Whether your dog’s ears stand up or flop down, checking that they’re healthy should be a part of your weekly routine. Since many pet owners handle their dog’s ears on a regular basis, doing a quick health assessment is easily incorporated into the routine.
Checking Your Dog’s Ear Health
All that’s involved in making sure your dog’s ears are healthy is a simple, three-point inspection. Each step uses a different one of our senses:
Touch: Does your dog pull away from gentle handling of her ears, indicating they might be sore? Do the ears feel hot? If either is happening, it’s cause for concern.
Smell: Sniff your dog’s ears regularly to learn what is normal. If her ears suddenly don’t pass the sniff test (if they smell stinky, yeasty or just “off”), it might indicate an ear infection.
Sight: If you see your dog pawing at, scratching or rubbing her ears on the furniture or floor, take a peek inside. Healthy ears look clean and pink, with just a bit of light yellow wax present. Just like in humans, this natural wax helps trap debris and move it out of the ear. Excess wax, dark wax and/or visible dirt all indicate your dog’s ears need cleaning.
Note: Always handle your dog’s ears gently; they’re sensitive! And never, ever stick anything (a cotton swab, your finger, etc.) into your dog’s ear further than about a half an inch. Doing so can injure the eardrum and lead to permanent damage.
If everything seems fine based on your three-point inspection, leave your dog’s ears alone. The more moisture or inflammation you introduce, the more likely infection will set in.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
If there’s a bit of a problem, like a slight odor, a little dirt or more waxiness than usual, a preventative cleaning is in order. Clean your dog’s ears by squirting a small amount of veterinarian-approved cleaning solution into the ear and massage it into the ear while holding the ear closed. Then, let your dog shake her head and gently wipe away any remaining cleanser with a soft cloth. Always use a cleanser made specifically for this purpose; other options such as alcohol and witch hazel are drying and can sting an already-irritated ear.
If you suspect there is a larger problem, or you’re uncomfortable with cleaning your dog’s ears at home, take your dog to a professional groomer or incorporate ear cleaning as an added service during your routine veterinary visits. Both dog groomers and veterinary technicians can clean your dog’s ears quickly, safely and effectively while ensuring the fur around the ears is thinned and trimmed properly for optimum ear health.
Your veterinarian will also assess your dog’s ear canal and eardrum for any signs of infection. If your veterinarian suspects your dog has an ear infection, they will take a diagnostic ear swab and inspect it under a microscope to determine the underlying cause of the infection, like bacteria, yeast or both. This will help them determine the best way to treat your dog’s ear infection.