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Ears

Maltese Ear Care

Overview

The Maltese has small drop ears, which means that the ears hang down. And for this breed, they hang close to the face. 

While any breed carrying any ear set may require regular cleanings and may develop infections, it is seen more commonly with dogs like the Maltese with drop ears. This is because moisture tends to remain in the ears due to restricted air flow. And this can create a breeding ground for yeast, fungi, and bacteria. 

Here, we will cover:
  • Ear cleanings for maintenance (how often, and how to do this)
  • Ear infections (signs, treatment, and prevention)

Cleaning Your Maltese's Ears

Why this should be done:

Canine ears naturally hold ear wax, and this is vital for trapping small particle debris. However, after a certain amount of time, there can be either a buildup of wax, or wax may be holding onto so much fine debris that it needs to be cleaned out. 

In addition, if any moisture enters the ears, it can and often stays there.

Once this happens, ear infections are much more likely to develop. But, if the ears are cleaned on a regular basis, this can help prevent those infections from occurring. 
How often to clean a Maltese's ears:

Most veterinarians recommend cleaning the ears once per month. Doing it much more than this can cause issues in the opposite direction, with excessively dry ear canals. 

However, if a dog has a history of reoccurring ear infections or chronic problems with excess ear wax, owners may be instructed to clean ears a bit more frequently, up to once per week. 

At home, at the vet's office, or at the groomer's:

While a veterinarian can certainly clean the ears, and may do so if a Maltese is in for a checkup or having ear issues treated, routine cleaning is not a task that a vet typically does.  

Your dog's groomer should be able to perform this task, however it is a fairly straightforward grooming task that can easily be handled by you, as long as you have the correct supplies and know the technique.  
Supplies needed to clean the ears:

You only need two items for this. You'll want to have:

1. A quality ear cleaner. This will be a liquid solution in a bottle with a tapered tip

2. Sterile cotton balls or sterile gauze pads. Since the idea is to fully clean the ear canals and ear flap, you will want to be sure to use a sterile wiping method to keep all germs and bacteria away. 

If using cotton balls, you may find that you will need to tear a ball in half for it to be the right size to fit into the outer ear of this very tiny breed. 
How to clean the ears:

You'll want to find a quiet, calm location and have both the ear cleanser and the cotton at the ready.

1. Lift the ear flap and using the tapered tip of the cleanser bottle, gently squirt a small amount into the ear canal. It will be normal if your Maltese shakes his head, and this is just fine since it actually helps disperse the cleanser. 

2. Massage the base of the ear for 1 to 2 minutes. This will move the solution around, allowing it to pick up excess wax and all sorts of fine debris. You may hear some swishing noises; this is normal. 

3. Using the cotton, swipe the outer ear canal as far down as you can comfortably go. Do not try to reach deep down. Typically, you will notice that you are wiping off liquid this is speckled with colors (these may be brown, black, or gray).

If you find that you are swiping out a lot of debris, keep using new pieces of cotton until the last swipe is completely clean. 

Ear Flap Daily Care

In between ear canal cleanings, you may wish to use a quality ear wipe to swipe the ear flap and pick up fine debris that otherwise would remain there until the full cleaning or your Maltese's next bath

Since the skin on the inner ear is sensitive and can quickly react to any sort of formulas that cause drying, be sure to use a gentle wipe. 
Below are our recommendations for a regular cleanser, ear wipes, and cleanser for troubled ears, including yeast infections. While you will want the vet to diagnose a possible ear infection (see ahead), this OTC solution can work if your Maltese has had chronic issues that you are familiar with.

If you do not see the images below, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to rotate your screen to see all 4 products. 

Maltese Ear Infections

Overview

Ear infections are very common with dogs. In fact, this is the #1 reason for sick vet visits, and just about every dog will contend with at least one infection in his lifetime. 

This said, they can be terribly painful and uncomfortable for dogs, so you'll want to be able to quickly identify an ear problem and seek fast diagnosis and treatment. 
Types of ear infections

There are quite a few things that can happen with the ears. Common infections may be yeast, fungi, or bacterial. Less common but possible are ear mites, ticks, or foreign substances in the ear canal. Very rare but possible are hematomas or tumors. 
Signs of ear infections

No matter the type of ear infection (or infestation) the symptoms are almost always the same:
  • Head shaking
  • Tilting the head
  • Pawing at the ears
  • Rubbing the ears or head into surfaces
  • Ear discharge (this can be any color; white, yellow, brown, etc.)
  • Small black specks (seen with ear mites)
  • A bad odor emanating from the ears
  • A crust on the outer ear canal
  • Signs of pain if the ears are touched
  • Thinning hair around the ear (not always seen)
Diagnosis of ear infections

Since there are quite a few types of ear infections, it is always best to bring your Maltese to the vet to have the issue diagnosed. You do not want to be treating your dog for yeast when the issue is bacterial. Or treat him for mites when the problem is yeast.

This said, it may be possible to treat your Maltese's ear infection at home, if it is not severe and/or if it is a type of infection that you have seen before (more ahead).
Treatment of ear infections

It is always a good idea for your trusted veterinarian to both diagnose and treat any ear issues that your Maltese may be suffering from. 

Typically, once the exact culprit is identified, the vet will flush the ears, apply medicated drops, and most often send you home with a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotic medication, and instructions. 

In most cases, issues will clear up in 7 to 10 days. 

This said, if you absolutely do not have the funds to take your Maltese to the vet and are looking for an at-home remedy for ear infections, you may want to consider a medicated ear cleanser such as Pet King's Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution

This has seen positive results in clearing up a host of issues including mites, yeast, and bacterial infections. If you do not see results within 7 days or if symptoms worsen, it will be time for that vet visit. 
Preventing ear infections

Some dogs are very prone to ear infections and may suffer from chronic problems no matter what owners do; however, for most Maltese infections can be avoided with strict maintenance and attention to care details. 

Here are some tips:

1) Always place small pieces of cotton balls into your puppy or dog's outer ear canals when you are giving your Maltese a bath to create a barrier so that water cannot enter. 

2) If your Maltese ever gets his head wet (swimming, etc.), you may want to perform an ear cleaning afterward to help remove any water that may have gotten into his ears. 

3) Clean your Maltese's ears on a regular basis. This is one time per month; however, if your vet has recommended more frequent cleanings due to chronic problems, stick to that schedule. It may help to set reminders on your phone, and be sure to have your chosen cleanser and sterile cotton balls on hand. 

Quick Reader Q&A

Question: 

My 4 month old Maltese puppy has ears that stick up a bit, they are about half erect but seem to go up and down randomly. Is this normal at all? Will her ears drop down as she matures? 

Answer:

When a puppy is teething this can disrupt the ears to a small degree; however, this is most commonly seen with dogs that have erect ears, and they may flop down during this time. 

It is highly unusual for a Maltese puppy to have erect ears to start with, that would then fall down into place as drop ears. This is because erect ears are not in this breed's bloodline; this breed does not have the required muscles at the ear base.

While there may be some change as she grows older, there is indeed the possibility that she is not 100% purebred, even if she looks like a purebred Maltese. 

Poor breeding practices and perhaps not looking back into both the sire and dam's pedigree could have resulted in another breed being somewhere in the bloodline. 

If another breed with erect ears is in there up to 5 generations back, these somewhat erect ears on your Maltese puppy could be a genetic trait. 

maltese-dog-in-basket
Specific advice and tips concerning young pups
Maltese-dog-walking-on-road
Issues that can occur; treatment and prevention
close up of Maltese dog's face
Effective methods that can make a world of difference
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