The next time you call out your pet dog or cat’s name and watch his/her ears move in response and how they turn toward and move toward you, remind yourself just how important his/her sense of hearing is for overall well-being. Being aware of this will help keep you on track with checking and maintaining the health of your pet’s ears.
Check ears regularly
It’s easy to check your pet’s ears on a regular basis. A weekly check is probably the best. It’s just a matter of remembering to do it. First of all, observe your pet’s behavior. If there is something wrong, a pet will resort to shaking his/her head and scratching at the ear. If you see your pet doing a bit too much shaking and scratching around the ears, there may be something wrong, so keep an eye out for these telltale signs.
Even if you don’t notice your pet doing anything unusual, it’s best to keep on top of any potential problems by taking a good look at those ears. Checking your pet’s ears is something that is best started when they are young so they become accustomed to it. But, even if you’re getting a late start, it’s something you should start doing regularly.
First, check the outside. Move your fingers over the ears, watching for an abnormal reaction from your pet, like flinching as if he/she is reacting in pain or discomfort. There shouldn’t be any swelling, redness, discharge or crustiness around the outer ear.
Next, take a look inside the ear. Using a penlight or flashlight is a good idea since the inside of the ear can look like a complex maze. Hold the tip of the ear and move it back to get a good view inside. Again, there shouldn’t be any sort of redness, discharge, rustiness,
or foul odor.
Clean ears weekly
If you allow your cat or dog spends time outdoors, his/her ears may get a bit dirty. Or, there may just be a bit of wax build-up. A weekly check and cleaning is a good idea, especially for those dog or cat breeds that have folded-over or floppy ears (as opposed to upright) and those that tend to have excessive hair/fur in and around the ears.
To clean the ears, just use a cotton ball or a cleansing pad made especially for cleaning ears. If a dry pad isn’t good enough, wet it with a bit of cleansing solution made specifically for cleaning a dog or cat’s ears.
Pull back the ear flap a bit and gently rub the cleansing pad to remove dirt from the flap and inside just the middle portion of the ear. Do not insert anything (like a Q-tip) into the inner part of the ear canal.
There are ear cleaning and wax removal solutions you can use to clean the inner portion of your pet’s ears. A few drops or a squirt of the special solution into the ear and a gentle massage at the base of the ears for about 25 seconds are usually all that are needed.
Place a cotton ball inside the ear and massage a bit more to soak up solution and pick up debris. Repeat if there is a lot of wax or dirt.
Note that you should not leave the ear moist with solution. Excess moisture in the ears is an inviting environment in which bacteria can thrive. Your pet may not like this, so be prepared to hold onto your pet when you do this. However, you don’t want this to be an unpleasant experience for you pet, so don’t use too much force when holding them. You can also give them treats as part of the cleaning process so they associate this with something good.
If you don’t have experience cleaning a dog or cat’s ears, you might want to get advice and instructions from your vet so you don’t hurt your pet’s ears. And excessive cleaning is not a good idea either. You don’t want to be the cause any problems!
Visit the vet when something appears wrong
Get to know your pet’s ears so you know when something is wrong. When something looks out of the ordinary, get your pet to the vet for a thorough check.
Common ear ailments
Some of the most common ear problems for pets include ear mites, foreign objects in the ear, and infections.
Mites are tiny insects and this contagious condition definitely needs the attention of a vet. The ears need to be cleaned out and you will have to apply medication to your pet’s ears for a prescribed period of time to kill the insects.
It’s not uncommon for cats and dogs to play outside and then come home with foreign objects, most commonly plant life like foxtails, inside their ears. This condition is usually easy to spot because your pet will be shaking his/her head and scratching around the ears.
Do an inspection and see if you spot the problem. Sometimes it will be something you can see right away and will be able to remove yourself. If it’s embedded too deeply in the ear or you can’t even see the source of your pet’s discomfort, a trip to the vet will be necessary to have the object removed.
As a warm, moist environment, the ear can be the perfect place for a bacterial or yeast infection. Infections can cause pain, swelling, and discharge from the ears. Like the mites, this is something for the vet to take care of. Again, medication applied to the inside of the ear is usually used to kill off the infection.
Remember, if you catch a small problem early, you can avoid a very big problem later on. Awareness and consistent effort on your part will keep your pet’s ears clean and working at their best.