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This is Vet Nurse Becky’s 13th article in her excellent series on Puppy Behaviour.

Grooming gives you the ideal opportunity to check you puppy over from head to tail. The next few instalments of the grooming series will include checking eyes, teeth, skin and feet. This article will start at the top with checking your puppy’s ears.

It is very important to check your puppy’s ears on a daily basis and to make sure they are clean and dry. This will also get them used to their ears being handled. Clean and dry ears feel good for your puppy but also prevent infections. The design of a dog’s inner ear means that it is easy for parasites, bacteria and yeast to grow in them and any dirt or wax needs to work its way up the ear canal, against gravity, to come out. This trapped dirt can cause infections.

earsmallIf you notice your puppy shaking their head or pawing at their ears then you should check them more often as this can be a sign of pain and discomfort.

Start by examining the outer ear, or earflap as otherwise known. This is the area most prone to injury and infection as it is exposed to objects and dirt. Check the earflap for ticks, cuts or any other foreign bodies. Ticks can be removed with a tick remover. However it is extremely important that the tick is removed fully intact, as they burrow their head into the skin and this needs to be removed. If you do not feel comfortable in doing this yourself, please contact the surgery and one of our nurses will be able to remove it for you.

Next, look into the ear canal. Hold the tip of the ear with your forefinger and thumb and gently fold it back so that you can view the inner ear.   Healthy ears should be light pink inside and have no smell or any discharge. Certain breeds, such as terriers and poodles, have hair growing in the ear canal. This needs to be plucked out to prevent wax and dirt building up. Ask your groomer how to do this properly.

Check for any foreign bodies such as grass seeds or any signs of infection, such as soreness or redness, bad smell or discharge. Ear mites are very common in young dogs as they are easily spread. Puppies, especially when in the litter, spend a lot of time in close contact to each other. These are tiny mites that live in the ear canal and feed off skin debris. They look like dark debris like coffee ground. If you suspect these, you will need to book an appointment to see the vet to confirm this and for treatment.

Ears should be cleaned on a weekly or monthly basis as needed. Breeds with floppy or fluffy ears will need more attention than those with pricked ears as ear infections are more common in these breeds due to the lack of air circulating through the ear and they provide a perfect breeding environment for bacteria and yeast, with their dark, warm and moist conditions. However any breed can get an ear infection.

earcleanerTo clean ears, we recommend a product called Clean Aural Dog, which is a pH-balanced ear cleaner.

To start getting your puppy used to having their ears cleaned, soak a cotton wool ball or gauze with Clean Aural and wipe the area inside that you can seen. Wipe from the middle of the ear outwards. Never use a cotton bud in the ears or poke further down the ear than you can see, as you can easily damage the eardrum.

Once your puppy is used to this, you can move on to the next step of cleaning their ears. Place the nozzle of the clean aural at the top of the ear canal opening. Do not push it down the ear canal. Gently squeeze the bottle and apply a liberal amount of clean aural into the ear canal and massage the outside base of the ear canal, before allowing you puppy to shake his head. Then wipe away any visible wax or dirt as above.

It is very important to keep your puppies ears dry and clean to prevent ear problems. Make sure after bathing and swimming their ears are dried thoroughly. Ear infections, ear mites and foreign bodies can all cause serious problems in dogs such as hearing loss and constant shaking of the head can cause blood vessels in the ear to burst and a pocket to fill with blood. This is called an aural haematoma and often needs surgery to correct. A good ear health routine on a regular basis allows you to pick up problems quickly, so they can be treated as soon as possible. If there are any signs of ear problems do not apply ear cleaner as this can cause more damage. Contact the clinic and book an appointment to see the vet to examine the ear and treat accordingly.

Contact the clinics if you notice any of the following:

  • Ear discharge
  • Bad smells
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusty skin
  • Hair loss
  • Foreign bodies i.e. grass seeds
  • Black debris with coffee ground like appearance

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