by Vickie Halstead RN, CVNS, CCRN, CEN, LNC
The goal of ear care is to keep the ear canals clean and dry, which is difficult for Bichons whose ears fall over the ear canals leading to build up of moisture and debris, plus hair grows in their ear canals. Yeast, bacteria, and ear mites thrive in areas that are moist, alkaline and dirty, and flourish in areas that contain hair. All of these factors make Bichons more susceptible to ear infections and/or inflammation. Proper ear care can reduce the incidence of ear infections.
Ear care includes inspecting the ear canals frequently for signs of irritation; preferably each time you brush your Bichon. A healthy ear is light pink in color, clean except for small amounts of wax, and is odor-free. Signs of infection/inflammation include frequent scratching the ears and shaking the head, reddened ear canal, odors, and exudates (yellow, brown, or black discharge) from the ear canal. Bichon ears need to be cleaned weekly with a liquid ear solution that contains soothing herbs in an acidic solution. You can ask your veterinarian to advise you on which brand to chose.
In addition to cleaning and inspecting the ears, the hair needs to be plucked from the ear canal monthly to prevent excessive growth of bacteria or yeast. This can be done with a tweezers or a forceps, being careful not to grasp the skin and removing the hair a little at a time. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, a dog groomer should include this with their service. Some groomers use forceps and grab all the hair in it, twist it, and pull it all out with one yank. This causes major irritation in the ear canal and may lead to infection and/or inflammation. If your groomer will not change this practice, this author recommends that you find another groomer. Even when the hair is pulled out a little at a time, the ears can become irritated. Also, groomers and owners need to avoid getting soap and excessive water in the ears during the bath.
In my experience, even with proper removal of hair from the ear canal, your Bichonís ears may become temporarily inflamed. My practice is to instill eardrops that contain a steroid for 2 days after hair is removed. My preference is Tresaderm Otic that is prescribed by veterinarians.
If your Bichon exhibits signs of ear infection/inflammation, which persists despite cleaning the ears, consult your veterinarian since antibiotics may be required.
For more detailed information on canine ears and ear care see this web site: