Ears, Eyes, & Anal Glands

Pet owners, veterinarians, and pet stylists all share the same concern - to help pets look and feel healthier and happier. A major part of this is the health and care of eyes, ears and anal glands. As with anything concerning your pet, you should talk with your veterinarian and/or pet stylist as to which methods of ear, eye and anal gland care works best for your pet. If you do not always take your pet to a stylist or veterinarian clinic for a bath, here are a few helpful tips for when you are bathing your pet at home.


Different breeds of dogs and even cats require varying kinds of maintenance for their ears depending on the type; stand-up or floppy, excessively hairy or not. Breeds such as poodles and terriers commonly have excessive ear hair growing in the external ear canal. Veterinarians recommend the plucking of ear hair only in the management of ear health. The irritation caused by hair plucking can cause an ear infection in an otherwise normal ear. For this reason, most veterinarians recommend plucking only if earwax has accumulated in the ear hair or if there is an excessive amount of hair. A normal, healthy ear with no clinical signs of infection or inflammation should be left alone. If plucking is necessary, an antibacterial or anti-inflammatory component should be applied to the ear. If you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own, ask your pet stylist or veterinarian for assistance.

If you bathe your dog or cat frequently you should make sure that you keep proper ear care in mind. If water gets into the ear, use a drying agent after bathing. Products that can be used as drying agents commonly contain isopropyl alcohol, acetic acid or boric acid as the main ingredient. Products that are safe for routine ear cleaning include water, saline or an earwax-dissolving agent. These products can usually be found at your local pet supply store and can be applied to your pet before and in-between bathing. If your pet has floppy ears, such as basset hounds or cocker spaniels, be sure the ear is always dried after bathing to prevent infection. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to infection since air is unable to circulate through the ear to keep it dry naturally. If your dog has upright ears, there is less worry about infection, but you should still make sure excessive water does not get into the ear.

It is important to note that cotton-tipped applicators, such as Q-tips, should never be used for routine ear cleaning due to the possibility of puncturing the eardrum and/or breaking the applicator in the ear canal. Use a Kleenex or gauze and only clean in areas visible to the eye. Any cleaning more invasive than this, such as the middle ear canal, should be performed by your pet stylist or veterinarian.



The eyes can also benefit from good protective measures during bathing. Some veterinarians recommend pre-treating the eyes with an ointment prior to a bath. However, the trend seems to be going toward using no ointment because an ointment, while protecting the cornea from trauma, can trap irritants that leak or run into the eye and inhibit a thorough rinsing of the cornea. Instead, protect the eyes from shampoos and conditioners by holding your hand over the eyes while rinsing. If an irritant does get into the eye, rinse repeatedly with cold water, isotonic saline solution or an over-the-counter irrigating solution, which can also be found at a local pet supply store. If you suspect that some shampoo or conditioner may have gotten into the eye, it is always beneficial to perform a thorough rinsing of the cornea.

Clinical signs of chemical irritation of the eye include not opening the eye(s), squinting, redness or excessive "watering". If you observe any of these signs after bathing your pet that does not go away with proper rinsing of the eye, contact your veterinarian.


OK. Let's talk about the "unmentionable", the anal glands or sacs. This maintenance is better left to the professionals because if you do not exercise proper care in what you are doing, you can cause serious damage such as popping the sacs. If you notice your pet scooting across the floor excessively, then let your veterinarian or pet stylist know so that they can "express", that is discharge, the glands. If there is a greenish-yellow or red discharge, this may indicate an infection and should be evaluated and treated by a veterinarian.

Ears, eyes, and anal glands can show a wide range of normal variability between pets or even different breeds. If you see something that seems abnormal, raises your suspicions, or is causing your pet discomfort, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Proper bathing and care of these important areas can halt or prevent numerous disease processes. So be sure to keep your own ears and eyes open!



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Pam Lauritzen & Company, All Rights Reserved
Promoting Education and Higher Standards in the Pet Styling Industry
Last Update: August 23, 2004