Dogs exposed regularly to wet environments should have cotton balls or other soft padding placed into their ears to reduce the influx of moisture. If water does enter the ears, they should be dried gently. Topical drying agents can help but should not be used if the eardrum has ruptured.
Routine ear cleaning is not normally required, unless a dog is prone to developing waxy build-up. When cleaning is appropriate, owners should avoid using irritating substances like alcohol, ether or hydrogen peroxide. Owners shouldn’t insert cotton swabs (“Q-Tips”) into their dog’s ears, as this can force debris down the ear canal and contribute to ear infections. It also can cause the ear drum to rupture.
Parasites can cause tremendous ear irritation. Fleas that infest a dog’s ears are particularly disturbing and can cause tissue erosion in addition to intense itchiness, which leads to scratching and self-inflicted wounds. Mange mites, and/or sarcoptic mites, often settle in ears, causing hair loss, itchiness and inflammation. They can also contribute to waxy build up in the ear canal.
Infection usually produces a characteristic dark discharge; in some cases, the ear canal can become entirely obstructed by this coffee ground-like debris.
These mites are highly contagious, ear mites are most common in outdoor cats, who can infect their canine companions. They are most often passed from pet to pet in casual contact at home or outside.