Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cleaning Halo's ears for the first time.

Halo had her first ear cleaning not long ago. I was petting her when I got a whiff of a funky, yeasty smell. I’ve smelled such a scent before… on dogs with ear infections. Upon a closer sniff, I learned the smell was, indeed, coming from her ears. At that point the smell wasn't too bad, barely noticeable really, so I just kept an eye on it for the time being. If the smell got worse, it would have been time for Halo to go see a vet. The funky smell went away but reminded me of the importance of checking a dog’s ears every now and then, and the importance of cleaning them if they look (or smell) dirty!

I know that there are all sort of ear cleaning products out there and sometimes they’re necessary (especially for dogs that are prone to ear infections like cocker spaniels and golden retrievers), but I’ve found that just cleaning out the gunk and debris every now and then with dry cotton balls seems to work. I use cotton balls for two reasons: they’re large enough that there’s no way they’re going to go down the ear canal (never insert anything into the ear canal!), and they can be squished easily and gently into all the grooves of a dog’s ear without my finger being squished into the groove also (which I imagine might hurt or at least be uncomfortable for the dog).

I’ve been handling Leopold’s ears since he was a pup; he’s very used to an occasional ear cleaning (and frequent ear checks!), so he’s very good about sitting still while I clean out all the gunk and dirt. But dogs don’t start out feeling comfortable with you squishing cotton balls into their ears. So how do you clean a dog’s ears for the first time? I’ve found that it’s important to always keep these types of things positive for the dog. To keep the experience fun and interesting, I let Halo sniff the cotton balls periodically throughout the process (for some reason dogs seem to really like to sniff the gunk that comes out of their ears!). I also gave her lots of praise and reassurance and used as little restraint as possible—it was more like holding her hear steady than restraint. I also kept the session short and gave her a small treat afterwards!

Halo sniffs at a cotton ball.

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