Ear care is an important part of maintenance grooming and one that has direct impact on the comfort and health of the dog. The inside of a healthy ear will appear naturally pink and is free from odor. A small amount of wax in the canal is normal. A dog that displays any of the ear conditions listed below should be referred to a veterinarian and the groomer should not attempt to clean the ears:
- Inflamed or swollen ears
- A strong or foul odor
- Seeping or discharge
- Scabs or cursting on the ear leather
- An abundance of ear wax
- A dark or black crusty layer inside the ear canal
- Head Tilt or vigorous head shaking
1. Button, Rose, Prick or Otherwise Erect Ears
These ear types naturally allow for better air circulation, especially on smooth, short-double and long-double coated breeds, which are naturally free of hair growth in the ear canal. These are the easiest ear types to maintain as healthy ears will require only routine swabbing with a cotton ball moistened with an ear cleaning solution and checking of the ears for mites, infection or other problems.
2. Drop Ear
The ear leather is long and folded, hanging down and covering the ear orifice as on a Beagle. Drop ears require extra care, especially ear leathers covered with heavy coat, such as the Cocker Spaniel and other sporting breeds. This ear type can prevent air circulation in the ear canal creating a moist environment that is a prime target for infection and bacterial growth.
Breeds of dog that naturally grow profuse facial hair will also grow hair in their ear canals. A few examples of these breeds are: Airedale, Terrier, Schnauzer, Kerry Blue Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Bichon Frise, Poodle (All varieties), Bedlington Terrier, and Portuguese Water Dog. These breeds should have the hair removed from the ear canal to allow air to circulate into the ear canal to avoid ear infections. Allowing air to reach the ear canal helps to keep it dry and deters bacteria growth. The simplest technique for removing hair from the ear canal is to lightly dust depilatory powder into the ears so that you can grasp the hair close to the skin and gently pull it out with your fingers. Hemostats can be used close to the skin to assist you in stubborn cases. Blunt tipped ear scissors can be cautiously used on puppies when hair in their ears is not ready to let go or for dogs that object to the plucking.
All dogs, regardless of coat or ear type, will benefit from regular ear cleaning. This is an opportune time to visually inspect the ears for irritation, infection or mites. If the ears appear healthy and normal, then you can proceed with cleaning. Ear cleaning is not a quick wipe of the ear with a dampened cotton ball. It is an important process that requires your thoughtful attention and visual inspection. For small to medium size dogs, a full size cotton ball may be too large to fit into the ear opening to thoroughly cleanse the ear and remove all traces of wax or dirt. You may need to tear a cotton ball into smaller pieces. The cotton ball (or piece) should be moistened with a professional formula ear cleaner that is free of alcohol or peroxide as these will dry the tender ear tissue. Choose a non-oily, pleasant smelling professional formula. With a firm but gentle touch, wipe inside the ear opening and as far into the opening as your finger will go.
For very small dogs, you may opt to wrap the cotton piece on the end of a hemostat to allow better access to the ear. Or, you may use a well- padded cotton swab. A dog's ear canal is V-shaped so penetrating deep enough to cause harm would be very difficult to do; however, probing too deeply may be uncomfortable for the dog and should be avoided. Do not insert anything into the ear deeper than you can see. Once you have swabbed the ear you will need to look at the cotton ball. Does the process need to be repeated to assure you have thoroughly cleaned the ear? This process is even more important for dogs that have had ear powder placed in their ears. If not physically removed by cleaning, the ear powder can build up which could prevent air flow and contribute to an infection.