Ear cleaning – damned if you clean and damned if you do not clean – PROPERLY!
Ears have the same entry and exit site. So whatever you pour inside and do not retrieve or remove – that “stuff” is staying inside for good!
Ear Wax – Is it Normal? Or is it bad?
Ear wax is not a bad discharge unless it becomes overwhelming. The presence of discharge does not mean the ear is infected (that is – bacterial infection).
A small amount of ear wax is normal and protective to the micro-environment of the ear. However, too much ear wax or discharge will cause an imbalance of the micro-environment – leading to higher risk of infection, brewing of an abnormal population of bacteria or yeasts. As a result of an overpopulation of bacteria, yeast or even parasites – the pet will begin to feel abnormally itchy and therefore start to itch.
Anatomy of the Ear
The ear canal of a dog and cat takes an approximate “L” shape, unlike human’s ear canal which is a simple horizontal canal. For this very reason, ear cleaning liquid or bath water that gets into a dog or a cat’s ears will accumulate in the horizontal section (horizontal canal) of the ear canal. Thanks to gravity, despite your pet’s best effort to “shake it off” – a significant volume of that liquid just will not come out and instead settle in the horizontal canal.
Why Clean Ears in the First Place?
Do we really need to clean ears every day? The answer should be “NO”.
Water gets trapped in the horizontal canal from time to time, for example after a bath at the groomer’s or after a swim. The only other time the ear canals collect any liquid should be if you douse the ears with ear cleaners! Typically, a healthy ear canal should be minimally moist and with a tiny amount of wax. The color of the ear wax may vary – but usually very light yellow or brown.
Ears may be cleaned from time to time using only a dry cotton bud. The purpose is to remove excessive wax or moisture from the ear canal. You do not have to add in ear cleaners in order to clean the ears at this point.
The cotton-bud cleaning technique is controversial. We have heard stories where pieces of cotton are left in the vertical canal. In our practice, we regularly use this method to extract as much fluid from the ears as possible. When used correctly, this method can be perfectly safe and suitable.
Tip: buy good quality tightly packed cotton buds.
Learn how to insert the cotton bud into the vertical canal as far as you can and let the cotton bud absorb as much fluid as possible. Once you are satisfied with the result, stop cleaning! Stop dousing the ears with more water and more medications.
Keep your pet’s ears dry. Not wet.
(Check out our future posts to learn about the consequences of over-cleaning ears!)