When owning a pet, you can understand how essential it is to cater to its grooming and hygiene needs. Besides brushing your dog’s coat, you must care for other factors also. These include brushing his teeth, trimming his nails, and regularly checking his eyes and ears.
When cleaning your dog’s ears, it should be done once or twice a month. However, for breeds with long, floppy ears like the Dachshund, Beagle, and Cocker Spaniel, ear cleaning is needed more frequently, maybe once every two weeks.
When you have a breed that swims excessively, cleaning its ears every week will help maintain better hygiene.
Now, when you clean your dog’s ears, how does he react? Is he okay, or does he show signs of restlessness and aggression? There are endless reasons why your dog could act weirdly or go wild after ear cleaning. Read on to know more:
Dog’s Ear Anatomy
A dog’s ear has three parts – the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear comprises the ear canal and the pinna. The pinna or the ear flap is that part of the ear built of cartilage.
The pinna remains covered with hair, skin, and fur. The pinna plays a significant role in capturing the sound waves and funneling them through the dog’s ear canal. The sound waves then travel through the ear drum. The pinnae can move quite independently of each other.
Moreover, the shape and size of pinnae vary from one breed to the other. The ear canal is a L-shaped long tube that protects the ear drum. The dog’s ear canal is deeper than that of their human counterparts. Most dogs can hear four times more than humans.
The middle ear has the eardrum alongside a small chamber filled with air containing three tiny bones – the anvil, the stirrup, and the hammer. The Eustachian tube and the oval window (connective tissue membrane) are also in the middle ear.
The dog’s inner ear appears complex and includes the vestibular system and cochlea. While the cochlea helps in hearing, the vestibular system plays a significant role in balance.
Why Dogs “Go Crazy” After Ear Cleaning
Do you find your dog going crazy, reacting weirdly, or showing aggression when his ears are being cleaned?
You could feel your dog is being defiant or disobedient. But that is not always the reason. It could be something else as well. Perhaps your dog is in some kind of discomfort, which is the reason behind its odd reactions. Let’s take a look at them:
1. Your Dog is in Pain
If your dog’s ear is infected, cleaning his ears at that moment could trigger pain and inflammation. So, it is quite natural for him to react weirdly. When your dog has ear pain, you can spot him scratching or pawing at his ears quite often.
Your dog might shake his head vigorously to relieve the pain and discomfort. His ears may even appear inflamed or red, emitting a foul smell. So, when you see these symptoms in your dog, it indicates that his ears are infected. It would help if you never cleaned his ears under such circumstances.
2. It Stresses Him Out
When cleaning your dog’s ears, you may have had to pull it a little and squeeze the ear-cleaning solution inside. Your dog may find all of these stressful. So, he often shakes his head vigorously, barks, whines, or puts up any weird behavior after his ears have been cleaned.
3. He may Have Had a Negative Experience Before
Dogs have a good memory. They can remember significant incidences – good or bad for quite a while.
The last time you took him to the groomer’s place for a cleaning session, he did not have a good experience there. So, there are chances that every time his ears are cleaned, something wrong or unpleasant may happen.
Your dog will make it evident through his behavior and reluctance toward ear cleaning.
4. He may Relate it to a Problem
Do you mostly clean your dog’s ears only when you sense something is wrong? In that case, your dog might relate ear cleaning to pain and discomfort. So, each time you go on to clean his ears with a cleaner, he will comprehend that there might be something wrong. That makes your dog behave wildly during and after ear cleaning.
Common Reactions Exhibited by Dogs Post Ear Cleaning
So, what does your dog do when you clean his ears? Is he calm and composed? Or does he show restlessness? Most dogs display some common reactions after their ears have been cleaned:
- The most common reaction dogs show during and after an ear-cleaning session is shaking their heads vigorously. This way, they eliminate the liquid, debris, and wax accumulated in their ears.
- If your dog has no problem, he will feel relaxed and calm when his ears are cleaned, even after that. When your dog is relaxed, he will make it seen through his gestures. His eyes will bear a soft expression, his ears will appear loose, and your dog’s mouth will be opened slightly.
- If your dog’s ears are inflamed or infected, he will move away when you try cleaning his ears. If you manage to do so by force, your dog will constantly itch and paw his ears alongside excessive shaking.
Tips to Calm Your Dog After Ear Cleaning
If you find your dog stressed or anxious once you have cleaned his ears, the onus lies on you to calm and make him feel better. These are a few things to do from your end:
- After you have put ear drops inside your dog’s ear, keep massaging them gently for a while to give your dog the much-needed comfort. Ensure you do not exert force that could cause discomfort to your canine.
- If your dog is getting restless or upset during the ear-cleaning process, do not yell at him. Instead, keep calm and find ways to comfort him. It could be a mix of cuddles and rewards like his favorite toy or treat. This could help your dog overcome his restlessness and make him feel better.
- You can even play soothing music, something your dog enjoys, to help him overcome the discomfort he went through due to ear cleaning.
Regular Maintenance and Best Practices for Ear Cleaning
It is always essential to take good care of your dog’s ears. In this way, you can keep ear infections at bay.
As mentioned earlier, if your dog has short and erect ears, cleaning them once a month will be fine. But, if you have a breed with long, floppy ears, or if your dog gets into the water quite often, frequent cleaning of the ears is needed- at least once a week. Here are specific tips that will help you:
1. Choose the Correct Time
If you have an overactive dog, cleaning his ears during the day, when he is highly energetic, may be challenging.
So, it is safe to choose a time when he is less active; the period around bedtime would be apt. In fact, during that time, he will be more relaxed after an exhausting day, and cleaning his ears could be easier for you.
2. Choose the Right Posture
Always choose to sit on the ground when cleaning your dog’s ears. That will help you get better access to your dog. When you have a small breed, make your dog sit in a way that his back is between both legs. This will make the cleaning process more manageable.
In the case of a big breed, it will be challenging to make him sit in that position. The best way would be to have him sit with his back pressed against the corner of the room. One of his sides will remain against the wall. You will need to go to the other side to clean his ears.
3. Follow the Right Procedure
The ideal way to clean your dog’s ears is to use a cotton ball dipped in a vet-approved solution. You could gently squeeze some ear solution into your dog’s ears by holding it with one hand. Make sure to fill a sufficient amount of the solution to fill the ear canal. Once the solution has got into your dog’s ears, massage it gently.
This will help in breaking up the debris and ensure proper cleaning. Avoid using cotton-tipped swabs or applicators. It could cause injury to the dog’s ear, damaging his eardrum.
When your dog shakes his ears once you clean his ears during the cleaning process, do not stop him. It will help to bring the debris near the surface. Once you catch sight of the same, wipe them well.
If you find your dog in pain while cleaning his ears, stop doing the same and talk to the vet immediately. Do not exert force; it could worsen things.
Avoid going for homemade solutions or anything you randomly come across online. It might give short-term relief to your dog. But in the long run, it may trigger irritation and ear damage.
Ans: If your dog feels pain in his ears and resists ear cleaning, you should stop immediately. Contact your vet, who may suggest medications for controlling pain and alternate ear-cleaning techniques.
Ans: You can minimize ear problems in dogs by conducting routine checkups. Also, make sure you clean your dog’s ears regularly (as per his needs).
Whenever your dog’s ears get wet after a bath or when swimming, make it a point to dry it well. You can even put cotton balls in his ears before he bathes or swims to prevent water from getting inside. The moisture accumulation in your dog’s ears makes him prone to chronic ear infections.
Ans: Poodles are more susceptible to ear infections since they have flap ears that hold more moisture. Another reason is the increased growth of hair in the ears, which obstructs airflow into the canal. Moreover, breeds with long, floppy ears are also more prone to ear infections.
To sum it up, ear cleaning is integral to grooming a dog. Make sure you follow the proper steps, as a single mistake from your end could damage your dog’s ears. Also, you should start training your dog to accept ear cleaning since his puppy days. It would help even better if he is trained to follow commands.
Get him used to you touching his ears, ear flaps, head, etc. Do all of these slowly and gradually. Also, associate this with a positive stimulus. Whenever your canine allows you to touch his ears, reward him with a treat and praise. In this way, he will not consider ear-cleaning as stressful or agonizing.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.