Can I use Q-tips to clean my dog or cat’s ears?

By June 15, 2015 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

Proper grooming is essential to keeping your pet feeling and looking great. Many pets may need their ears cleaned as part of this process. Ear problems are very common in dogs and cats, and your veterinarian in Markham sees many pets each year with ear infections or ear mites. The treatment for ear issues involves cleaning the canals and treating them with the proper medication if necessary.

Many people clean their own ears with Q-tips, but in most cases this is not the best way to clean a dog or cat’s ears. Why not?

Dog and cat ears are quite different from human ears. Their ear canal is shaped like an “L.” There is a vertical canal, which takes a right angle into the horizontal canal. At the end of the horizontal canal sits the ear drum.  Because of this twisty, curvy design it’s easy for parasites, bacteria and yeast to hide and thrive in the inner ear canal. This also means that any debris in the canal must work its way up to escape. Infections can result from trapped debris. Dogs with allergies and floppy ears are particularly vulnerable.

The Cleaning Procedure

Your dog’s regular grooming/maintenance routine should include regular ear checks. This is especially important for dogs who produce excessive earwax or have a lot of inner-ear hair:

  • If your dog’s inner ears appear dirty, clean them with a cotton ball dampened with mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide or a solution formulated specifically for this purpose. Inner-ear skin is delicate, so allow your veterinarian in Markham to demonstrate the proper method for cleaning your dog’s ears.
  • Do not clean your dog’s ears so frequently or deeply as to cause irritation, and take care to NEVER insert anything into your dog’s ear canal.
  • If your dog sprouts hair from his ear canal, you or your groomer may have to tweeze it out every few weeks to prevent problematic mats and tangles from forming. Please discuss with your vet whether this is necessary for your dog.

This can be a messy procedure, so you may want to do it outside, in the garage, or in an easy-to-clean area like a bathroom.

Once the cleaner is in the ear, massage the ear at the base, listening for a “squishing” sound which lets you know that you are doing it right. Your pet will probably shake his head right after this, so keep your eyes and mouth closed!  This shaking helps bring up any debris from deep down inside the canals. Once your pet is done shaking, clean any excess solution from the ear using cotton balls, paper towels, or rolled cotton until you are no longer getting debris on your cleaning materials.

The Cleaner

A variety of cleaning solutions are available. Basic ear washes contain antibacterial substances and also contain a drying agent.  A basic cleaner is great for maintenance, and can also be used during times of infection. There are cleaners specifically made for ears prone to infections with yeast or bacteria. Your veterinarian in Markham can recommend the appropriate cleaner for your pet.

When Do You Clean

You should clean your pet’s ears on a regular basis, perhaps once or twice a month. Pets that are prone to infections should have their ears cleaned more frequently. Cleaning your pet’s ears after a bath or swimming can also help dry the ear, and help prevent subsequent infections.

Danger Signs:
Contact your veterinarian in Markham if you notice any of the following symptoms affecting your dog’s ears:

  • Ear discharge
  • Bad smells
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusty skin
  • Hair loss

Note brown or black ear wax—and dry, dark wax resembling coffee grounds—are classic indicators of microscopic ear mites. Only your veterinarian in Markham can tell for sure, so please don’t delay bringing a gooey-eared pooch in for a checkup.

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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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