Check your dog's ears on a weekly basis. This is especially important with droop-eared dogs or dogs with excessive hair in their ears. Regular ear checks are also important for dogs that swim or that is bathed frequently.

Droop-eared dogs are susceptible to bacterial and fungus infections. Dogs with heavy, feathered ears, such as Springer and Cocker Spaniels need to have hair clipped from their ears to allow air circulation. Non-shedding dogs with excessive hair in and around the ear canal, such as terriers, Schnauzers, Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Bouviers and Old English Sheepdogs, should also have the hair removed to allow air to circulate. This can be done when a dog is professionally groomed, but may also be done at home.

To remove the hair, sprinkle baking soda on your fingers (be careful not to get it in the ear canal!) or use ear powder, available at pet supply stores. If you use ear powder, sprinkle a small amount on the ear canal making sure to cover the ear hair. Holding the earflap up with one hand, use your fingers to gently pluck out the hairs growing in the ear canal. Most dogs will not mind this because it does not hurt, but be aware that the same is not true for hairs on the inside of the earflap.

If your dog's ears are clean, without excess wax and not oversensitive to touch, you do not need to clean them. Dirty ears or ears filled with a waxy, dark substance may be an indication of ear mites. Use cotton balls dampened with mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide or ear cleaner for dogs. Holding the earflap in one hand, wipe the inner surface of the ear as far down as you can reach. Be gentle but thorough, changing the cotton when it is soiled.

Before cleaning extremely dirty ears, make sure that you have ear cleaner and lots of cotton balls close at hand. Either hold the dog still on a grooming table, grip him between your knees, back him up against a corner or hold him on your lap with his head facing away from you. Follow the directions on the bottle and fill the ear with ear cleaner. Massage the base of the ear for a few minutes and then swab out the ear with the cotton balls, using clean cotton for each ear. Your dog will want to shake out the excess ear cleaner, so get out of the way before he does, or you will be sprayed!

Indications of ear problems are sensitivity to touch, heavy wax buildup, debris, inflammation, strong odor, shaking or scratching the ears or tilting the head to the side. These are conditions that require a visit to your veterinarian.

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