Health & Wellness

A pet parent's guide to caring for your dog's ears

This is what you need to know to prevent an uncomfortable ear infection

We all know that having water trapped in your ears is the worst feeling, and when water’s trapped in your dog's ears, it’s no different. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it sets the stage for painful fungal and bacterial infections. 

Yeast and bacteria love warm, dark, damp places, so it’s very important to keep your dog’s ears dry. This can be a challenge for dog breeds with long ears (think: basset hounds), dogs who love to swim, and messy dogs who need frequent baths. But preventing ear infections will save you time and money in the end, and your dog will avoid the itch and discomfort. Fetch’s on-staff vet Dr. Aliya McCullough shares some tips for prevention.

Plug pet ears up with cotton‍

Luckily for your dog, there’s nothing they love more than getting out of the water and shaking out their coat. This soppy, shaking episode includes the head, so typically any water trapped in their ears comes out.

You can give your dog a leg up by blocking their external ear canals with a large cotton ball before bath time — just don’t forget to take them out after the bath.

Keeping ears clean and dry‍

Preventing water from getting in their ears is one thing, but dealing with it after the fact is another. If your dog goes swimming every day and never has a problem with their ears, there’s no need to change your routine. But for dogs who battle ear infections after swimming or bathing, use a soft cotton rag or cotton balls to dry as much of the external canal as you can. You can also try a drying ear cleaner — there are many on the market, so ask your vet which one they prefer.

One thing to note: even though your dog’s ear canal is longer and curvier than ours, it’s still not safe to insert cotton swabs (Q-tips) down into the ear canal. Doing so can cause injury to the eardrum or ear canal. 

When to call the vet

If debris is deep in the canal and regular cleaning isn’t cutting it, or if you think your dog might have an ear infection (continued scratching, rubbing or shaking their head is a telltale sign), it’s time to call the vet. Ear infections caused by fungus or bacteria will need medications to resolve — ear cleaning itself just won’t be enough to do the trick.

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Dr. Aliya McCullough


Pet Health

Ear Infection

Photo by Jessica Knowlden on Unsplash

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