Look inside your dog's ears. Are they red or inflamed? Is there discharge? Does the ear have a foul odor? Does the dog act as if the ear is sore when you touch it? If so, your pet needs to see a veterinarian. These symptoms are indicative of an ear infection, allergy, yeast problem, mites, or other issues. Before you clean out a dog's ears, you have to know if they have a possible ruptured eardrum.
You should always have a problem ear evaluated by your vet before attempting to clean it out thoroughly yourself. If you flush out an ear with a ruptured eardrum, you can cause deafness.
How can you tell if a dog's eardrum is ruptured?
To be honest, you really can't tell. However, signs of eardrum rupture are seeing pus or blood inside the ear, head tilting, or pain on touching the ear. Owners easily overlook ear problems in dogs, and they can cause deafness and permanent neurological problems if left untreated. If you see any signs of ear problems, go see your vet and have it evaluated and treated immediately.
Is there excessive ear hair? Hairy ears may require some plucking of ear hair. There are pros and cons to doing this. On one hand, if the dog has excessively hairy ear canals, that hair is a wick for bacteria. Since the ear canal is normally a bit moist, the hair will keep air from drying it out. Moisture + bacteria = infection. On the other hand, plucking a dog's ears makes the ears itch and isn't the most pleasant sensation for the dog. In extreme cases, the plucking can cause the dog to shake his head so violently that his ear flaps will ooze blood from the skin. In this case, immediately stop plucking the ears.
On some dogs, keeping the hair pulled out prevents ear infections, but sometimes plucking out the hair will cause the ear to become inflamed and that can cause an ear infection. Some dogs with hairy ears get infections often, and others are fine as long as they are cleaned out regularly. It's a personal decision that is different for every dog.
Only the hairs on the inside of the ear canal are pulled. This causes no pain to the dog and can help the dog's ears avoid an infection.
To pluck the ears, groomers use an ear powder to help get a grip on the hairs. You can use your fingers to pull tiny amounts of hair out of the ear canal. Don't pull out anything on the outside of the canal; your dog will yelp if you do — that hurts. Just get the hairs that are inside of the ear canal. If you can't get your fingers inside the ear canal, you may need to use hemostats or tweezers. Just be careful to get the hairs and not pinch the inside of the dog's ear.
When using tweezers or hemostats, do not insert the end any deeper into the ear canal than you can see. If you cannot see where the tip is, you may have inserted it too deeply and could potentially come into contact with the eardrum. Normally, the hair that is inside the canal comes out easily and the dog doesn't seem to mind.
If your dog is very sensitive to having her ear hair pulled out and it causes her to shake her head violently for days, you may want to reevaluate doing this procedure. Sometimes, if the hair isn't causing a problem or is light, it's better to leave it alone or just trim it lightly with blunt-tipped scissors.