Taking Care of Long Ears in a Dog
Does your dog have long floppy ears? Easy to fall in love with, not so easy to take care of!
Long ears can predispose your dog to ear problems. Add swimming, regular bathing or skin allergies to the mix and the risk of infection increases further. So, should I be cleaning my dog’s ears? The short answer is yes! Ear care is often overlooked in the grooming routine, so here’s all you need to know about caring for your dog’s ears.
Why Are Long Eared Dogs Prone to Ear Problems?
Long ear flaps mean less air flow to the ear canal itself. They also create warmth, acting a bit like a scarf over the ear. All dogs produce some normal ear wax, just as we humans do. However, when this wax gets trapped in a warm and moist ear canal, this is the perfect environment for an infection. If your dog also enjoys swimming, this can add to the trapped moisture. This doesn’t mean your doggy should stop doing what they enjoy; just that you may need to clean their ears more regularly.
How to Care for a Dog’s Long Ears
Many dogs aren’t keen on having their ears touched, let alone cleaned! So, firstly, allow your dog to get used to you touching their ears. This is much easier if your dog is a puppy! However, with patience and some treats your dog may well accept it. Start by stroking their pinna (the ear flap). Gradually start to lift the pinna and gently rub around the entrance to their ear canal (the hole). Once your dog is happy with this routine, then you can use it daily to check for any signs of problems.
Sometimes the skin at the end of the pinna can get red and sore in very long eared dogs. This can happen due to the ears dragging along the ground or repeated rubbing on objects as they pass by. If you see any unusual marks or redness on your dog’s ears, then seek advice from your veterinarian.
Keep an eye on the ends of your dog’s pinnae. Are they often wet? If so, they may be constantly dunking into your dog’s water bowl when they drink! Try to dry them regularly, as excessive moisture can lead to skin infections.
If your dog has long fur, you should also include brushing their ears in your regular grooming routine. The skin of the pinna is very sensitive so be gentle- a soft-bristled brush works well. Also, if you come across any matts, it’s best to take your dog to a groomer and ask them to sort these out.
Of course, you should never risk being snapped at or bitten. If your dog shows any signs of distress, then you should stop and seek professional assistance from your vet.
How Do I Clean My Dog’s Ears at Home?
You’ll need cotton wool pads, a dog ear cleaner and some treats. Another pair of hands makes life easier, but cleaning is possible on your own if your dog is amenable. Ear cleaners containing alcohol can irritate the skin of the ear canals in some dogs, especially if they are already inflamed. Choose a mild, good quality ear cleaner designed for dogs. If you aren’t sure, consult your vet practice.
Firstly, inspect your dog’s pinna. Are there any unusual lumps or marks? Next, gently lift the flap and have a look at the opening to the ear canal. If there is any redness, an excessive amount of dark wax or a nasty smell then stop and consult your vet before proceeding.
Dog Ear Care Routine:
- Start with the pinna. Use ear cleaning wipes to clean the inner surface. Check for grass seeds, burrs or matts caught in the fur. Seek professional assistance to deal with these if needed.
- Never pluck your dog’s ear canals. This is sometimes necessary, for example with repeated infections, but only under the instruction of a vet. Otherwise the hairs are best left alone. Plucking them can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to infection that may not have happened otherwise!
- Gently hold the pinna up with one hand. With the other hand, gently insert the tip of the ear cleaner nozzle into the entrance of the ear canal. Be careful not to push it in too far, only the tip needs to go in. Give the bottle a squeeze. You want the ear canal to be filled with cleaning solution.
- With your thumb behind and your fingers in front of the ear, gently massage the base of the ear for around 20 seconds. You will hear a squelching noise if you are in the right place! This helps to make sure the whole ear canal is coated with ear cleaner and dislodges any wax.
- Let your dog shake their head! (Best to attempt cleaning away from nice carpets or furniture!)
- Wipe any excess wax away from the ear canal entrance and pinna with a cotton wool pad or ear cleansing wipes. DO NOT put cotton wool or cotton tips into the canal, you will push the wax further in and may cause damage!
- Give your dog a treat.
- Repeat with the other ear.
If your dog shows signs of pain at any point in the process, stop and book an appointment with your vet. This may indicate a problem, such as an infection, that you cannot see.
How Often Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears?
This is a bit of a balancing act! You need to clean your dog’s ears often enough to help prevent infections; but not so often that you irritate the ear canal. Owners often ask: ‘should I clean my dog’s ears every day?’. The answer is no! Unless your vet has advised you to for medical reasons, then this is too often. Once a month is enough for most dogs with healthy ear canals. However, this will vary depending on breed; swimming; ear wax production; underlying allergies and previous ear infections. Your vet is the best person to advise you, as they can tailor the cleaning schedule to your dog’s individual needs.
How Will I Know if My Dog Has an Ear Infection?
If your dog has any signs of an ear infection, then you should not attempt cleaning or treatment at home. Signs to watch out for include:
- Head shaking
- A tilted head
- Ear scratching
- Face rubbing on the floor
- A swollen ear flap
- Excess wax, or wax that is a different colour from usual
- Smelly ears
- Reduced hearing
Should you notice any of these, book a consult with your vet as soon as possible.
Try to examine and clean your dog’s ears regularly, especially if they’re a long-eared dog. Consult your vet if you spot anything unusual. If your dog won’t tolerate cleaning, see your vet in case there is a problem. Your vet or vet nurse will also be able to help with ear-cleaning advice for the future.
Article written for www.aqueos.co.uk by Dr Sarah-Jane Molier BVM&S, MRCVS, BSC – Sarah-Jane wanted to be a vet from the age of 10. She realised this dream after lots of hard work in 2009 and has been working in small animal clinics ever since. Sarah lives in the countryside with her husband, two children, cat and two dogs.
Aqueos products to help with ear cleaning: