Ask any child to draw an illustration of a dog and most will draw the same characteristics- a wagging tail, smiling face and long flapping ears. As pet professionals we see ears of all shapes and sizes and know that while all ears have the same basic structure every ear has its own specific needs.
The outermost portion of the ear is called a pinnae. This is the hair covered portion of skin which covers the ear canal. This is also the first place your groomer is going to check for any signs of matting, irritation or infection.
The pinnae, once lifted, reveal the opening to the ear canal. The ear canal is separated into two sections: external and internal. The external ear canal runs parallel to the skull, then makes an “L” shaped turn to run perpendicular to the eardrum. Some breeds will grow additional hair in the external ear canal while others will not.
While that floppy pinnae may be adorable it can also cause some health issues for our furry friends. Trapped moisture and impacted hair can lead to any number of infections and hematomas (blood blisters). In order to avoid these discomforts pet owners can practice some basic care at home as well as providing regular grooming so we can assist with the more difficult upkeep.
The first thing a pet owner should remember when caring for her dog’s ear is to keep it dry. If the dog goes swimming or takes a bath at home make sure to wipe the external canal thoroughly and get out any excess moisture. Because of the “L” shaped structure it is perfectly safe to get in there. No damage will be done to the eardrum using just a finger and some cotton.
Between baths it is also helpful to wipe out the ear canal with a cleaning solution. Many solutions can be purchased at a local pet store and are specially formulated to the Ph of a dog’s ear. Never clean a dog’s ear with soap and water! This will almost guarantee an ear infection and vet bill.
In addition to maintaining the ear canal it is important to keep the hair on the outside of the pinnae thoroughly brushed. Severe matting can cause a litany of additional health concerns.
When a dog comes in for a grooming appointment the first thing we do is examine the pinnae and exterior canal. If the hair on the outside of the pinnae is severely matted and cannot be safely brushed out, we will discuss the
need to shave the hair.
Once the outside of the ear has been examined we will take a peek at the exterior canal. When we examine the canal we are looking for
Once the hair has been removed the groomer uses a cotton ball soaked in a cleaning solution to remove any remaining powder and ear discharge in the canal.
There are two primary types of ear infections found in dogs. Bacterial infections often present with an excess of waxy discharge, foul odor and hot, red skin around the canal and pinnae. Yeast infections also present with odor and hot, red skin, but instead have a dark, thick discharge. Both types of infections require treatment by a veterinarian and should be taken seriously.
Ear mites are another concern in dogs. These appear almost as though there are coffee grounds inside the dog’s ear and again require treatment by a vet.
In the event an ear is severely matted or infected there is an increased risk of hematoma. A hematoma is a blood blister on the ear which is caused by the skin pulling away from the cartilage of the ear. As groomers we see this most frequently when a dog has been aggressively shaking his head as a response to infection or when ear matting has become so severe it pulls the skin away from the cartilage.
In most cases these issues can all be avoided through regular grooming. Allow us to keep your pup happy, healthy and fresh through regular grooming!