Important information on cleaning the ears of dogs that are prone to infections…or just dogs with plain old dirty ears!
What causes ear infections in dogs?
If you own a dog, it’s likely that at some point you’ve had to treat an ear infection. The likelihood of that event is raised exponentially if you have a water-loving pup, or a dog with floppy ears (i.e. the basset hounds, beagles, labs, cocker spaniels). There are lots of reasons that dogs develop ear infections. The most common is that water gets into the ear, which produces a damp warm environment that allows yeast and bacteria to grow. Another common cause for ear infections is allergies, either from the environment (pollen, dusts, molds, etc.) or your pet’s food. Therefore, if your dog has a history of allergies, they’ve also likely had issues with ear infections.
Ear Infections need to be treated by your vet, but an ear cleaning on a regular basis can help prevent the infections. Be gentle and go slow; if you’re having a hard time, just give the dog a break and try again in an hour. If they’re food motivated, have one of your family members slowly give them a treat (peanut butter on a spoon etc) as a distraction and a positive reward.
Anatomy of an ear:
In order to do a good job cleaning your pet’s ear, it is important to understand what you’re dumping stuff into. The part of the ear you can actually see is the external pinna (ear). This leads to the vertical canal, which takes a 90 degree turn into the horizontal canal. This then leads to eardrum, which separates the external ear from the middle ear.
Most of time, the infection is deep within the ear, involving the horizontal canal. This is why we have to do a good job cleaning and applying medication deep within the ear. Don’t fret! The eardrum works well to seal off the middle ear so it’s perfectly fine to fill the entire canal with cleaner.
How to clean an ear like a pro:
Remember, it is important to get cleaner deep down into the ear to reach the horizontal canal. To do this, don’t be shy! Place sufficient cleaner into ear. If you’re looking for a good brand, this is what we use at the hospital. Then, gently massage the base of the ear for 30 seconds. This will help loosen all of the debris. Then let go and let em shake. This will help all of that debris that’s wedged into the ear to escape. Once they’re done shaking, use something soft (tissue, cotton, etc.) and carefully clean the ear canal, as deep as your finger will comfortably reach. There is no need to dig or use cotton swabs. All of the loosened debris will eventually find its way out.
Stay ahead of the curve..
Once the infection is under control, weekly ear cleaning (or after bathing/swimming) will help remove debris, dry out the ear, and change the pH to prevent yeast/bacterial growth. For many dogs this helps prevent infections in the future.
If your pet continues to have infections, it is likely that either something is causing the infection to re-occur (allergies, etc.) or the infection was incompletely treated the first time. It is very important to return for your recheck (if recommended) to ensure that the infection is completely resolved. If even a small amount of bacteria or yeast remains, the infection could return.