Ear cleaning is an essential part of a dog’s basic grooming routine, and all dogs should have their ears cleaned from time to time. Some dogs will require more frequent and thorough cleaning than others – especially those prone to ear infections.
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Here’s what you need to know about cleaning your dog’s ears.
Why should you clean your dog’s ears?
Whether they’re long and floppy or stick straight up, dog ears are clearly very different from their human parent counterparts. Ranging from 5 to 10cm, dogs have quite deep ear canals that have a right-angled, L-shape bend. This makes it easy for dirt to get into their ears and almost impossible for them to remove it on their own.
A dog’s ear canal is also warm, dark and moist, the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so debris in the ear often causes ear infections and your dog may injure itself trying to deal with the irritation.
How often should you clean your dogs ears?
The best way to tell if your dog needs a good ear scrubbing is to smell it.
Healthy dog ears don’t have much of an odour beyond their normal dog smell. Dirty dog ears can smell anywhere from vaguely yeasty to decidedly smelly – these bad odours are a sign that your dog’s ears need a cleaning.
When inspecting your dog’s ears, it should be clean and pink, with a light coating of wax. The wax should be a pale, yellowish colour. If your dog’s ears are red or if there is a layer of black or brown waxy discharge, it is time to grab the cleanser.
Be careful though, there is such a thing as too much cleaning. Over-cleaning your dog’s ears strips away the natural wax, which can also lead to problems, so only clean your dog’s ears on an as-needed basis.
Make it a pleasant experience
Remember, that unless your dog has been trained as a puppy, they generally don’t like having their ears cleaned. Practice holding and handling your dog’s ears before you plan to clean them to help your dog get used to the idea of their ears being handled.
You can enlist the help of a partner to give treats and additional comfort while you focus on the cleaning. It’s important to condition your dog slowly and associate ear-cleaning with something positive – if your dog seems stressed or upset, wait a few minutes or even hours before trying again.
Get the right tools
Just like with human ears, you never want to use cotton swabs because they can hurt your dog’s ears. Instead, have a bag of cotton balls ready, or wrap your finger in gauze and use it. You might want to use gloves for the cleaning, but it’s also okay to just wash your hands if no gloves are available. Perhaps the most important tool, though, is the ear rinse. You want one that’s completely safe for your dog, yet still able to get the job done. Look for a product which contains no antibiotics, steroids, alcohol, or toxic materials of any kind.
If your dog has very red, itchy, inflamed and painful ears, consult your vet before you start cleaning. It is quite likely your dog has an ear infection, so ear cleaning will not do much good at this point. If your dog has an infection severe enough to damage the ear drum, some ear cleaners can damage the ear further so you need to be careful.
Ear cleaning can be a messy job too, so find somewhere in the house that is easy to clean and avoid wearing your best Prada for an ear clean.
Cleaning your dog’s ear is pretty straightforward and with a little patience and training, it can be an enjoyable experience for your dog. Learning how to clean your dog’s ears properly at home will help your dog stay healthy and happy, saving you a lot of stressful (and expensive) trips to the vet.