As any dog owner knows, maintaining the health and hygiene of our furry friends is no small task. But when it comes to the delicate and droopy ears of a Maltese, things can get even trickier.
The unique structure of their ears, along with their long and silky hair, makes this breed more susceptible to ear infections and other issues, such as painful knots and tangles.
Here’s everything you need to know about Maltese ears, including some of the most common ear problems in Maltese dogs.
Understanding Maltese ear anatomy
Dogs have a unique ear structure that’s different from humans.
Their ear canal is relatively long and shaped like an L, making it a perfect hiding spot for dirt, debris, and moisture. Additionally, their floppy ears can easily block airflow, creating a warm and dark environment that promotes the growth of bacteria and yeast.
This conformation may give them an extra touch of elegance, but it also means they require special attention.
Common ear problems in Maltese dogs
While the Maltese’s ears may be a beautiful feature, they tend to come with their fair share of challenges.
Ear infections are a frequent issue for Maltese dogs. Symptoms may include excessive scratching or rubbing at the ears, head shaking, redness or swelling of the ear canal, foul odor from the ears, and increased discharge.
Maltese owners should regularly inspect their dog’s ears and keep them clean and dry to help prevent infections. Ear infections can also be caused by allergies, foreign objects in the ear, and certain medical conditions.
If you notice any of the signs above, please seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and treatment. Chronic ear infections can lead to more serious complications like hearing loss or damage to the inner ear.
Ear mites are another common issue that can affect Maltese dogs. These are tiny parasites that are often found in the ear canal and can cause intense itching, irritation, and discomfort.
Even though it’s easy to mistake ear mites for an ear infection, it’s important to differentiate between the two as the treatment approaches are different.
Also, keep in mind that they’re highly contagious and can easily spread to other pets in your household so make sure to visit your vet as soon as possible. If left untreated, ear mites can lead to secondary infections and further complications.
This condition occurs when there’s a buildup of blood between the skin and cartilage in the ear flap. It often happens as a result of trauma, excessive head shaking, or scratching at the ears.
Aural haematoma can cause swelling, redness, and pain, and treatment usually involves draining the accumulated blood and addressing the underlying cause.
Knots and tangles
While this isn’t a medical condition per se, knots and tangles can be uncomfortable just like any other ear problem.
Long-haired breeds are especially known for developing knots and tangles in their ear hair. Therefore, regular brushing is essential not only to prevent this, but also to detect any potential problems with the ears early on.
If your Maltese already has knots or tangles, it’s important to gently work them out to avoid causing any pain or skin damage. In some cases, severe matting may require professional grooming or shaving of the affected area.
How to clean and pluck Maltese ears
While grooming your Maltese may seem like a daunting task, if done regularly and with care, it can be a relatively simple process.
Since Maltese dogs are prone to ear infections, it’s advised to clean their ears more frequently than other breeds, such as every two weeks or even weekly.
For everyday maintenance, you can use gentle ear wipes that are specifically designed for dogs. These wipes are pre-soaked with a mild solution that helps to remove dirt, debris, and excess wax from the ears.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly care for your Maltese’s ears:
- Gather your grooming supplies: You’ll need an ear cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian, cotton balls or pads, and possibly tweezers for plucking.
- Start by lifting up your Maltese’s ear flap and inspecting the inside of the ear. Look for any signs of redness, swelling, foul odor, or discharge.
- If the ears look healthy and there are no signs of infection or inflammation, you can proceed with cleaning.
- Begin by applying a small amount of the ear cleaning solution to your Maltese’s ear canal. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle for proper dosage.
- Gently massage the base of your Maltese’s ear to distribute the solution and loosen any dirt or debris that may be present. You’ll likely hear a squishing sound as you do this, which is normal.
- After massaging the ear, allow them to shake their head. This will help dislodge any remaining debris from the ear canal.
- Be prepared for a bit of mess as your dog shakes off excess solution and dirt. You may want to have a towel or tissue handy to clean up any splatters.
- Once your dog has finished shaking, use a clean cotton ball or pad to gently wipe away any visible dirt or debris from the outer part of the ear.
- Avoid using Q-tips or any sharp objects that could potentially harm your dog’s ear.
- Repeat this until the cotton ball or pad comes out clean and do the same for the other ear.
Now comes the part that most owners often find challenging – plucking hair from your Maltese’s ears.
Although not everyone agrees on the necessity of plucking ear hair, it tends to be a common practice for Maltese dogs. In case your groomer already does this for you or your veterinarian advises against it, feel free to skip this step.
Using tweezers specifically designed for this purpose (never use regular ones), grasp a few strands of hair near their roots and give a gentle tug in the direction of growth. Be extra careful not to pull too hard.
If your Maltese is resistant or uncomfortable with the process, stop and seek professional help.
How to treat and prevent ear infections in Maltese
Sometimes, even with proper care, Maltese dogs can still develop ear infections.
Treatment for ear infections typically depends on the type of infection. If it’s a bacterial infection, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic to help clear it up. This will usually come in the form of ear drops that you can administer at home.
On the other hand, if the ear infection is caused by yeast or fungi, antifungal medications will be suggested. This may involve cleaning your Maltese’s ears with specialized ear cleansers or applying topical antifungal creams prescribed by your vet.
The ear infection should start to improve within a few days of starting treatment. Be sure to follow the entire course of medication, even if your Maltese’s symptoms seem to disappear.
If allergies or another condition are causing the ear infections, your veterinarian will work with you to identify and manage those triggers.
For example, they may recommend a dietary change for your Maltese such as switching to a hypoallergenic or limited ingredient diet.
In addition, your veterinarian may recommend cleaning your Maltese’s ears more frequently to prevent future ear infections.
Lastly, try to keep the hair around the ears trimmed short to allow for better air circulation, and be cautious not to let any water enter the ears during bathing.
Maltese ears are one of the breed’s most distinctive features, but they can also be prone to ear infections and other issues. The good news is that you can easily treat and prevent most ear problems.
This usually includes cleaning your Maltese’s ears regularly, changing their diet, and adding supplements to their routine. However, if your Maltese is experiencing severe or recurring ear infections, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for proper guidance.