Written by: Tracie Hotchner
Floppy-eared dogs can have chronic ear infections. Dogs such as Cocker Spaniels, English and Irish Setters, and Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds are prone to have ear infections and other ear problems. Dogs with erect ears rarely have such issues, except for German Shepherds, who despite their short, tall ears tend to have similar problems. Infections with both yeast and bacteria are not uncommon for dogs who are affected, and they can also have mites.
For a dog without any ear problems, you just want to keep the opening to the ear clean. It’s most comfortable for the dog and effective in getting the ear clean if you use a moistened cotton pad to wipe inside the opening of your dog’s ears. Alternately, you can use a tissue that you double over and wrap around your index finger to wipe around in the exterior ear crevices.
Ear-cleaning solutions: There are a couple of different solutions to clean the ears: the ones sold by pet stores are good if you have a dog with ears that need cleaning deep down. Otherwise, you can make your own solution and store it in any plastic cosmetic bottle: 2⁄3 water, 1⁄3 white vinegar (the same organic method you can use to clean out your refrigerator). It’s nontoxic, nonirritating and has a good antibacterial effect. However, it does not have any deep-cleaning activity.
Cleaning the outside of the ears: One good way to clean the ears externally is to dampen a cotton pad (the round or square flat ones, not a cotton ball) with the vinegar solution. Hold up the flap of the dog’s ear with one hand and with your more adept hand rub away any dirt or dark waxiness that is beneath the flap or at the ear opening. You’ll see there are lots of nooks and crannies to a dog’s outer ear, so you need to gently rub the cotton inside all of the crevices to get it really clean. You can go into the ear canal as far as the tip of your finger wrapped around the cotton pad—or even as far as your fingertip wrapped around a thick tissue. Just keep using new cotton and/or tissue until
there is no more dirt on them.
Cleaning the inside of the ears: Another way to clean the inside of the ears is to use one of the commercial ear-cleaning solutions. Holding your dog’s head at an advantageous angle, squirt some of this solution directly into the ear canal—don’t put the tip in too deep or squeeze with too much force, because the eardrum is delicate. Then massage the fluid throughout the canal from the outside, rubbing your fingers right below where the ear attaches to the head. Try to massage the fluid into the ear canal quickly before the dog shakes his head and shakes it all out. The ear wash brings to the outside whatever debris or wax is deeper in the ear, so that you can wipe if off at the opening.
Warning: Do not use cotton swabs (Q-Tips, etc.) under any circumstances—all they do is encourage you to go too deeply into the ear canal, where you can hurt the dog by packing in wax further or even rupturing the eardrum.
Tracie Hotchner (a.k.a. Radio Pet Lady) is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, from which this piece is excerpted.