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How to Clean a Shih Tzu’s Ears

Written by: Arlene D.
| Published on January 14, 2024

Shih Tzus, with their adorable expressions and luxurious coats, are cherished companions. However, their unique physical traits, particularly their ears, necessitate special care. This breed is prone to ear issues due to their floppy ears, which can trap moisture and debris, creating an ideal environment for infections. Regular ear cleaning is essential for maintaining their overall health and well-being. It prevents the accumulation of wax and debris, which can lead to infections and hearing issues. Additionally, this routine provides an opportunity to check for any signs of irritation, infection, or parasites, allowing for early intervention.

Understanding the Importance of Ear Care for Shih Tzu’s

Shih Tzu’s have a distinctive ear structure that requires consistent maintenance. Their long, floppy ears do not allow for much air circulation, which can lead to moisture retention and create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. Regular ear cleaning helps to remove excess wax and debris, ensuring the ear canal is dry and ventilated. This reduces the risk of infections, which can be painful and potentially lead to hearing loss if left untreated. Moreover, frequent ear check-ups can help in early detection of issues like mites, polyps, or allergies, which are common in Shih Tzu’s.

Materials Needed for Ear Cleaning of Shih Tzu

  1. Cotton balls or gauze pads: Soft and absorbent, they are ideal for cleaning the delicate inner parts of the ear.
  2. Veterinarian-approved ear cleaner: Specifically designed for dogs, it helps in breaking down ear wax and debris.
  3. Tweezers (optional): Useful if your Shih Tzu has excessive hair growth inside the ears.
  4. Treats: To reward your dog and make the experience positive.

Step-by-Step Ear Cleaning Process

  1. Prepare Your Dog: Choose a calm, comfortable spot. Gently hold your Shih Tzu, reassuring them with soft words and pets.
  2. Inspect the Ear: Check for any signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or foul odor. If you notice any of these, consult your vet.
  3. Apply Ear Cleaner: Fill the ear canal with the cleaning solution. Avoid touching the applicator to the ear to prevent contamination.
  4. Massage the Base of the Ear: This helps the cleaner to break up debris inside the ear. You should hear a squishing sound.
  5. Allow Your Dog to Shake its Head: This helps to bring the loosened debris out of the ear canal.
  6. Wipe the Ear: Using a cotton ball or gauze, gently wipe out the ear. Never insert anything deep into the ear canal.
  7. Repeat if Necessary: If the ear is particularly dirty, you may need to repeat the cleaning process.
  8. Reward Your Dog: Offer a treat and affection to end the session positively.

Tips for a Successful Ear Cleaning Experience

  • Be Gentle: Shih Tzu’s ears are sensitive. Any rough handling can cause discomfort or pain.
  • Regular Checks: Make ear cleaning a part of your regular grooming routine to prevent problems.
  • Seek Professional Advice: If you’re unsure about the cleaning process or notice any problems, consult your veterinarian.

Ear cleaning is a crucial aspect of Shih Tzu care. It not only keeps their ears healthy but also provides an opportunity to bond with your pet. By incorporating this practice into your regular grooming routine, you are taking an important step in ensuring your Shih Tzu’s overall health and happiness. Remember, when in doubt, always consult a professional for guidance and advice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning A Shih Tzu’s Ears

1. How often should I clean my Shih Tzu’s ears?

Cleaning your Shih Tzu’s ears should be a part of their regular grooming routine, typically every 2-3 weeks. However, the frequency can vary depending on your dog’s specific needs. Dogs that are more prone to ear infections or have more wax buildup may require more frequent cleanings. It’s important to regularly check your Shih Tzu’s ears for signs of dirt, wax, or infection. If you notice any changes in the appearance or smell of the ears, or if your dog is scratching their ears more often, it might be time for a cleaning.

2. What kind of ear cleaning solution is best for Shih Tzus?

For Shih Tzus, it’s essential to use a gentle, dog-specific ear cleaning solution. Avoid products with harsh chemicals or alcohol, as they can irritate the sensitive skin inside the ears. Look for solutions formulated for dogs with sensitive skin or those prone to ear infections. Your veterinarian can recommend a product that’s suitable for your Shih Tzu. Always follow the product instructions and avoid using homemade solutions like vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, as these can be harmful to your dog’s ears.

3. Can I use Q-tips to clean my Shih Tzu’s ears?

It’s not recommended to use Q-tips or cotton swabs inside your Shih Tzu’s ear canal, as they can push debris further in and potentially damage the delicate structures of the ear. Instead, use a cotton ball or soft cloth to gently wipe the outer ear and the part of the canal you can easily see. If you need to clean deeper, let the ear cleaning solution do the work by loosening wax and debris, which your dog will naturally shake out.

4. How do I know if my Shih Tzu’s ears need cleaning?

You’ll know your Shih Tzu’s ears need cleaning if you see a buildup of wax or debris, or if there’s a noticeable odor coming from the ears. Redness or swelling inside the ear, excessive scratching, head shaking, or discomfort when touching the ears are also signs that a cleaning might be necessary. Regular checks will help you recognize when it’s time to clean your dog’s ears and keep them healthy.

5. What are the signs of an ear infection in Shih Tzus?

Signs of an ear infection in Shih Tzus include redness and swelling inside the ear, a bad or unusual smell, discharge, excessive scratching or pawing at the ear, and shaking their head more than usual. Your dog might also show signs of pain or discomfort, such as whining or reluctance to have their ears touched. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

6. How can I make ear cleaning a positive experience for my Shih Tzu?

To make ear cleaning positive for your Shih Tzu, introduce them to the process gradually and in a calm environment. Start by gently handling their ears during regular petting sessions, then slowly introduce the cleaning solution and cotton balls. During the cleaning process, speak in a soothing voice and offer treats and praise. After the cleaning, give them a favorite toy or more treats. This positive reinforcement can help your dog associate ear cleaning with enjoyable experiences.

7. Can I use human ear cleaning products on my Shih Tzu?

You should not use human ear cleaning products on your Shih Tzu. Dogs have different ear pH levels and skin sensitivities compared to humans. Using human products can disrupt the natural balance in your dog’s ears and cause irritation or allergic reactions. Always opt for vet-recommended ear cleaning solutions specifically formulated for dogs.

8. Is it normal for Shih Tzus to have a lot of earwax?

It’s relatively common for Shih Tzus to have a moderate amount of earwax due to their ear structure, which can trap moisture and debris. However, excessive earwax might be a sign of an underlying issue, such as an infection or allergy. If you notice an unusual amount of wax, especially if accompanied by a foul odor or other symptoms, it’s best to consult your vet.

9. Should I pluck the hair inside my Shih Tzu’s ears?

Plucking the hair inside your Shih Tzu’s ears is often recommended to prevent wax and debris buildup, which can lead to infections. However, this should be done carefully and ideally by someone experienced, like a professional groomer or vet. Over-plucking or rough plucking can cause irritation and discomfort. If you’re unsure, ask your vet for advice.

10. What’s the best way to dry my Shih Tzu’s ears after cleaning?

After cleaning, it’s important to dry your Shih Tzu’s ears thoroughly to prevent moisture buildup, which can cause infections. Gently wipe the outer ear and the visible part of the ear canal with a soft, dry cloth or cotton ball. Avoid using hair dryers, as they can be too hot and cause burns or discomfort. Simply letting them air dry after wiping is usually sufficient.

11. How can I tell if I’m cleaning my Shih Tzu’s ears too often?

If you’re cleaning your Shih Tzu’s ears too often, you might notice signs of irritation such as redness, dryness, or sensitivity in the ears. Over-cleaning can strip the ears of their natural oils, leading to dry and itchy skin. If your dog’s ears look clean, without wax buildup or odor, and they aren’t showing any signs of discomfort, you might be overdoing the cleaning. Adjust the frequency as needed, and consult your vet if you’re unsure.

12. Can diet affect my Shih Tzu’s ear health?

Yes, diet can affect your Shih Tzu’s ear health. Some dogs are prone to food allergies or sensitivities, which can manifest as ear problems, among other symptoms. Feeding your Shih Tzu a high-quality, well-balanced diet that’s appropriate for their age, size, and activity level can help maintain overall health, including ear health. If you suspect a dietary cause for recurrent ear issues, consult your veterinarian for advice on an elimination diet or dietary changes.

13. What should I do if my Shih Tzu resists ear cleaning?

If your Shih Tzu resists ear cleaning, try to make the process as stress-free as possible. Work on gradually getting them accustomed to having their ears handled. Break down the cleaning process into smaller steps, rewarding them after each step. If they continue to resist, consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Never force the cleaning, as this can lead to a negative association and potentially aggressive behavior.

14. How deep into the ear canal should I clean?

When cleaning your Shih Tzu’s ears, only clean the parts you can easily see and reach. Avoid inserting anything deep into the ear canal, as this can cause injury. The ear cleaning solution will help loosen any deeper wax or debris, which your dog will naturally shake out. If you suspect the ear canal is very dirty or if you notice any signs of infection, consult your vet for a deeper cleaning or treatment.

15. Are there any natural remedies for keeping my Shih Tzu’s ears clean?

While some pet owners use natural remedies, it’s generally safer and more effective to use vet-recommended ear cleaning solutions. Some natural remedies, like apple cider vinegar, can be too acidic and irritate your dog’s ears. If you’re interested in natural options, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for safe and suitable alternatives that won’t harm your Shih Tzu’s delicate ear canal.

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