Believe it or not, dogs in their natural healthy state smell good. The only reason dogs smell bad is if they have an ear infection, dental tartar/oral infections or skin infections or if they just rolled in something disgusting. The easiest way to tell if your dog has an ear infection is to smell their ears. In a healthy state, their ears are just like ours, with a small amount of was and no odor present. The ears should be nice and clean and the skin should be a normal color.
The Cotton Ball/Q-Tip test
Use a cotton ball or just the head of a Q-Tip to swab your dog’s ears. They should be clean.
Owners often mistake the dark brown debris that is present in infection as “normal” dirt. There is no such thing as “normal” dirt in dog’s ears. Their ears are designed to stay clean and while there are exceptions if they have been recently rolling in the mud or kept constantly in a dusty, dirty area, your cotton swab should come out clean.
Also the skin inside the ears should be normal color and texture. If the skin is bright red, thickened, scaly or otherwise abnormal, your dog has an ear infection.
Is your dog scratching its ears?
It is not normal for dogs to constantly scratch their ears. They might do an occasional scratch for fleas or minor causes of irritation but if they are scratching their ears often, they have an ear infection or something stuck in their ears.
Your veterinarian will look into the ear canals with an ophthalmoscope all the way down to the tympanic membranes (ear drums) to see how bad the infection is and if there is anything stuck in the ear canal that might be contributing to the infection.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
If your dog is diagnosed with an ear infection or has had them on a regular basis and you need to prevent them from recurring, you will need to know the proper way to clean your dogs ears.
Ear cleaner - can be natural (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, or see Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats) or use the cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.
Cotton Swabs or Q-Tips – (use same caution as with humans, do not stick more than the head of the Q-Tip into ears)
Towel to go around dogs neck or on floor under head, or do this outside, this is messy business!
Apply ear cleaner
Apply moderate amount of ear cleaner into one or both ears and massage ears well. Dog will shake its head like crazy after this step so watch out. Go ahead and let them shake it out, you can always put more in if needed.
Use cotton swabs for deeper areas and clean ALL of the debris out of ears. Do not be aggressive with this step if the ears are very red and obviously very sore, get medication from your veterinarian to reduce irritation and infection before aggressively cleaning.
Clean until no more debris shows up on your cotton swabs or Q-Tips.
Apply medication to ears if you have it. I advise medication twice daily for 14 days and a recheck with your veterinarian to make sure all debris is cleaned out all the way to the tympanic membrane or it will just come back.
Be sure to address underlying issues such as allergies or abnormalities with ear canals or foreign objects or cleaning and treating ears will not fix the problem.
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