For many dog owners, keeping their dog’s ears healthy seems like an insurmountable task. The problem is so common that unresolved ear issues are one of the top reasons that individuals will seek another veterinarian to care for their pet’s ears. Unfortunately, this rarely resolves the issue until the dog owner takes a proactive stance in the health of his or her dog’s ears.
Prevention, as in any health matter is key to long-term management of potentially troublesome ears. From the time of puppy-hood owners should practice routine ear cleaning. For first time ear cleaners this is accomplished by gently lifting the ear pinna (flap) and filling the ear canal with a veterinary approved ear cleaning solution, which is then wiped out using a soft facial tissue, or cotton. This step should be repeated until the ear is clear of debris. Keeping the environment calm is also helpful, and it is crucial to reward the dog or pup with treats, as this will help keep the experience pleasant for pet and owner alike. Some dog breeds such as poodles and schnauzers have a heavy growth of hair in their ear canal, which tends to obstruct airflow into the ear, and can create a hot breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. Finding a groomer that is willing to keep the ear plucked, as part of the groom is also helpful. Heavy eared breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Basset Hounds, and breeds with copious ear canal hair may need their ears cleaned two or more times a week, while other breeds may need their ears cleaned less often.
Ear infections present a challenge to cleaning the ears, as once the ear becomes infected the ear canal is often painful, and the pet may become uncooperative with ear cleaning. Signs of ear infection are foul odor, dark, yellow or green discharge, reddened ear pinna, pain, constant scratching at the ear, and thickened ear canal. Left untreated pets are at risk for systemic infections, deafness, and inner ear disturbances. Long term untreated infections will often create a hardened ear canal, as the body attempts to wall of the infection by depositing calcium in the ear canal. Unfortunately this usually makes it exceptionally difficult to eliminate the infection completely, and may require surgery to open the ear canal so that it may be more readily treated, or in extreme cases the entire ear canal, as well as inner ear mechanism is removed to stop the infection once and for all. Should your dog show signs of an ear infection, he should be taken to the vet as soon as an appointment can be scheduled. At that time the veterinarian may recommend that the dog sedated so the ears can be thoroughly cleaned in cases of severe infection, or he may clean the ears in the office. When the dog is taken home, it is best to clean the ears each time before instilling the medication in the ear, as this will help remove bacterial debris, pus, and wax, and allow the medication to work more effectively. If the dog’s ears are still tender, it is often best to put the ear cleaner in and allow the dog to shake it out, as the ear canal may still be painful, and attempting to wipe the debris out may not be possible. Once the ear is healed, routine ear cleaning may be resumed. If you believe that the ears aren’t completely healed it is crucial to return the dog to the vet for a follow up visit. Long-term ear unresolved ear infections are extremely difficult to treat once allowed to take hold.
Dirty, smelly and infected ears do not have to be a way of life for your pet. Learning to clean a pup’s ears will ensure a lifetime of clean healthy ears. Remember it is never to late, even after infection to start cleaning your pet’s ears. With diligence, the dog owner can expect to minimize the risk of ear infection and odor during the life of the dog.