Many of our most beloved breeds, including Labs, Hounds, Spaniels and Poodles, sport floppy ears. But these wonderful ears may also require a little extra attention, since they’re more prone to infection.
It’s a good idea to perform preventative ear care and inspections every week. This entails nothing more than examining his floppy ears for debris or damage, and gently cleaning the flap and the opening of the ear canal. Never probe deeply into the canal with your fingers, cotton swabs, or anything else, as this could damage the eardrum. And be gentle when cleaning the inside of the ear.
A soft cloth or cotton ball moistened with lukewarm water and some apple cider vinegar can do a thorough cleaning for some dogs, or you can try one of the natural, non-irritating solutions made specifically for dogs.
It’s not wise to squirt or force any liquid directly into the dog’s ear as this can damage the sensitive tissues of the inner ear. As well, an excess of fluid in the ear canal, even if it’s cleaning solution, can lead to infection by providing a medium for yeast and bacteria to grow in. By applying the solution to a cotton ball (don’t soak it), and then rubbing and squeezing some of this fluid into the ear, you will have more than enough to perform a satisfactory cleaning job.
What about ear hair?
Don’t attempt to clip the hair inside your dog’s ears with clippers or scissors. It’s too dangerous! These stray hairs should be pulled instead. A groomer should do this, or you can ask her to teach you how to do it yourself.
The hair outside the ear can be safely clipped but should only be done if the dog is naturally clipped anyway, or you are treating an ear infection and the hair is becoming an impediment (getting greasy and coated with solution). Many times, however, this outer hair actually protects the ear by preventing dirt and water from entering.
When to call the vet
Your veterinarian is the only person who can diagnose and treat medical ear problems. In addition to “flushing” seriously dirty ears and removing ticks from within the ear canal (both procedures may require anesthesia), only your vet can treat infections, allergies, parasitic infestations, remove foreign objects lodged in the ear, and address bite wounds or punctures of the ear flap.
Susan Neal is a retired professional groomer and pet sitter. She has worked as a horse farm manager, professional dog breeder and exhibitor, veterinary technician, and 4-H leader. She has written for a number of pet, equine, and farm publications.