Hopefully you are a dog owner whose dog has very healthy ears. They are never very dirty and don't tend to get infected. For many pet owners this is not the case and dealing with their dogs ears is a constant battle.
Let's talk about the ear structure itself. Dogs with erect ears, with little hair growing in the canal, that are open to air flow tend to have fewer ear issues. Breeds like this include Smooth Fox Terriers, Huskies, and Corgies. Dogs with floppy heavy ears, such as Cocker Spaniels, are more prone to ear problems. Some breeds such as Schnauzers, Poodles, and Shih Tzus grow hair inside their ear canals. In most cases this hair is gently plucked out regularly to help keep the ears clean and a clear flow of air into the ears.
There are things owners can do to help prevent ear infection. It is a good idea to clean your dogs ears at least weekly, perhaps more often if they are prone to problems and your veterinarian recommends this. Also, if your dog likes to swim it is a good idea to put ear cleaner in the ears after they swim to help dry the ear out. Your veterinarian can recommend a proper ear cleaner for your dog. There are people who suggest all sorts of home made concoctions for cleaning ears such as water and vinegar, or water and peroxide, but it is best to use an ear cleaner formulated for use on pets.
When you have your dog groomed your groomer will normally pluck (if necessary) and clean your dogs ears. If they notice a problem they should bring it to your attention.
If your dog shows indications of an ear condition it is important to take it to the veterinarian for diagnosis. Even if you've been given ear medication in the past, that particular medication may not treat the current problem. Just as different antibiotics are created to treat different illnesses, different ear medications treat different ear infections. Some are made to combat bacteria, while others are made to combat yeast. It is important that your veterinarian examine your dog and provide the correct treatment for the current condition.
Once prescribed ear medication it is important to follow the directions given by the veterinarian. One thing that concerns owners is how far into the canal to place the medication tube. As you can see in the picture below, the ear canal is different from a human ear canal, and it is nearly impossible to reach the ear drum. The dog ear canal is “L” shaped. To avoid getting medication all over the side of the dog's head you can place the tube or dropper into the ear canal without reaching the ear drum.
Also, it is not necessary to use a large amount of medication. Look at the directions and if necessary apply the prescribed amount on the back of your hand so you can get a good feel for how much medication you need to put in your dogs ear. This will help you not waste medication and will help keep from making a greasy mess of your pet's head.
Follow through with the directions provided by your veterinarian. If they say to administer the medication for ten days it is important to do this. Sometimes a infection will look better in four days, but if medication is stopped it could some back even worse than before. Consistently stopping medication earlier than the prescribed time can also lead to a pet having chronic ear infections that get increasingly difficult to treat.
These are simply guidelines and suggestions to help keep your dog happy and comfortable. Be sure to be aware of the condition of their ears and consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions.
Lara Latshaw is Chief Grooming Officer for HydroDog, the premier mobile pet grooming service and franchise. For more than 13 years, she has groomed and worked with animals professionally. She is certified in Pet First Aid and CPR, is a National Certified Master Groomer, and is an award-winning competition groomer. You can learn more about HydroDog at http://hydrodog.com or join the conversation on Facebook. You can reach Lara by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.