Cleaning your dog’s ears on a routine basis is very important, especially for the warm, moist climate of Florida, dogs that go swimming, and dogs with long, floppy ears. The frequency of this can vary from every two weeks to once every couple of months. It depends on your dog and the activities it participates in. Just remember, this is routine ear cleaning not associated with an ear infection. If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, Please call for an appointment for our doctors to examine your pet’s ears, as the care changes considerably for dogs with ear infections. In order to get started, you will need the proper supplies, a little knowledge, and sometimes a helper.
To clean your dog’s ears, you will first need to get an appropriate cleaning agent from us. Next you will need to get some soft gauze and or cotton balls. Please avoid using any Q-tips. If you feel you must use them, or prefer to use them, remember to not stick them where you can’t see…the ear drum can be punctured if you stick the Q-tip in too far. After collecting these items I would go outside or somewhere you won’t mind having ear cleaner flung when your dog shakes its head.
The next step is to figure out what kind of restraint your dog needs. Some dogs are fine with just you, others might need someone to help hold. If you begin to train your dog from puppyhood, it is often very easy and will only take one person. Older dogs can be trained to hold still, but will often require a helper. We find that having your dog stand or sit is the best way for routine ear cleaning. It is acceptable to have your dog lay on its side if that is more comfortable and works for you.
Finally you can clean your pup’s ears. Gently grab the tip of the ear and lift upward, put the tip of the bottle in the bottom of the ear where the ear canal (ear hole) begins, and give a good squirt of the cleaner in the ear. Then massage the base of the ear (where you squirted the cleaner) on the outside of the ear with your fingers. There should be a bunch of squishy noises and bubbly ear cleaner coming out of the ear canal. Then take your soft gauze or cotton balls and wipe out any dirt or wax. At this point your dog will most likely shake his head…allow it….it helps get everything out. Repeat on the other side, and your good to go. If you find you are getting a lot of dirt or wax out of the ear, it is okay to repeat. If the ear appears red, there is a foul odor, or lots of dark brown to black wax, your dog may have an ear infection. If you notice this, please call for an appointment as you will need special medication and cleaning instructions to eliminate the infection.
If signs of an infection are present, we will perform an ear cytology (microscopic exam of the ear canal contents) to determine the appropriate medication to use for treatment. It is very important that you never begin medicating the ear without an exam and ear cytology and that you use all medication until it is gone unless otherwise directed by our doctors. Failure to do so may result in antibiotic resistance and severe / permanent damage to your pet’s ear (s). For this reason, we will also explain to you the importance of a follow up exam and recheck of the ear cytology after 10-14 days of treatment with the medication to ensure that the infection has resolved completely before medication is discontinued. In some cases, infection is still present deep in the canal (where you cannot see) although the outside of the ear canal may look better and the pet may have stopped shaking/ scratching. The doctor may recommend refilling or changing the medication at that time, or considering further testing such as sending ear canal contents to the reference lab for culture to determine more specific treatment. In our experience, many ear infections will come back due to failure to completely resolve the infection or failure to identify the underlying cause. If your pet continues to get ear infections despite proper treatment, cleaning, and follow-up, there may be another underlying cause such as allergies and the doctor can discuss treatment recommendations with you during the exam.