Your dog's ears are important. They allow him to chase squirrels, know when it's time for dinner and respond to your voice. Ear cleaning can seem like a messy chore, but the importance of this grooming task cannot be overstated. Routine ear cleaning is a crucial part of preventive care.
Canine Ear Anatomy
A dog's ears are warm and moist, making them potential breeding grounds for parasites, bacteria and yeast. The canine ear canal is not relatively short and linear like a human's, but instead forms a long, distinct "L" shape. The ear canal's curvature makes it difficult for debris that gets in to work its way back out, while providing a nice environment for bacteria and yeast. Routinely cleaning your dog's ears each time you bathe him, or once a week, will keep them healthy.
One of the most important reasons to clean your dog's ears is to prevent ear infections. These can be painful and even cause deafness if left untreated. Routine ear cleaning helps prevent the accumulation of yeast (a common cause of canine ear infections). Many ear cleaners contain witch hazel, a drying ingredient. Do not clean your buddy's ears if he exhibits any signs of an ear infection. These include foul odor, discharge, redness, swelling, hair loss or crusty skin. Cleaning his ears during an active ear infection could further inflame the delicate ear canal and eardrum. Seek veterinary care if you believe your dog has an ear infection.
Dogs can experience temporary partial to full deafness as a result of wax buildup in their ear canals. Routine ear cleaning will prevent excess earwax accumulation, and is extremely important for breeds with narrow ear canals, such as poodles. Your vet will likely send you home with a prescription ear cleaner and specific ear cleaning instructions if he diagnoses temporary deafness due to earwax buildup. However, you can prevent this stressful situation in the first place by routinely cleaning your dog's ears.
Proper Ear Cleaning
Excess moisture in your dog's ear canal can actually encourage ear infections, so it's important not to douse his ears in ear cleaner. Place a few drops in his ears, then gently massage the base of his ears for 30 seconds. Allow your dog to shake out any excess ear cleaner. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best ear cleaner for your dog.
Never put anything into your dog's ear canal. Foreign objects in the ear canal run the risk of causing laceration and puncturing the eardrum. Instead, use soft material such as cotton balls or gauze moistened with ear cleaner to gently remove any wax or debris that you can easily see after your dog has shaken out the ear cleaner.
By Christina Stephens
About the Author
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.