Cleaning your dog’s ears is essential to maintaining his good health and his hearing. Dogs, like humans, generate wax in their ears to protect the ear from dirt. However, if too much wax builds up over a long period of time it will begin to harden and can harm the eardrum. This waxy buildup can also reduce the dog’s ability to hear clearly.
Understanding the style of a dog’s ear
Dog ears come in a variety of shapes and sizes, although there are three typical categories of ears. Understanding what type of ear your dog has will help determine the frequency of cleaning and the method for cleaning. When breeders describe their dogs’ ears, they are looking at two features: the shape of the ear leather (skin) and the placement of the ear opening on the dog’s head. Within each ear category there is a multitude of shapes and sizes.
Prick or erect ears
Prick or erect ears are ears that naturally stand up or have been modified (cropped) to stand up. Corgis, Yorkshire terriers, and German shepherd dogs are a few dogs that have prick ears. When cropped, Dobermans and boxers also have erect ears. Shetland sheepdogs have erect ears that are made to break (fold down) at the tips.
Prick and erect ears are the easiest to maintain because of their size and shape. And because they get plenty of air flow, they do not generate ear infections as easily from excess moisture. However, because the ear opening is completely exposed, they are more apt to accumulate dirt and grime.
Many dog breeds have a triangular ear that is either set high atop the head or lower on the side of the top of the head. Australian shepherds, pugs, golden retrievers, and Airedale terriers are a few of the breeds with triangular ears.
Triangular ears are the most healthy style of ear, since the ear leather acts as a natural barrier to protect the ear canal. Additionally, these ears tend to receive air flow through normal head movement so any excess moisture is naturally dried.
Pendant, low hanging
The last category of ear type contains the dogs with low set ears that hang like a clock pendulum. These ears can come in a variety of lengths, but the main distinct feature is that the ear openings are low on the sides of head and usually level with eyes. Dogs with pendant ears include all of the spaniel and setter breeds, such as the English Springer, English cocker, and Irish setter. The Basset hound, bloodhound, and Lhasa Apso also have pendant ears.
Pendant, low hanging ears typically require the most care. Because of the design of the ear itself, they do not receive much air flow through normal head movement. Therefore, they tend to be “wetter” than other ear styles. This can create a warm and moist environment for bacteria to grow and create ear infections. Also, dogs with this style of ear may generate more wax, which adds to the wet environment. Another downside is excess hair growth at the opening of the ear canal that can hold moisture and create a safe haven for bacteria.
Your dog should have a scheduled ear maintenance regiment
Inspect your dog’s ears on a weekly basis for foul odors (which could indicate an ear infection) and large bits of grime or dirt. At the very minimum, your dog’s ears should be cleaned at each grooming session or when bathed. If you have a dog that does not require frequent bathing, you should clean his ears on a monthly basis. If your dog swims or spends more time outdoors, his ears should be cleaned and inspected more frequently.
How to properly clean your dog’s ears
In the attached slideshow, Sue Hicks, co-owner and master dog groomer at Lucky Dog, LLC, describes the steps to properly clean your dog’s ears. Lucky Dog, LLC, is a full-service dog day care, grooming, boarding, and training facility and is located at 1550 N. Black Cat Rd, in Joplin, Missouri. Contact Lucky Dog at 417-782-9100 or e-mail them at [email protected]
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