Signs of a Problem

Your dog’s ears should be free of debris, dirt or excess was with no odor, sores or inflammation. A quick inspection of your dog’s ears can rule out any surface area issues. If your dog is shaking his head excessively, tilting his head, or rubbing the ears, it can indicate an internal problem. An ear that is excessively warm, pink or appears to be sensitive can also be an ear that needs veterinary attention.

Common Ear Problems

Ear mites – if you notice black debris that resembles coffee grounds, this can be an indication of mites. Ear mites are microscopic parasites that cause severe itching and require treatment with insecticidal ointment obtained from a vet.

Ear Infections can be very serious if not treated by a vet promptly. If you notice a brownish, yellow discharge accompanied by a strong odor, do not touch the inside of the ear.

Broken blood vessels and bruising can occur with excessive shaking. Occasionally, swelling will occur on the tips of the ears, especially in dogs with pendulous ears. Bruising can also occur when excessive matting has been removed or in dogs who have recently had their ears shaved.

Excessive scratching can lead to open sores and possibly secondary infections.

Cleaning your Dog’s Ears

A dog’s ear canal curves downward and then takes a sharp turn horizontally. Because of the shape, it is very difficult to harm the eardrum during cleaning unless you are using cotton swabs or other objects. It is far safer to clean with a cotton ball wrapped around your finger tip. Dampen the cotton ball with commercial ear cleaner, do not use alcohol as this can dry out and irritate the ear lining. Wipe gently but thoroughly, reaching all the folds and crevices where dirt or wax can build up.

For most dogs, especially those with a natural coat, such as Labrador Retrievers for example, this is sufficient. Other dogs, such as Shih-tzu’s, Bichon Frise’s, Poodles and most terriers, require the ears to be plucked. Hair growing inside the ear canal impedes air circulation and promotes wax buildup in many breeds of dogs. Ear powder, a chalky white resin, makes the hair much easier to grab and pull, and should be sprinkled lightly in the ear prior to plucking. Pull out only a few hairs at a time, as this causes less pain to the dog. For dogs with very thick hair, a hemostat can be used, as long as you are very careful not to push it too deep into the ear canal, or to pinch the sensitive skin inside the ear. Ear plucking should be done prior to cleaning for those dogs that need it, as the cleaner will also remove any remaining traces of the resin.

Pet Planet has many products to assist you with cleaning and maintaining your dog’s ear health. If you are unsure where to begin, ask a Pet Planet Ambassador to help you get started.