By Sandra Ilmanen, WSSCA Education Chairman
Weve got spaniels. Those pretty, silky ears hanging close to the sides of that sweet face have their cost -- a high potential for ear infections. We're talking at least a bad smell and occasional vet visit or, at worst case, constant office calls, lifelong medications, hearing loss, and surgery! The good news is, with a regular prevention program you can stop the problem before it gets started
When you took your puppy in for its first health check at about eight weeks of age, the vet checked its ears for infection and parasites. If there was a problem your doctor prescribed medications to cure it. Now it's time to begin your ear-cleaning regimen. Buy a bottle of ear cleaner at your vet's office or pet store. Two types that are readily available are R7 Rich Health Ear Cleaner and Nolvasan Otic Solution.
When introducing a dog to a new activity, it is best to begin slowly. Instead of doing a really thorough cleaning the first time, try just a quick squirt of cleaner, a fast wipe, and a lot of loving ear-rubbing and belly-scratching. Soon your dog will be ready for the complete treatment:
First, lay your dog on its side and move the ear leather up out of the way so you can see into the ear canal entrance. Next, pour or squirt ear cleaner liquid into the canal until you can see the top of the liquid pool. Using your thumb and forefinger, massage the whole area around the ear for a half-minute or so. Then use facial tissues, cotton balls, or paper towels to wipe the outer ear canal and all the accessible nooks and crannies. This will clean off the loosened dirt and wax and blot up the liquid. Use as many tissues as is necessary to dry the ear thoroughly. The ear should now look clean in all areas that you can see.
Expect a quick jerk from the dog when the liquid goes in (especially if the liquid is cold). Be firm, and hold the dog still until it calms down. They usually love the rubbing part. My dogs actually argue about who gets to go first! After the treatment, they run around shaking their heads and rubbing their ears on the carpet.
I make a habit of flipping those lovely ears out of the way about every two to three weeks to check for dirt or wax accumulation. Puppies and dogs who swim a lot or who spend time in the field seem to need cleaning the most often. Shaving the inside of the ear leather and the neck area near the ear seems to help by improving ventilation. If a shaver is not available, a neat and acceptable job can be done with scissors.
Note: If the ears are very smelly, seem to be oozing liquid, or if rubbing the ears seems to be causing the dog pain, see your veterinarian FIRST to evaluate and clear up the problem BEFORE you begin the prevention program. Also, if the ears seem to get dirty again every few days it would be best to see your vet so that he can determine and treat the cause of the excessive buildup. It takes less time to clean the ears than to read how to do it! If this quick and simple prevention method can save you even one visit to the vet you've more than recovered the cost of a lifetime supply of ear cleaner -- and avoided a lot of discomfort for your silky-eared friend.
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