Dog ear care: keep them clean and healthy

Care for those dog ears, which are long & silky, one of the basset hounds' most attractive features. They can also be one of the greatest health challenges for their owners.


The cutest thing about a basset hound is its ears.

Long and silky, the trademark of the breed, those ears draw more attention to this dog than any other feature. There's hardly anything cuter than an eight-week-old basset, racing along playfully, and tripping over its own ears into a headlong tumble. Most puppies of this breed have ears that drag the ground for most of the first year; some dogs with exceptionally long ears never do get tall enough to stop that drag.

The ear shape really does have a function. Along with all the wrinkles around basset's sad eyes and across their chests, along with the huge paws and the characteristic white-tipped tails, long ears are considered desirable in a scent hound. As the dog sniffs along its trail, the ears stir up the scent which is then captured by the wrinkles where the odor of the prey is kept strong.

But the very length and weight of the ears makes them a source of health problems for these wonderful dogs. Because they drag the ground, they constantly pick up dirt and dust from outside and germs and other household bacteria inside. Because they are so heavy and allow little air circulation inside the ear canal, they provide a breeding ground for yeast and other micro-organisms that can cause infections not so common to dogs with perkier ears. To keep a basset healthy, it is extremely important to keep their ears clean.
Your veterinarian will sell you an ear wash to use regularly. As a substitute, you can use a half-and-half mix of white vinegar and water. The vinegar counteracts the climate that nourishes yeast and helps to reduce the likelihood of an infection.

Veterinarians are now discouraging the use of hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol as ingredients for homemade ear washes for dogs. Hydrogen peroxide, they have found, actually eats away at tissue; the alcohol, even diluted, will burn if there is even a slight irritation already present.

Basset ears should be wiped down daily to remove general dirt. A damp washcloth of a pre-moistened towelette works well for this. At least three times a week cotton ball, dampened with your cleaning solution, should be used daily to clean the crevices around the outer portion of the ears; a cotton swab is okay to use to clean inside those wrinkles. Do NOT use a swab to reach down into your dog's ears! You can cause pain or more serious damage.

To keep the inside of the ears clean and healthy, use your cleaning solution at room temperature. Gently pour enough into the dog's ear to fill the canal and, from the outside, working from the base of your dog's ear (where it attaches to the head) massage it thoroughly. Most people would be surprised to learn how deep the ear canal actually is;  spend about 10-15 seconds working the cleaning solution deep into the ear by massaging from the outside while holding your dog's ears up to keep the solution from running out. This will help loosen normal dirt and wax.
bodyOffer2()Use cotton balls to dry as much of the ear as you can reach without pushing down into the ear canal.

Your basset will naturally shake his head after a few seconds of ear cleaning; this will help to release any internal debris. However, if there is a serious wax build-up or hardening, it cannot be removed by the owner. It needs to be done by the vet, and frequently, there are no symptoms. If your hound seems to be scratching at his ears or rubbing them more than usual, and your regular cleaning doesn't relieve the problem, please schedule a vet appointment.
Another indication of the need for veterinary attention is the distinctive "cheesy" smell of a yeast infection. Please have that professionally attended to. Sometimes, because of the high incidence of yeast infection in these heavy-eared dogs, a vet will prescribe a medication for owners to use at home as a routine part of ear maintenance, but only after an examination to eliminate other problems.

To further reduce the risk of ear infection, keep your dog's ears as dry as possible. Dry them off whenever they get wet externally, and, when bathing your dog, use large cotton balls to prevent bath water from getting into the ear canals.