Pointy, floppy or folded – dog ears come in many different shapes, sizes and textures. Like their keen sense of smell, dogs have a remarkable sense of hearing and are capable of hearing at a higher frequency and can often hear sounds that are four times further away than humans! While a dog’s ears are largely self-cleaning, they may experience a build-up of wax and some dogs can be prone to developing ear infections. To help your dog live their healthiest life, frequently checking & keeping your dog’s ears clean should be a key part of your dog’s grooming routine.
Getting to know your dog’s ears
Before we get into how to keep your dog’s ears at their healthiest, let’s first look at what makes a dog’s ears so unique!
While both human ears and dog ears provide the same function, the physical make up of a dog’s ears is quite different to ours. Dog ears are controlled by a group of 18 muscles that together help them tilt, raise, rotate and lower or raise their ears allowing them to better capture sounds and make their hearing sharper. Another reason dogs move their ears is to express how they’re feeling – the position of a dog’s ears at any given time can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling! Erect ears that are facing forward can mean your dog is engaged, ears that are tightly pulled back could suggest they are feeling fearful or shy and slightly pulled back ears can mean that your dog is feeling friendly and approachable. Another fun fact about dog’s ears is that they can move independently of each other!
A dog’s sense of hearing is also much more sensitive than humans – while humans can hear within a range of 64 – 24,000 Hertz (Hz), dogs can detect frequencies in the range of 67 – 45,000 Hz. This means that they can hear high pitch sounds better than humans. Dogs also have an incredible ability to pick up very small differences in frequency (for example the difference between a musical note on a piano such as a C Note and C Sharp) which humans are often unable to pick up.
Additionally, unlike humans that have a short ear canal, dogs have a narrow, L-shaped ear canal that ends at the ear drum. This L-shaped canal can sometimes make it difficult for air to get in and moisture to get out, potentially resulting in ear infections and the need for some extra care & attention!
Checking & cleaning your dog’s ears regularly to prevent infections
The best way to ensure your dog’s ears are healthy and free of any issues is to check them regularly. To check your dogs ears pull up the flaps and look into the ear and look for signs or any problems such as excessive build-up of brown ear wax or an unpleasant odour – this could mean that you just need to give your dog’s ear a good clean. If the problem persists, they may have developed an ear infection and will need to be taken to the vet.
When cleaning your dog’s ear, there are two things to keep in mind – 1) Your dog’s ears are sensitive so be gentle when cleaning; and 2) Most dogs generally don’t like having their ears cleaned so you’ll need to work with them slowly and treat them often to make it a positive experience for them! To clean your dog’s ears at home, follow these simple steps – remembering to praise and reward your dog at each step:
1. Pick up the ear flap and put in a few drops of dog-appropriate ear cleaning solution into the canal – this is an unusual sensation for our dog and they may want to shake their head – let them as this can help the solution move through the ear canal
2. Gently massage the base of the ear for about 20 seconds to move the solution around
3. With a cotton ball, gently clean the ear flap and the opening of your dog’s ear canal removing any build up of excess wax
4. Repeat this process on the second ear and be sure to reward your dog with a big treat at the end!
For dogs that are prone to ear issues (for example dogs with floppy ears such as cocker spaniels and basset hounds), it is best to check on a weekly basis so that you can get on top of any issues as early as possible. For other dogs, checking on a fortnightly basis should be enough to detect any issues.
Ear infections, mites or bites
While prevention is the best cure, some dog breeds are certainly more prone to ear infections and despite regular ear care, they may still develop an infection.
Infections can be caused by a variety of reasons including excessive moisture (a prime breeding ground for bacteria), wax build-up, foreign bodies such as mites or bites, injury to the ear canal or allergies. Allergies in particular can be very hard to cure as it can be hard to determine exactly what your dog is allergic to – the best thing you can do for a dog prone to allergies is to ensure you are feeding them a healthy dog food made from high quality ingredients as allergies in dogs are often related to their diet.
Ear issues caused by mites or bites however can usually be easily fixed by seeking help from your vet. Look out for the common signs – including any reddening inside the ear, signs of any discharge or any form of swelling in the ear or on the ear flap. In between checks, keep an eye out for any unusual behavior being exhibited by your dog – some other common signs of potential ear problems include violently shaking their head, hanging their head towards the side of the affected ear or potentially walking wobbly (ear issues can sometimes throw off their balance!). If you notice any of these issues, seek veterinary help as soon as possible as the problem may be a mite or parasite in their ear which can quickly become inflamed and painful for your dog.
With just a few minutes spent regularly checking your dog’s ear, you can easily help to prevent and treat ear problems! When it comes to your dog’s ears early treatment gives the best results so regularly checking your dog’s ears and taking them to the vet where needed will ensure they are living their healthiest life!
© The Wholesome Dog 2020