There are many reasons a pet may have dirty or smelly ears. The two most common are ear mites and ear infections.
Ear mites are microscopic parasites that burrow into the ear causing discomfort to your pet. Both dogs and cats are susceptible to the creatures and if left untreated, can cause health hazards to your pet.
Common signs of ear mites are a reddish brown material that accumulates deep inside the ear. Other signs are excessive scratching at ears and/or shaking of the head. Cleaning will help the problem but the cure requires a prescription eardrop such as Tresaderm.
Ear infections are often seen as smelly pus type of discharge. These are especially common in droopy-eared dogs such as Bassets, Cocker Spaniels and Labradors.
Water, ear mites that were never eradicated, yeast infections and skin allergies are just a few of the causes for ear infections. Once again, cleaning will help but a trip to the vet will be needed to take care of the problem.
The actual cleaning of the ears is quite simple. You will need peroxide, alcohol, cotton swabs and balls.
Most owners find having an assistant to be a great advantage. Placing the pet on a table, the assistant will snuggle the dog or cat close to their body, trying to keep the head as still as possible while the owner cleans the ears.
Cats are best wrapped in a large heavy towel with only the head showing. The best way to restrain a dog is to hold it against the body with one arm slipping under the foreleg on the opposite side of the body while the other arm wraps around the neck holding the head immobile.
Once the pet is immobilized, hold the ear by its tip in one hand and apply a small amount of peroxide. This will bubble up and loosen a great deal of the discharge that is out of sight in the ear canal. Once the peroxide has stopped bubbling, clean as much of it out as you can with a cotton ball or washcloth. When this has been done, dip another cotton ball into the alcohol and wipe out as much of the remaining discharge as possible. It is important to change cotton balls regularly.
When you have cleaned all but the creases and folds of the ear, it is time for the cotton swabs. Most people are afraid to use these on their pets for fear of injuring the eardrum.
This is almost impossible to do with a cotton swab due to the way a dog or cat's ear canal is made.
Take the swab and dip it in alcohol and then gently place it into the ear canal touching one side. Using a twisting motion, run it around the entire ring of the ear bringing it out often to change swabs and raise the dirt out of the canal. After the canal is as clean as you can make it, use a swab to clean all the folds of the ear. Once the ear is as clean as you can make it, make one more pass over the entire thing with a clean cotton ball dipped in alcohol. It is now time to turn the pet so its opposite shoulder is against the assistant.
A few things to remember while cleaning out your pet's ears. Hydrogen Peroxide will turn to water in the ear so make sure you remove as much as possible from each ear. It and the actual cleaning will cause your pet to try to scratch and shake its ears in a vigorous way and it will require a firm grip to hold onto the animal. Sever ear infections and infestations can cause sores that the alcohol could cause to burn. A certain amount of whining is to be expected.
All signs of reddish brown or puss like discharge, foul odors or actual bleeding should be taken up with your veterinarian immediately. These are all signs of problems that are more serious than dirty ears. Without proper treatment, hearing difficulties, hematomas (broken blood vessels that cause the ear to swell), wounds on and around the ears as well as several others serious conditions can occur.