Now the weather is getting warmer – Look after your dogs ears

Caring for your dogs ears


When I was a Metropolitan Police dog handler, the training sergeant always said “you only reach into a dogs’ ear with your elbow”. That advice was sound then as it is today. Dogs’ ears are delicate and easy to damage and infect. Great care must be used whenever you have to come into contact with your dogs’ ears.            



One of the most obvious differences between breeds of dogs is the shape and size of their outer ear flap.


Humans have interfered with natural selection; one of the problems this has caused is hair growing in the ear canal in some breeds. Schnauzers & Poodles are two such breeds.


Ear problems are among the most common reasons why dog owners visit the vets, but many can be prevented or treated at home. As a general rule, dogs with erect ears that have no hair inside are less prone to ear infections and other problems than those with hairy ear canals or with droopy ears.



Caring for a dog’s ears


The anatomy of the ear protects the actual organ of hearing from injury. However, the length of the ear canal and simple gravity together encourage the accumulation of wax, debris and foreign material, such as grass seeds, which cannot easily be shaken out of the ears.


Keep your dog’s ear in as natural a condition as possible. For most dogs this means doing nothing other than removing occasionally removing visible wax on the inside of the ear flap.


Always check your dog’s ears after running in tall grass. Look for grass seeds or other plant material such as the awns of barley that might travel down the ear canals and get caught in the hair. This is a particular problem for SPANIELS. Keeping the hair clipped directly below the ear opening will reduce that risk of grass seeds catching in it and working their way into the ear canal.


If your dog has hair in its ear canals, routinely pluck small amounts with your fingers and afterwards instil a proprietary ear cleaner. Train your dog from puppyhood to accept this as a weekly routine.


(If your dog has been in a fight, check the ears for injuries, as blood can trickle down the canal, predisposing it to external ear canal infection).



Cleaning a dog’s ears


If your dog’s ears are clean, leave them alone. Routine cleaning is unnecessary.


To remove overt wax, moisten a cloth with mineral oil and, using your finger, wipe all accessible parts of the ear. (Only use a cotton bud <dipped in mineral oil> with extreme caution on very rare occasions. A cotton bud pushed into the ear canal turns into a ‘plunger’, pushing debris deeper into the ear canal).


If wax has accumulated in the visible part of the ear canal, instil a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil, leaving it in the ear for a few hours to soften the wax. Alternatively, use a proprietary wax remover made with a dilute salicylic acid solution.  After the solution has had a chance to work, gently flush the ear canal with a solution made of equal portions of lukewarm white vinegar and distilled water. Make sure you use only the gentlest pressure. When finished, press cotton wool inside the ear to dry up the solution.


Never use alcohol-based solvents in your dog’s ears because they may cause intense irritation.



Keeping the ear’s dry 

Warm, moist conditions encourage the organisms that cause ear infections, so do not let water remain in your dog’s ears and enter the ear canals. Insert a tight ball of cotton wool in each ear before you bathe your dog and always dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after it has been swimming.


Caring for “droopy” ears

Reduce the weight of thick hair by routinely clipping or shaving the hair from the inside surfaces of the flaps. This allows better air circulation in breeds such as spaniels. Such dogs may benefit from having their ears taped back for a few hours each week, especially in hot & humid climates.


Early signs of ear problems


Head & ear shaking, or scratching one or both ears, can indicate mites, infection, a foreign body or allergies.


An unpleasant odour emanating from one or both ears indicate mites or an infection.


A yellow, brown, or mahogany-coloured ear discharge can indicate mites (especially if the discharge is dark) or an infection.


Inflammation of the ear flap or of the opening of the ear canal can indicate mites, infection, a foreign body, or allergy.


A yelp or other indication of pain if a dog is touched around the ears can indicate an infection or a foreign body.


If the head is tilted to one side, there could be a middle ear condition.


Apparent loss of hearing can indicate excessive wax build-up, an injury or brain damage.


Swelling on an ear flap is usually a bruise.


Stumbling or circling to one side can indicate infection in the inner ear or even brain damage.