as it will go without forcing it. Be careful so as to avoid damage to the eardrum. If the ear still seems dirty, you may repeat the process. Then do the other ear.
Now, wasn’t that fun? Dry him [and yourself] off, give him a Bonio, and pour yourself a Gordon’s and tonic. Eventually he’ll get over being miffed at you. And congratulations; you have just performed an important task that could keep your vet bills down.