Whether your dog has long, droopy ears like the Basset Hound or small, compact and pointy ears like the Alaskan Malamute, the chances are that you will need to clean and inspect them at some point, and in some cases, on a regular basis! However, simply sticking a cotton bud into the ear canal and wiggling it around is generally discouraged even for cleaning the ears of people, and for dogs it is a definite no-no! Many dogs are prone to ear mites if their ears are left unchecked, and of course, dogs with long ears might well find that the ends of their ears drag in their food and can soon become dirty and grotty, potentially leading to health problems.
Even if you are lucky enough to never have to administer medications or ear drops to your dog, which can present challenges all of its own, it is still wise to keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s ears, and know how to clean them if you have to. This can help to prevent dirt, wax, foreign bodies and debris from building up within the ear, and potentially help to ward off a range of associated health problems.
Read on to learn more about how to check and clean your dog’s ears.
Before you can ascertain whether or not your dog might need to have their ears cleaned, you have to be able to check them out first, and know what you are looking for!
Begin on the outsides of the ears, checking for tangled hair, dirt, signs of mites or parasites, and any sore, hot or inflamed areas of skin. Gently and carefully comb out any tangles that you come across, and if the hair is very knotty or long, trim it off.
Then, look inside the ear itself, checking for dirt, grit, excessive levels of wax, or sloughed off dead skin and anything else that may pose an obstruction to the ear canal. You should expect to see a little ear wax and this is normal and not a problem, but if it is very thick, dirty or greasy, this may be cause for concern. Also, there should not be any blood present within the ear or in the ear wax, and the inside of the ear should not smell bad- if it does, your dog may have an infection or parasite infestation, which will require veterinary attention.
Look at the hair growing within the ears as well, and check if this is trapping grit dirt or wax, and gently comb it out. You can, if you wish to, trim the hair within the ear, but this should be done extremely carefully to avoid cutting your dog!
Make sure that you can see the ear canal itself, and rotate the ear if necessary to check that the opening of the ear canal is relatively clean, and does not look sore, inflamed, or obstructed with wax, dirt or debris.
If your dog has very thick or long hair within their ears, this may require grooming and maintenance on a regular basis to keep it under control. You should check the ear hair regularly to ensure that it is not growing out of control, as it is much harder to correct an overgrowth of hair than it is to keep on top of the issue in the first place! If possible, use your fingers to untangle ear hair, and trim the very ends of the hair carefully with blunt scissors. Do not use sharp scissors within the ear, and keep the use of scissors to a bare minimum if at all possible.
Once you have removed excess hair and surface dirt, you can gently clean the ears with a medicated wash such as Chlorhexidine or another product recommended by your vet. Use the solution on damp cotton wool, and never get the ears wetter than they need to be, and do not pour or squirt water into the ears. You should aim to remove grit, dead skin, dirt and wax from the shell of the ear, but never poke anything into the ear canal itself, and do not scrub or dig around in the ear!
Once you have cleaned the ears and thoroughly removed any residue of the cleaning solution, carefully dry the ears with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Once the ears are dry, you can administer any drops or medication that might be necessary, or use a medicated powder within the ear to prevent infections if your dog is prone to them! You do not usually need a prescription from the vet to buy a lightly medicated ear powder, and these can help to keep the interior of the ear dry and clean, and prevent future problems.
How often you will need to check and clean your dog’s ears will vary from dog to dog- dogs with long, droopy ears usually require more care and attention to be paid to their ears than dogs with open, erect ears.