Like people, dogs have earwax. A dog’s ears require cleaning to remove wax and dirt and to prevent infections and other problems. Routine cleaning can prevent excessive wax buildup. Peek in your dog’s ears and if you notice any waxy buildup, discharge, discoloration or odor, call your vet.
Technically called cerumen, earwax is a natural product of a dog’s ear that accumulates dead skin cells and other debris. Earwax is secreted by a dog’s glands, and certain breeds as well as dogs with frequent ear infections produce more. Excessive earwax can be seen in your dog’s ear and is typically yellowish-brown and may have a musty smell.
Excessive earwax may lead to fungus accumulation, infections, pain, hearing loss and balance issues. Dogs prone to excessive wax should be checked at least every three to four weeks. Infections caused by wax may cause your dog pain and even hearing loss if the wax builds up against the eardrum. Infections may ultimately spread and cause irreparable damage to your dog’s ears. Additionally, a dirty, waxy ear makes a warm host for bugs and parasites.
The first step in cleaning your dog’s ears and removing wax is to trim his ear canal hair. If your dog can stay still, trim or pluck the hairs inside the canal using small scissors or tweezers. Next, apply a small amount to a cotton ball. Swish the cotton ball in the ear canal but not deeper than you can see. This will both clean your dog’s ears and allow loosening of wax and dirt as the dog shakes his ears.
Water-loving and floppy-eared dogs such as retrievers, poodles and spaniels have increased risk of excessive earwax. These dog breeds have more fur and less air around their ear canals. As an owner of a floppy-eared dog or a dog often in water, you should clean his ears at least monthly. Additionally, if your dog has a history of chronic ear infections, you and your vet should his inspect his ears for wax and infection frequently.
Francine Richards is a licensed multi-state insurance agent with years of human resources and insurance industry experience. Her work has appeared on Blue Cross Blue Shield websites and newsletters, the Houston Chronicle and The Nest. Richards holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Maryland.