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How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

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    If your dog has ever had dirty ears or shaking their head, you may have wondered how to clean your dog’s ears. Good news is that you can do this at home without going to the vet! Keep reading to learn how to clean a dog’s ears and why you should clean them.

    Anatomy of the Ear

    Dog and human ears vary greatly in their anatomy. Dog ears are “L” shaped with both a horizontal and vertical canal. Ear wax in the ear canal is created by skin that lines the ear canal that creates cerumin from special glands. The canals come to an end with the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum. The ear flap (or pinna) aids in the concentration of sound waves in the ear canals and onto the eardrum. 

    Why You Should Clean Your Dog’s Ears

    Regular ear cleaning can prevent certain conditions such as ear infections but not all dogs need it. While some dogs can have naturally clean ears and do not need regular cleaning, some dogs do need regular cleaning to prevent ear infections and other ear-related conditions that are a result of dirt buildup. Although ear infections can develop in any breed, they are more frequent in dog breeds with long-hanging ears, such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels. Dogs with long-hanging ears should have their ears checked and cleaned regularly.

    How to Know It’s Time to Clean a Dog’s Ears

    It’s important to only clean your dog’s ears when it’s time to be cleaned. If you over-clean your dog’s ears, it could result in an infection and irritation. If a dog is more predisposed to ear infections, then they may need their ears cleaned more often. Dogs who are in the water a lot also would need to be cleaned more often. Signs that your dog is ready for an ear cleaning include:

    • Shaking their head a lot 
    • Ears are red and inflamed
    • Smells yeasty
    • Ear pain

    Your veterinarian can advise you on how regularly you should clean your dog’s ears. If your dog’s ears are red, inflamed, or painful, see your veterinarian before cleaning them. Your dog might have an ear infection or a burst eardrum.

    What Supplies Can You Use?

    Luckily, you can clean your dog’s ears with just a few simple supplies. Essentially, you will just need either a cotton ball or gauze, an ear-cleaning solution, and a towel. It’s advised not to use cotton swabs or anything with a pointed tip as these can force dirt further into the ear canal which can lead to an ear infection or cause trauma or injury to the ear.

    When it comes to ear cleaning solutions, you should opt for a veterinarian-approved solution instead of making one at home as they can contain harmful ingredients. If you aren’t sure which one to use, you can consult with your veterinarian on what they suggest. 

    How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

    1. Get set up in the bathroom with your supplies as it can get messy when your dog shakes their head with the solution in it. 
    2. Restrain your dog if needed in a way you feel comfortable. This might be wrapping them in a towel for smaller dogs or just simply keeping them on a leash.
    3. Hold up the ear flap so it’s pointed vertical to the ceiling.
    4. Fill up the ear canal with the ear cleaning solution while being careful to not put the tip of the bottle into the ear.
    5. Hold the ear flap up and massage the base for about 30 seconds to move the cleaning solution around the ear canal.
    6. Use your cotton swab or gauze to clean the ear canal and wipe away any dirt or debri.
    7. Let your dog shake their head to move the solution around and naturally loosen any remaining debris.
    8. Wipe away any loosened debris but only as far as your finger can reach so you don’t damage the eardrum or ear canal.
    9. Repeat with the other ear.
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    Ear Infections in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

    female vet looking into a corgi's ear
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      What Are Ear Infections In Dogs?

      graphic of an ear infection in dogs

      Ear infections are fairly common in dogs. There are three types of ear infections that may affect dogs; otitis externa, media, and interna. Otitis externa is the most common and involves the external portion of the ear canal. Inflammation affects the layer of cells that line the external portion of the ear canal. While otitis media and interna refer to infections affecting the middle and inner portions of the ear canal. Both otitis media and interna typically result from an infection of the external ear spreading. These two types of infections can be very serious and may even result in deafness, facial paralysis, and vestibular signs. Preventing infections and seeking early treatment will decrease the likelihood of this. Read below to learn more about dog ear infection treatment. 

      What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

      Ear infections in dogs may be caused by a variety of reasons. In comparison to humans, the canine ear canal is more vertical, forming an L-shape which holds in fluid. The retention of fluid makes dogs more prone to ear infections. Typically, ear infections in dogs are caused by bacteria, yeast, or a combination of both. Wax buildup, foreign bodies, excessive cleaning, and injury to the dog’s ear canal increase the likelihood of an ear infection occurring. 

      Who's At Risk of Developing Ear Infections?

      Ear infections are often observed in dog breeds with floppy ears in contrast to those with pointed ears. These breeds include Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Shar Pei, Beagle, and Golden Retriever. There are also a number of factors that may predispose a dog to ear infections including: 

       

      • Moisture: which is an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow 
      • Allergies: the cause of ear disease in approximately 50 percent of dogs with allergic skin disease and 80 percent of dogs with food sensitivities 
      • Thyroid diseases and other endocrine disorders 
      • Autoimmune disorders 

      What Are The Symptoms Of Ear Infections in Dogs?

      Most dogs will show symptoms of discomfort when an ear infection is present. Signs that point at an ear infection in dogs include: 

      • Wax build up
      • Head shaking 
      • Scratching and itchiness 
      • Odorous discharge 
      • Redness and swelling of the ear canal 
      • Scabbing in the ears 

      How Can Ear Infections in Dogs Be Prevented?

      hand using a cotton swab to clean a dog's ear

      If your dog is prone to recurring ear infections, prevention is key. Since excess moisture in the ear often leads to ear infections, always thoroughly dry your dog’s ears following swimming or bathing. Identifying and managing any underlying causes of ear infections will help to prevent new infections. Oftentimes, addressing the allergies can be of tremendous help. 

      Appropriately cleaning your dog’s ears at home can also prevent future issues. The ideal method of ear cleaning involves filling the ear canal with the ear cleaning solution and massaging the ear from the outside. Following this, wipe out the ear canal with absorbent gauze. Professionals advise against the use of paper towel or cotton as fibers may be left behind causing further irritation. Cotton swabs can be effective in cleaning a dog’s external ear flaps. However, swabs should be avoided when cleaning the ear canal as debris can be pushed even further into the canal. 

      You can also utiize products that help with cleaning and drying the ears out.

      How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?

      female vet looking into a corgi's ear

      Seeking a diagnosis and treatment from a veterinarian at the first sign of an ear infection is necessary to prevent the spread of infection to the middle and ear. A physical examination will be necessary to diagnose the infection. This exam may include: 

      • Look for signs of redness, swelling, and discharge 
      • Evaluate the ear canal and eardrum with an otoscope 
      • Assess level of pain 
      • Culture of samples from the ear 
      • In chronic cases, biopsies or x-rays may be performed 

      In addition to the physical examination, your veterinarian will gather the necessary information to help make a diagnosis, including: 

      • Duration of symptoms 
      • Types of symptoms (swelling, discharge, odor, etc.)
      • Medical history including existing allergies and ear infections 
      • Medication the dog is currently receiving 
      • Type of food the dog is fed 
      • Ear cleaning products used on the dog’s ears 
      • Recent activities including baths, grooming, swimming, etc. 

      What Is The Treatment For Ear Infections in Dogs?

      If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, seek veterinary treatment early in order to prevent serious issues. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe an ear medicine for dogs including an ear cleanser and topical medication to be used at home. In more severe cases, oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. Even once improvement is shown, be sure to follow the full course of treatment to ensure the infection is fully cleared. Typical ear infections resolve 1-2 weeks following the proper treatment. 

      Severe infections or those caused by underlying conditions can often take months to resolve. Your primary veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dermatologist if chronic ear problems occur in your dog. A surgery called a Total Ear Canal Ablation or TECA may even be recommended. This procedure removes the ear canal, which in turn removes the diseased tissue and prevents recurring infection.

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      Ear Hematomas in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

      dog laying on table with ear hematoma

      Is your dog shaking their head excessively? Is their ear red and swollen? Well, they may be suffering from an ear hematoma. But what is that exactly? Keep reading to learn more about this painful condition and how to treat it! 

      What are Ear Hematomas in Dogs?

      dog laying on table with ear hematoma
      Photo Credit: PetCoach

      An ear hematoma in dogs, or aural hematoma, is the result of a blood artery rupturing in the ear and bleeding into the area between the ear cartilage and the skin. A dog’s ear hematoma is can cause excruciating ear pain, and the severe swelling might be frightening. A hematoma will heal on its own if it is not treated, although this might take weeks.

      They have the appearance of a blister, albeit they are not as red as a typical blood blister. Swelling and a hard enlarged lump on the earflap that feels spongy or like a water balloon will be seen. Hematomas seldom explode, even if they appear to be on the verge of doing so. However, they can be quite uncomfortable for your dog, particularly when touched.

      What Causes Ear Hematomas in Dogs?

      An ear infection or other inflammation within the ear is the most prevalent cause of an ear hematoma in dogs. Ear infections in dogs induce inflammation, which leads to head shaking, which leads to ear hematoma. Ear mites, having anything lodged in their ear, and underlying conditions like allergies can all induce headshaking and result in an ear hematoma. Ear hematomas in dogs are more usually caused by skin allergies, immunological diseases, trauma, or blood coagulation deficiencies.

      What are the Symptoms of Ear Hematomas?

      The appearance of the ear is one of the most prevalent indicators of an ear hematoma. The ear may appear thicker and inflated as a result of the lump or fluid-filled pocket, which is frequently referred to as “cauliflower ear.” The swelling might be hard or soft, and it can fluctuate.

      Here are some symptoms to look for:

      • Fluid in the ear flap
      • Excessive itching
      • Excessive ear-scratching
      • Excessive headshaking
      • Titling their head sideways

      It’s important to remember that these symptoms don’t just indicate an ear hematoma but might be pointing to an underlying condition that needs to be treated. If your dog is showing these signs, veterinary intervention is required as soon as possible.

      Who’s at Risk of Developing Ear Hematomas?

      Ear hematomas are more likely to occur if your dog has a history of ear problems. They irritate him much more if they cause him to itch his ear and shake his head. Even if there is no obvious trauma, hematomas are more likely in dogs that have clotting or bleeding disorders. Dogs with long, floppy ears like Basset Hounds and Blood Hounds are more susceptible to getting ear hematomas.

      How Can Ear Hematomas Be Prevented?

      Regular grooming is the greatest method to avoid a hematoma. A dog that is brushed on a regular basis is less prone to develop matting that tears the skin. Infections, which are another cause of dogs shaking and clawing at their ears, may be avoided by keeping their ears clean. Regular ear cleaning can also help prevent ear hematomas in dogs. 

      How are Ear Hematomas Diagnosed?

      Physical examination is used to diagnose ear hematomas. The veterinarian can easily see the earflap that is heated and swollen on the outside and red, inflamed on the inside. Theyll also take into account the dog’s medical history and the other physical signs such as head shaking.

      Diagnosing the exact cause of the headshaking that led to the hematoma is an important step. The veterinarian will usually use an otoscope to inspect your dog’s ear and may consider obtaining a sample or ear swab for cytology. This entails examining the swab under a microscope to see whether bacteria or yeast are present.

      What is the Treatment for Ear Hematomas?

      dog with buttons in ear after ear hematoma surgery
      Photo Credit: Homesteading Today

      Surgical repair of the hematoma is the chosen treatment approach. The exact surgical procedure varies depending on the conditions and preferences of the veterinarian, but it always follows the same fundamental principles. To drain the blood and remove any blood clots, the skin over the hematoma is surgically incised. The empty area (known as dead space) is then eliminated by threading multiple sutures into the ear, promoting regulated scar tissue growth, reattaching the cartilage to the skin, and aiding in the prevention of future recurrence. To aid drainage, a surgical drain may be used. Finally, the pinna is supported in order to prevent additional injury and encourage recovery. You may see some dogs with buttons sewn to their ears follwing an ear hematoma surgery. This is done to give the skin more surface area and keep it in place as it heals.

      Other conventional treatments include:

      • Using a syringe to aspirate. This will drain the fluids, but it will only give temporary comfort.
      • Using a vacutainer to create a vacuum. To enhance healing and decrease disfiguration, the blood is removed and the skin and cartilage are kept close together. However, when the drain fills up, you’ll need to replace it.
      • Placement of a teat cannula (or equivalent drain). This will make draining the hematoma much easier until it heals correctly. Disfigurement is still a possibility.

      What Happens if Ear Hematomas Are Left Untreated?

      If you let a hematoma heal on its own, the blood will eventually reabsorb. This can happen in as short as 10 days for minor hematomas. Larger hematomas may take weeks or months to disappear. There’s also the possibility that scar tissue will cause lifelong deformity, leading to cauliflower ear. You’ve reached this stage when your skin resembles a cauliflower floret. Whether or whether this disfiguration is problematic is determined by the location of the hematoma.