How to keep your dog's ears clean

Avoid the ear ache of ear problems

Dogs' ears come in all shapes and sizes, and as a dog owner, you're probably aware that these adorable features can face some nasty and painful problems.

We’ve taken the pain out of understanding and managing your dog’s ear health with these simple tips on how you can spot and avoid ear problems in your dog.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

The skin and cartilage that we see on the outside of our dog's ear is called the pinna, but the ear itself goes far beyond this outer flap. Ears can be affected by ongoing inflammation, things stuck in the ear such as grass seeds, mites, yeast, bacteria, infections and more. It is important for pet owners to recognise the symptoms of ear problems, as there are parts of the ear we can’t see.

The ear itself is made up of the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. There are several structures and functions that include hearing and balance. The outer ear contains the ear canal: this is an L-shaped tube which is why it can be very difficult to treat some ear diseases. This tube is lined with skin - the same skin that covers the rest of your dog's body - which is why it can form part of a skin allergy problem. 

Know the signs

Unlike their feline friends, dogs are quite good at showing us when something is bothering them. They may demonstrate one or more of the following signs to let you know there’s a problem:

Scratching their ears
Dogs will often scratch at theirs ears because infections can cause pain and irritation. This can lead to damage to the skin and can be very frustrating for them too. Scratching at their ears can be a way for your dog to tell you that something is not quite right.

Shaking their head
Dogs will shake their head as a way to temporarily relieve the discomfort that they feel. Be mindful that continual head shaking can cause damage to the ear, and potentially result in something called a Haematoma. This is where a build up of blood forms between the skin and the cartilage. As you can imagine, this can be incredibly painful for your pooch.

Smelly ears
Keep a nose out for any unusual smells. Quite often where infection is present, the increased amount of bacteria or yeast can cause your dogs ears to smell.

It is normal for dogs to have a small amount of ear wax which is brown in colour, though regular cleaning should keep on top of this. Any increase in earwax and/or discharge could be a sign of infection.

Head tilt, loss of balance, flickering eyes
While this can be related to other conditions, if you notice your dog with any of these symptoms it is important to speak to a vet right away.

Know whether your dog has a higher risk factor

While every dog is susceptible to ear problems there are a few risk factors to be extra aware of. These include:

Ear shape
Does your dog have longer, floppy, or heavy ears? These ear shapes can be more likely to suffer from problems.

Some breeds including Spaniels and French Bulldogs can be more likely to have ear problems. This is partly due to ear shape but can also be from the amount of hair in the ear canal. These breeds may also suffer from skin allergies which can also impact ear health.

Is your dog partial to a splash in the sea? While great for exercise, dogs that swim often are more likely to have ear problems.

Parasite control
You know how important it is for your dog to be on parasite prevention medicine. Regular ear mite prevention is not excluded from this!

Five ways to keep your dog's ears healthy

Now we know the signs to look out for, let's take a look at ways to keep on top of ear health.

  1. Check your dog's ears regularly to ensure they are clean, odour free, and that the skin is soft and pink.
  2. Book in for regular vet check ups every six months.
  3. Check your dog's ears after walks in long grass for any grass seeds.
  4. Dry ears with a clean towel after swimming and talk to a vet about a suitable ear cleaner to use.
  5. Be mindful, and if you notice a problem, contact a vet for advice.

Remember, treating an ear condition early can make all the difference. If you need any advice, remember our online vets are here 24/7 in the Joii App

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