Veterinarians see a lot of patients with ear infections. In fact, it's probably the second most common reason for a visit. With ear problems prompting so many trips to the vet, every pet owner should be familiar with how to routinely clean their pet’s ears.
Paying attention to your pets’ ears on a routine basis will allow you to determine what a healthy and normal ear looks like and be proactive if changes are noted. Certain breeds, lifestyles and physical characteristics will make a dog more prone to infections in the ear.
These are signs to watch for:
- Shaking its head
- Flapping its ears
- Scratching at its ears, either with a paw or by rubbing against furniture or carpet
- Debris and/or redness inside the ear
- Odor in the ear due to abnormal oils and bacteria
- Yelping when the ear is touched
Breeds to watch
There are certain breeds of dogs—including spaniels, retrievers and poodles—that have a higher chance of incurring ear issues. Poodles, especially, have more hair in their canals, whereas some of the other breeds listed can be water lovers which can trap moisture in the ear.
When to clean your pet's ears
Unlike cleaning teeth, ears do not need be done daily. A weekly basis is recommended for those pets that are more prone to infection; others can be done monthly or as needed. If you suspect that something may be wrong with the ear, leave the ear alone and give us a call. The reason behind this is you cannot see a pet’s ear canal with the naked eye. A ruptured ear drum, foreign object or excessive bacteria and yeast may be present.
Once at SWVH, swabs from inside the ear can be taken, and our veterinarians will look inside your pet’s ear with an otoscope. This allows us to see deep down the ear canal and evaluate the health of the ear drum. We can then diagnose the problem and make the proper recommendations, which may be medication and/or more frequent cleaning.
How to clean the ears
It is easiest to have two people available when cleaning your pets ears. One can reassure the pet while the other does the deed! Always try to make it a positive experience with treats and rewards at the end. Your pet should soon accept the cleaning, however when an infection is present it can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
Before you start, collect all the items you may need; ear cleaning solution, gauze or other soft, non-abrasive material, treats and an extra hand! Lift your pet’s ear flap up and slightly taught. This allows you to see the ear and also elongate the ear canal. With your other hand pour in a good amount of ear cleaner until you see if fill the ear. Use that same hand to then massage the base of the ear (you should hear/see the liquid squishing around). Do this for a few minutes to allow the cleaner to breakdown any debris in the ear canal. Next, take cover and allow your pet to shake their head. This will bring any debris from down the canal, closer to the opening of the ear. Take your gauze or other material and gentle wipe any debris from the ear - only wipe the area visible to your eye. It is best not to use q-tips as often debris gets inadvertently pushed further into the canal. This can be repeated as necessary until there is little to no debris remaining.
If you have any questions about the health of your pet’s ear or would like an ear cleaning demonstration by one of our technicians, please do not hesitate to call!