Poodle Ear Care | Cleaning | Problems

This section is going to cover the details of Poodle ear care and basic ear health. When grooming, we may not automatically think to tend to the ears, however it is necessary.
This is not only for good hygiene practices to keep wax and hairs under control, but also for health reasons.
Wax buildup, blocked air flow into the canal and other elements can bring about ear infections and secondary issues.
We will cover cleaning, care and treatment for infection.

Hairs in the Ear Canal

Some breeds tend to have more hairs that grow in the ears and the Poodle is one of them. It is not uncommon for Toy Poodles, Mini and Standards to have long hairs can interfere with healthy air flow in the ear canal.
Therefore, the Poodle is a breed that needs routine ear cleaning and ear hair plucking as part of regular grooming. You can do this at home – if you have the time and the patience – or you may chose to have this done by a professional groomer (This charge can range from $20 to $100).
Many owners do try to stay on budget and additionally may wish to be more involved with these types of tasks, therefore taking care of this type of care at home is just fine as long as you use the right products and have proper technique.
Plucking the hairs is the best method of removing them, since this will remove both the hair strand and the root. Do keep in mind that the follicle will remain and this is why another strand will grow back.
However, cleaning up ears in this way is preferable to trimming, since that will only shorten the strands and not fully unblock stunted air flow. In fact, if a Poodle’s ears were to have clipped hairs, this would create a rather thick, dense area which would most likely trap even more bacteria, debris and possibly yeast.

What You Will Need for Poodle Ear Plucking and Removal

1- Poodle ear powder – When plucking the ears, the right powder will allow you to better grip the strands and makes for easier removal.
2- Hemostat – A hemostat is a simple tool that is shaped to grip hairs in the ears. Use one that is sized for the your Poodle. This one is highly recommended for toys. You will want a larger 5.5 inch tool for larger Mini’s and Standards. Additionally, it is recommended for the hemostat to be made of stainless-steel which is easy to keep clean and disinfect. While some owners will use their fingers to pluck hairs from their Poodle’s ears, this is not recommended since it is important to remove all of the hairs – including the root – and to do so without causing discomfort to the puppy or dog.

How to Pluck Hairs from Your Poodle’s Ears

Before you even begin, a huge part of this is to choose a time that works for both you and your dog. Understandably, schedules can be hectic, leaving only a few windows of availability; however things will go much smoother if you chose a time that your Poodle is feeling relaxed and/or a bit tired.
Think of it this way, if your puppy or dog has a bunch of pent up energy and is rearing to go outside for some walking and playtime or is expecting dinner soon, he or she will be reluctant to sitting still and allowing you to tidy up the ears. Opting for a time when your Poodle is well fed and has already had his/her walk often works best. With this in mind, having your dog just a bit hungry to really appreciate treats will allow your Poodle to feel well rewarded when you give a tasty tidbit for a job well done.
There is no certain positioning for this task, other than to find one that is comfortable for both of you while allowing you to keep your Poodle in place and allow you a good view of what you are doing. You will want to gently bend the ear leather back, sprinkle a bit of powder into the ear, and using the hemostat tool you will carefully grip a few hairs, lock the tool and quickly pull. Similar to how it is best to rip a Band-Aid off quickly, once you have a few strands in the hemostat, a rapid pull is preferable.

The goal will be to grab hairs in the ear that you see – It can cause damage to a dog’s ear if you dig down to pluck hairs! Therefore, only pull out what you can visibly see and easily grab.

Your tone of voice will be helpful in teaching your Poodle to remain calm. If you use an overly soothing voice, you may be inadvertently showing your puppy or dog that he/she is correct in being nervous or anxious. On the other hand, if you are feeling nervous, your Poodle may pick up on this as well. Therefore, speaking in a matter-of-fact way and moving with confidence will help your Poodle learn that this is another routine grooming element that will be rewarded afterward with a nice treat.

When you are done, it can be helpful to offer a relaxing ear rub (gently massaging the base of the ears). Be sure to sterile the hemostat so that it will be clean for the next use. Most Poodles need to have their ears plucked every 2 to 4 weeks.
18 month old black Poodle
Scarlett, 18 months old
Photo courtesy of owner: Dorothy

Cleaning a Poodle’s Ears

Due to the curvy and twisting shape of a canine’s inner ears, the Poodle’s “flap ear” shape which holds in warmth and moisture and hairs that grow in the canal, it can easily become a moist warm environment for bacteria, yeast and parasites to thrive. In addition, tiny particles of debris – if not removed – can cause issues and infections.
Even if you routinely pluck the hairs from your Poodle’s ears, there may still be the issue of wax buildup. Some wax is needed in the ears as it works to trap dust and small particle debris. However, once that wax has accumulated a certain amount of debris, it should be cleaned. Additionally, if the dog’s body produces too much wax, this can be a problem as well.
You will want to obtain a good, quality ear cleaning solution. Be sure to choose a brand that does not contain harsh chemicals. Note: To see a full list of recommended ear cleaning essentials, look to “Grooming – Ears and Eyes” in the Poodle Specialty Shoppe.
While you would NEVER want to clean a Poodle’s ears with plain water in this way, while using a proper ear cleaning solution with a dropper head, you will disperse the solution in the ear and then while holding a cotton ball at the opening, massage the base of the ear for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It is important to use the cotton ball since it will function as a stopper, allowing the liquid to flow in the canal. As you massage the base, wax and debris will be caught in the cleanser. If your Poodle has a bad smell coming from the ears, repeat this until the cotton ball appears relatively clean.
When you are done, using another clean cotton swab or sterile gauze, you will swipe the inside of the ear (as far as you can go without poking too deep) and additionally, wipe around the inside leather flap. It is best to NOT use a Q-Tip as it is too easy to slip and plunge deeper in the canal than intended, which can cause injury.
Most Poodles need to have this type of ear cleaning every 1 to 2 weeks. To keep bacteria and infection away, stay on schedule.

Ear Infections

Poodle ear infections can be quite troublesome and while most dogs will have an acute case now and then, some will suffer from chronic infections. Your best bet at keeping infections at bay are to keep the ears free from long hairs, perform regular cleanings of wax buildup and to keep water from entering the ears (place a small bit of cotton ball into the outer ear canal when giving baths).
Signs and Symptoms of Poodle Ear Infections
Odor – One of the first symptoms an owner may notice is a bad odor emanating from the ear. In some cases, it can be quite powerful and overwhelming. However any hint of a bad smell should be further investigated, as a healthy, clean ear does not have any particular odor.
tan Poodle
Discharge – Black, green or colored wax is a sign of infection. Some refer to this as “ear gook”. Whether runny and watery or thick, discharge such as this is not normal. Additionally, any sign of puss or bleeding from the ears is a huge red flag of infection.
Rubbing – Infected ears can be quite itchy and for this reason a Poodle with an ear infection may work very hard to ease that itch. A Puppy or dog may try to paw at the ears or he may rub his head against the floor, walls or other surfaces in an effort to find relief.
Shaking of the Head –For the reasons stated above, a Poodle may also rapidly shake his head.
Dizziness – Sometimes an ear infection will through off a dog’s equilibrium. For this reason, a Poodle may appear to be dizzy or have trouble keeping his balance.
Strange Back and Forth Eye Movement – This is most commonly seen with middle ear infections – a reason to seek professional medical treatment.
Other signs: When a dog is not feeling well and is sick, in general he or she may have a decreased appetite, be listless, may just not “seem like themselves” and may run a fever.
Poodle Ear Infection Treatments
Some ear problems and infections can clear up dramatically simply by flushing out the ears as described above.
If cleaning alone does not provide relief, a visit to the veterinarian may be in order. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed, along with antibacterial ear drops. In most cases, if instructions are followed, infections will clear up in 3 to 7 days. The vet should look for the underlying cause, which can range from water in the ear to allergies.
The vet may perform a full ear flush in order to examine the entire ear canal. Some Poodles that have excessively shaken their heads may have developed a small blood clot that is caused when a blood vessel in the ear flap ruptures (Treatment for this involves removing the clot from the ear, cleaning the area and bandaging it).
While most infections can be successfully treated, some Poodle will suffer from chronic ear infections that do not respond to treatment. Depending on how often the dog develops infections and how serious they are, surgery is sometimes performed in order to open the vertical canal to clean it (and prevent scarring).
In very rare cases, chronic ear infections can lead to so much inner ear scarring that a type of surgical treatment called ablation may be recommended in which the entire ear canal is removed; do remember that this is often a case of last resort and will only be recommended if all other options have proven ineffective.
Ear Yeast Infections
Dogs can develop yeast infections in one or both ears. With this type of issue, while it is possible to be contained to one or both ears, in most cases there will be infection on other areas of the body as well – commonly on the paws.
There is a type of yeast that is naturally present in very small amounts on the body of all dogs. When that gets thrown off balance, there can be an overgrowth and this sometimes can occur in the ears. One of the most common ways that this imbalance happens is when a dog is given a steroid medication to control allergies; that steroid can cause a yeast infection to develop.
While this can cause itching and irritation, the #1 symptom of this type of ear problem is the odor that is produced. Some compare it to a moldy smell; others say that it has the strong odor of cheese popcorn. At any rate, it is a powerful, musty and very disagreeable smell.
After confirming diagnosis with a swab that is examined under a microscope, anti-yeast medication will be prescribed. If different areas on the body are affected, medicated baths may be prescribed. Depending on the amount of yeast found in the ears, they will need to be cleaned anywhere from every day to once a week. Some vets also suggest a diet that is lower in sugar – you may be surprised how much sugar can be found in many dog treats and snacks. With chronic cases, it is suggested to look at a Poodle’s immune system. See also: What to Feed a Poodle

Ear Mites

These mites are a type of mange and while this most commonly affects puppies, a dog of any age can contract this.
The thing about mites is that they are very contagious and spread very easy from not only dog to dog, but from animal to animal; although humans cannot catch canine ear mites.
Symptoms include intense itching which leads to intense scratching, thick crusts that form on the outer ear and bumps in the ear canal that resemble coffee grounds.
Once diagnosed, the veterinarian will prescribe special medication that should be given to all animals in the household for 7 to 10 days. Then, another round will be given 2 weeks later to eradicate any possible mite eggs. In addition, the house (floors, bedding, and clothing) should be thoroughly cleaned.