Not to bore you with a long-winded, scientific write up about ears but here is a quick animal biology class review leading up to some simple ear cleaning instructions: Dog and cat ears have 3 major parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Cats don’t seem to have nearly as many ear infection issues as dogs do. Dogs with large, floppy ears commonly have issues with ear infections. Some dog breeds have excess hair growth in and around the ear canals. Floppy ears and excess hair growth can lead to poor air circulation and buildup of moisture and wax, which creates a favorable breeding environment for bacteria. Dogs that spend a lot of time in the water are prone to developing ear infections. Dogs or cats with skin allergies may also have ear problems as part of the allergic reaction. Signs of an ear infection may include: redness, swelling, discharge, odor, excessive head shaking, excessive scratching or rubbing of ears.
The outer ear consists of the earflap (also called the pinna). The pinna funnels sound into the ear canal. Many dogs have ears that are folded over and cats have ears that sit upright. Unlike humans that have a very short ear canal, dogs have a long, narrow ear canal that makes almost a 90-degree bend as it travels to the deeper parts of the ear.
The outer ear canal is separated from the middle ear by a thin membrane called the eardrum (or tympanic membrane). The eardrum is very fragile and can be damaged if an ear infection is present. The middle ear consists of 3 small bones, an air filled cavity called the bulla and a thin tube leading from the bulla to the back of the mouth.
How To Clean Your Pet’s Ears
- Squeeze a moderate amount of ear cleansing solution into the ear canal.
- Massage at the base of the ear to distribute the ear cleansing solution throughout the ear canal (you can be quite rough at this point to loosen up all the waxy buildup and debris inside the ear). You will hear a “squishing” noise as you massage. Your pet will enjoy this part!
- Let your pet shake their head. Be sure to move your face back or else you may get some ear debris shaken into your mouth or eyes!
- Use cotton, Q-tips, tissues or gauze to wipe away any debris or waxy buildup from the inside of the earflap. To reach down into the ear canal it is best to put a tissue or gauze around your finger and then gently insert it into the ear canal. Your finger will not be small enough to reach down to the tympanic membrane (or eardrum). A Q-tip can gently be used to wipe the folds of the ear.
- Allow your pet to shake their head again.
- Reward them with a treat!
How To Administer Ear Medication Into Your Pet’s Ears
- Make sure your pet’s ears are clean and dry before instilling the medication so that is can penetrate into the skin instead of being stopped and absorbed by debris or waxy buildup.
- Pull back the earflap and gently insert the tip of the bottle or tube into the ear canal. Be careful with your cat’s ears – do not insert the bottle far into the ear canal.
- Squeeze the recommended amount of medication into the ear canal. You may need to hold your pet’s head still so they do not shake the medication out right away.
- Gently massage at the base of the ear in order to distribute the medication throughout the ear canal.