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If you’ve landed here, chances are you may have noticed that your Golden Retriever has dirty ears, they are red, they have an unpleasant odour, or you are just wanting to know how to properly clean and care for your Golden’s ears. Well, you’ve come to the right place! This article is all about Golden Retriever ear care.
As a proud owner of this wonderful breed, I know first hand how important it is to keep your Golden’s ears clean and healthy. My Ellie has suffered from 2 ear infections in her lifetime, the first one happened when she was a puppy, and the second one was just recently.
This breed is prone to ear infections, mainly because they love the water and they have long floppy ears that trap moisture. Ear infections are painful to your dog, which is why they need to be treated immediately, if not prevented in the first place.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to clean and care for your Golden’s ears, the signs of an ear infection, common mistakes people make when cleaning the ears, and the best ear cleaning products for your Golden Retriever.
Are Your Golden Retriever’s Ears Healthy? (How To Tell)
When you lift the flap of your dog’s ears, the ear canal should appear pale pink and be free of odour. A minimal amount of wax is okay, it’s part of the ear’s self-cleaning system, but the ear canal should be quite clean. It should not be moist.
Rubbing your dog’s ears is also a good indication of any problems. Dogs like having their ears rubbed, especially a Golden Retriever, (the more petting the better!).
If your dog enjoys all the ear rubs, chances are the ears are healthy, but if your dog pulls away and doesn’t want you touching his ears, chances are they are tender from an infection or injury.
Signs That Your Golden Retriever Has An Ear Infection
Ear infections are one of the most common dog health problems, according to pets WebMD. They can come on quickly, and be very painful for your dog, and should not be left untreated. Here are the signs to look out for:
- Ears are sensitive to touch.
- Head shaking.
- Foul odour.
- They are red/swollen.
- Frequent scratching at ears.
- Your dog rubs his ears on the ground, furniture, or carpet.
- There is a yellow or brownish-black discharge.
- The ears feel hot to the touch due to inflammation.
- There is crusting or scabs in the ears.
What Causes Ear Infections In Golden Retrievers?
There are a few reasons why your Golden Retriever may have developed an ear infection:
The Anatomy Of The Ear Canal:
Dogs have a long and narrow ear canal that is “L” shaped. The ear canal is naturally deep and dark, and it is because of this anatomy that dogs are very susceptible to getting ear infections. Moisture, debris and wax are easily trapped inside.
Moisture In The Ears:
This is probably the main reason why Golden Retrievers get ear infections. This breed loves to swim, just try to keep a Golden Retriever out of the water, it’s not easy!
The moisture gets trapped inside and because of their floppy ears, air cannot circulate and help dry them out, therefore causing a breeding ground for bacteria.
After swimming, or when your Golden Retriever has wet ears, you should always dry the ears as best you can to prevent an infection.
Food allergies can cause your dog’s ears to become red and irritated. The most common food allergies include beef, chicken, wheat and soy, but there are many other ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction in your dog.
Head shaking and frequent scratching at the ears are signs that your dog may be allergic to something.
Golden Retrievers love to roll around in the grass, dirt and mud, and all that rolling can cause dirt, grass, tiny rocks, and other foreign objects to enter their ears. These foreign objects can cause an infection or worse, damage the inner ear.
Foxtail plants are especially dangerous to your dog, according to Rover.com, they’re the scariest thing about summer! Foxtail plants are a weed-type grass shaped like a fox tail, and its grass seed awns are super sharp and can easily embed into your dog’s fur, and ears, causing pain, infection and sometimes more serious conditions.
Ear mites are more common in puppies than in adult dogs. Ear mites are contagious and can transfer from one animal to another. If one dog is infected with ear mites, it is important to have all animals in your household treated for mites.
Ear mites are tiny parasites that feed off the wax and oils found in your dog’s ear canal. Excessive head shaking and vigorous scratching of the ears are signs to look out for.
They are super tiny and hard to spot, but if you look closely you might see tiny white spots moving around. If you notice a dark brown discharge that looks like coffee grounds in your dog’s ears, it is an ear mite infestation.
It is important to see your vet as soon as possible to get treatment.
Excessive Hair Growth In & Around The Ears:
Golden Retrievers have a lot of hair, which grows all over the place including in and around the ears. All that hair traps moisture and debris and prevents airflow from getting inside, thus creating a breeding ground for bacteria, causing an ear infection.
It is important to trim and tidy up the hair around the ears to allow proper airflow so the ears can dry. Using blunt-nosed scissors, you can easily do this at home, or have a groomer do this for you. Be careful not to let any hair fall inside the ear. Read my guide on How To Trim A Golden Retriever at home.
Some groomers or vets will also pluck the hair inside the ears, I recommend that you do not do this yourself! Over-plucking the hair can cause more damage. Instead, I would suggest that the hair inside of the ear be trimmed short.
Caring For Your Golden Retriever’s Ears At Home
With proper care and cleaning, ear infections can be prevented. Here is what you can do at home:
- Check your dog’s ears daily, making sure there is no redness, odour or discharge.
- Clean your dog’s ears when they are dirty. I suggest making ear cleaning a part of your dog’s grooming routine, clean them at least once a week, more or less depending on your dog’s lifestyle.
- Only use ear cleaning solution or wipes that are meant for dogs. (Find out below my top picks).
- Thoroughly dry your dog’s ears as best you can after swimming or walking in the rain.
- Feed a high-quality diet that consists of natural healthy ingredients. Avoid ingredients that can potentially cause food sensitivities in your dog. Again, the most common allergy triggers include chicken, beef, wheat and soy.
Cleaning Your Golden Retriever’s Ears
- The first thing you want to do is gather your supplies. You will need an ear cleaning solution, cotton balls or cotton pads, a towel, and of course, treats to make it a rewarding experience for your dog. Here are the Best Treats For Golden Retrievers.
- Have your dog sit in front of you with his back faced to you, then lift up the ear flap and squeeze the ear cleaning solution inside the ear canal. Be careful to not allow the tip of the bottle to touch the ear, as this can spread bacteria.
- Gently massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds to allow the cleaning solution to dissolve all of the dirt, debris and wax.
- Naturally, your dog will shake his head, this is okay. It allows all of the gunk to be removed from the ear canal. Have your towel handy to prevent a mess.
- Use a cotton ball or cotton pad to wipe out the ear canal, be careful not to go in too deep, wipe only the visible ear canal.
- Reward your dog with a treat, and repeat the steps for the other ear.
Here is a short but helpful video demonstrating how to clean your dog’s ears at home.
Recommended Ear Cleaners For Golden Retrievers
While ear cleaning solution is the best for giving your Golden a thorough cleaning, some dogs do not take well to having liquid squeezed into their ears, and even run away at the sight of the ear cleaning bottle. (That’s my Ellie!) For those dogs, you could use ear wipes.
Regardless of which type of ear cleaner you choose, here is what you should look for:
- Gentle soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile and oatmeal.
- Antibacterial/antifungal ingredients such as witch hazel and tea tree oil.
- No harsh chemicals that will irritate your dog’s ears. Avoid ingredients such as alcohol, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
My Top Picks:
Vet’s Best Dog Ear Relief Wash
- Gentle, soothing and all-natural ingredients.
- Alcohol-free and non-stinging.
- Controls odour and itching.
- Contains aloe vera, tea tree oil, witch hazel, and chamomile.
- Easy to use.
- Some say that the smell is unpleasant.
Earthbath All Natural Ear Wipes
- Convenient and easy to use.
- Wipes away dirt and odour, and controls ear wax.
- Contains natural ingredients including witch hazel and chamomile.
- Leaves your dog’s ears smelling fresh and pleasant.
- Wipes are small, you need a few to clean the ears.
- Not as effective as an ear cleaning solution, as you can’t get all the way inside the ear canal with a wipe.
Common Mistakes People Make When Cleaning Their Golden’s Ears
- Using Q-Tips. Q-Tips can damage the eardrum and actually push dirt and debris further down the ear canal.
- Over-cleaning the ears. Cleaning the ears too often especially when they don’t need cleaning can actually do more harm than good, causing excessive irritation.
- Using harsh ingredients. Alcohol, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are very irritating to your dog’s ears and can change the pH level and cause irritation.
- Cleaning an infected ear. When your dog’s ear is red and inflamed, cleaning it can do more harm. If you suspect an ear infection, it is best to see your vet.
- Treating an ear infection at home. If your dog has an ear infection, it is best to seek veterinary care. Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. Leaving an ear infection untreated can cause permanent damage to the ear.
Golden Retriever ear care should not be overlooked, instead it should be part of your dog’s regular grooming. This breed especially is prone to ear infections because of their floppy ears and their natural love of water.
There’s no way you should prevent a Golden from doing what they love, swimming, just because they are prone to ear infections. With proper care and cleaning, your Golden can have healthy ears and avoid ear infections.
However, infections may happen, and it is imperative to get the infection treated right away.
I hope you enjoyed this article, I would love to hear any comments or thoughts you may have. Has your Golden Retriever ever had an ear infection? How do you clean your Golden Retriever’s ears? What ear cleaning products do you use?