Ear wax in dogs is common, especially in floppy-eared dogs. Dirty ears can lead to chronic ear infections, requiring veterinary visits and expensive medications. Prevention is better than cure. With very little time, it's easy to use natural methods to both prevent and remove ear wax in dogs.
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No animal in the wild has floppy, furry ears. This trait in dogs has been selectively bred in many breeds for centuries and requires maintanance. Breeds like cocker spaniels and some hounds are very susceptible to ear problems caused by a build-up of wax, dirt and moisture in the ears.
Lift your dog's ear and look down the ear canal. Chances are you will see it coated with a brown waxy substance. What is potentially problematic is the wax you can't see, deeper in the ear canal. A build-up of wax and dirt can lead to painful ear infections. If there is dirt and wax in the outer part of the ear, there is surely plenty deeper in the ear canal. Never use a cotton swab or anything else to poke into the dog's ear. Their ears are designed differently to ours and you can cause pain and injury. Smell your dog's ears as well. A yeasty or strong odour indicates possible wax build-up.
Dogs with upstanding ears are not usually as prone to ear problems because air can circulate into the ear canal. Additionally, long hair on the inside of a floppy ear traps dirt and debris that makes its way down the ear canal. Using small, sharp scissors, trim the excess fur away from the inner base of a floppy ear, and the longer fur on the underside of the ear. A groomer can also do this regularly for a minimal fee. This will lessen the amount of debris entering the ear and will allow the ears to "breathe" and stay dryer.
Do a routine ear cleaning with a mild vinegar and water solution. Use white vinegar and tepid water, mixed in equal parts. Lift the dog's ear straight up without pulling. With a syringe or turkey baster, gently flush the mixture into the ear. Your dog will reflexively shake her head. Before it does, massage the base of the ear with your fingers until you hear a squishy sound. Let it shake its head. This is best done outside because some of the gunk will be sent flying when it shakes. For general maintenance, do this every three or four weeks. The vinegar provides a proper pH for the ear and helps dislodge dirt and wax.
There is some speculation that grain-based diets (kibble) promote the growth of yeast in the ear canal. Many people who feed raw or home cooked diets, or grain-free kibble, find that chronic ear problems disappear with the diet change. It may also be that poor quality grains, such as glutens and brewer's rice, can be a culprit. If these cheap grain by-products are in your dog's kibble, consider changing to a better brand or trying an alternative diet.
If your dog is scratching frequently, shaking its head or indicates pain when its ears are petted, take it to the vet right away. Also look for redness, swelling or a foul odour. These are classic symptoms of either ear infections or mites, both of which need veterinary intervention and medication to be cured. Untreated ear conditions are not only painful, they can lead to further complications and even deafness. This advice is for cleaning and preventive maintenance, not a cure for medical problems.