Ear and Eye Care
Just as you pay special attention to your face, so too should you make sure your dog's face is as blemish-free as possible. That includes her ears, eyes, and teeth. With regular attention, this is a simple process that becomes a very healthy habit.
The first thing you need to know is that dogs with floppy ears tend to need more attention than dogs with cropped or short ears. Why? Because there is less natural air circulating there, and the warm, moist conditions are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and ear mites. Signs of ear problems include repeated shaking of the head; frequent scratching or pawing at the ears; and a foul odor when you lift the ear flap (sometimes you don't even need to look in the ear to smell it).
If your dog is showing (or emitting) any of those signs, then it's time to clean the ears and have them checked by your veterinarian. Preventive care is intended to keep infections from forming, which is ideal. The easiest way to incorporate ear-cleaning into your routine is to do it every time you brush your dog.
As with everything else, there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way is to pry into the delicate ear canal with a cotton swab. The right way is to go to your nearest pet store and find a good ear-cleaning solution. Soak a cotton ball with the solution, lift the ear flap, and start to gently swab the inner folds of the ear. Don't go too deeply into the ear. Just swab between the crevices of the outer ear canal. It might take three or four cotton balls before you're able to clean her ears out completely.
After you've cleaned the outer ears, squirt a small amount of the solution into the ears, hold the ear flap against the side of your dog's head and rub the ear around a bit to work the solution in. Swab off one more time with a cotton ball and if she wants to, let your dog shake her head to help displace any residue. With regular cleaning, your dog's ears should stay clean and fresh and you'll avoid costly veterinary bills from having to deal with ear infections. However, any time your dog's ears seem to be troubling her, it's best to have your vet take a look. There are different kinds of things that can infect the ear and each needs its own medicine.
It's important to note that dogs who suffer from problem ears tend to be repeat offenders. In other words, if your dog has had ear problems once, they are more likely to recur. Keeping your dog's ears clean will keep recurrences to a minimum.
The most important thing about the eyes is that they are the windows to your dog's soul — and his health. Your dog's eyes should always appear alert and clear (unless he's very old). In terms of hygiene, it's always important to wipe away the crust that builds up in the corners of your dog's eyes. While you might not think it bothers him, it does indeed. Left unchecked, it often is a source of irritation, or worse, may instigate an infection. Make sure to wipe your dog's eyes whenever possible using a special cleaning solution that won't irritate the eyes or simply by using a clean, warm washcloth (no soap). This is best done after his regular brushing and ear inspection.
Some breeds have large, protruding eyes that are especially prone to getting dirt and dust in them and to potential abrasion and infection. These include Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, and others. Some breeds, such as Bloodhounds, have droopy eyes. All these dogs need extra-special eye care.
Healthy puppies and young dogs have bright white teeth and pink gums. It is possible to keep your dog's teeth looking almost as good as they did when she was a pup. This requires regular brushing, proper feeding and chew toys, and inspection for problems. Get your dog used to having her mouth handled by regularly lifting her lips and gently opening her mouth. Look at her teeth and gums. Is the gum line red or swollen? Are the teeth white all the way to the gums? Do you see any chipped teeth?
You should brush your dog's teeth several times a week. To do this, you can purchase one of several types of doggy toothbrushes on the market. Some even come with their own doggy toothpaste that's specially flavored so dogs like the taste. Remember, never use human toothpaste on your dog. He won't like it, and it's bad for him.
If you don't want to try the special toothbrushes and paste, you can wrap a small strip of gauze or cheesecloth around your finger to use as a scrubber. Use a paste of baking soda and water as the dentrifice. To brush, lift your dog's lip and brush or rub against the teeth with your finger. Try to get the brush or your finger all the way to the back of the mouth to reach the molars. Open the mouth and move the brush or your finger along the inside of the teeth along the gum line. Work quickly, gently, and thoroughly. The whole process should only take a few minutes. When you're finished, reward your dog with a crunchy snack — dogs love those miniature carrots!