Pet Grooming: Cleaning your pets’ ears is not as dangerous as you think

In my earlier post, I talked about how ear mite infestations are one of the most common ear problems affecting household pets in Singapore. However, no ear mite infestation can be cleared quickly without proper cleaning. This is because if there’s too much ear wax, it might interfere with the effectiveness of the medications. Although there are exceptions where some products do not need prior cleaning, or if there’s nothing wrong with your pets’ ears, regular ear cleaning is still an important part of your pets’ grooming routine to maintain proper ear health.

Ear anatomy of cats and dogs

However, I admit it’s terrifying for some, especially those unaware of the anatomy of their pets’ ears. The difference between human ears to cats and dogs is that,

Anatomy of cat's ear Anatomy of dog's earunlike human ears, dogs and cats have ‘L’ shaped ear canals, which prevents us from reaching the ear drums if we just clean the observable part of the ear canal with cotton buds. A word of caution is that although it’s unlikely to damage the ear drums with cotton buds, it’s possible to push debris further down the ear canal with improper cleaning techniques.

Ear flushing

As you can see, if the ears are dirty, the debris may lodge itself in the horizontal portion of the ear canal, which we can’t reach. Therefore to be able to clean the whole length of the ear canal and an effective method would be to flush the ear with surfactants to loosen the debris and have them shake it out.

*Disclaimer* It is not recommended to flush ears that are bleeding or badly inflamed. If your pets’ ears are oozing with pus, constantly tilting their head, or experiencing pain in their ears, seek medical attention immediately.*

First, liberally fill the ear canal with a liquid based (as opposed to oil-based) ear-cleaning solution and massage the base of the ear. Feel for cartilage, and that would be their ear canal. Secondly, if you have an eye dropper, suck out the solution and repeat 2-4 times in each ear, depending on how dirty the ears are. If you don’t have an eye dropper with you, then just let them shake the dirt out. What flushing does is that it removes the bulk of the debris so that we will not be pushing the dirt further down into the ear canal and onto the eardrums when we use cotton buds later on.

Why aren’t cotton buds called Q-tips here? I love the sound of it. Q-tips.

Next, moisten a cotton bud with ear solution and, with an upward motion, clean all sides of the observable ear canal. Repeat until the ear is clear of dirt or almost there. Usually, if the ear is really dirty, it’s almost impossible to thoroughly clean the ears, keeping in mind that there are a lot of areas we can’t reach. If that’s the case, just clean as much as you can, around 4-5 times and continue tomorrow. The abrasion and ear shaking during ear cleaning causes further irritation and inflammation and will do more harm than good.

Finally, if your dog has floppy ears like Retrievers, Beagles, or Spaniels, or if your dog has lots of hair inside the ear, like Poodles, Schnauzers, or Shih Tzus, remember to apply ear powder afterward to keep them dry.

Pet Grooming: It’s not just giving your pet a bath.

Taking a shower – most of us do it twice a day, so we should be experts even when it comes to bathing our pets, isn’t it? Hell, even some professional pet groomers aren’t doing a good job.

So today, I’d like to offer some advice, and hopefully, you’d learn something new. Apart from its purpose of keeping your pets clean, proper pet grooming technique aids in promoting skin health, although the opposite is true – when done carelessly, it may lead to skin problems. Here’s what you need:

  1. Squeeze bottle. Those are selling for a dollar in hardware shops for chili sauce. squeeze bottle
  2. Quality shampoo. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I like to look for those that are sulfate free. Most soaps have sulfate-based surfactants, which cause irritation and other problems manufacturers don’t want us to know. An alternative is to look for Cocamidopropyl betaine, a coconut oil-derived surfactant used in most organic products as the main cleansing ingredient.
  3. Quality conditioner. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive. If possible, look for products without mineral oil (or search for keywords like paraffin or petrolatum) and silicone (chemical names ending with -cone, e.g., dimethicone, -conol, or -siloxane). Or else, ensure they are at the bottom of the ingredients list.


  1. Mix the shampoo in the squeeze bottle and mix it with 5-10 parts water. How much water to dilute is up to you. As long it’s easy to apply, and it foams sufficiently, then it’s OK. Why dilute? The reason is that all shampoo leaves a residue, no matter how well you think you have to rinse it away. Diluting prevents too much residue from accumulating on one area of the skin and coat. Secondly, diluted shampoo spreads easily, rinses easily, and saves money!
  2. If it’s a treatment shampoo, please leave it on for 5 minutes or as directed.
  3. As residue does more harm than good, it’s imperative that the shampoo gets rinsed off thoroughly until the coat feels squeaky.
  4. Dilute the conditioner like you did with the shampoo and apply it to the whole body. Pay extra attention to the armpit, legs, and undercarriage, as these are places usually neglected during brushing and more commonly exposed to factors that cause tangles.baking soda
  5. Similarly, make sure you rinse off the conditioner thoroughly. A thoroughly rinsed should feel powdery, not slick and oily. A good conditioner should not feel too smooth, as it indicates that there is too much silicon or mineral oil in it.
  6. Once a month, mix a teaspoon of baking soda into the shampoo (you may add unfiltered apple cider vinegar, too, if you want to) and shampoo your pet as usual. This removes the residual build-up and clarifies the hair shaft and skin, making treatment products work better and adding volume to the coat. You can even use it on your hair once a week!

Even when the conditioner indicates that it can be left on or rinsed lightly, my experience has shown that it may cause skin problems rather than help it. One possible explanation may be that because of Singapore’s humid weather, the conditioner retains excessive moisture on the skin and coat, creating a moist environment that promotes bacterial and fungal growth. Most pet products, including food, are designed and used in cooler climates, and we must keep that in mind.

If you need any more pet grooming tips, let us know what you would like to be featured!

Diseases: Natural cures to chronic skin problems

Have you wondered why your pet’s skin problems keep recurring after spending so much money on vet bills? Even if you’re the lucky few who don’t face the problem, please read on. Given the rise of unscrupulous breeders, there’s a high chance that your future pet will develop chronic skin problems. Besides, the recommendation I’m going to give today will help to improve your pet’s overall well-being. That, in turn, is going to save you a lot of medical bills and, more importantly, heartaches.

I have two dogs, and they are both on the same diet. Why is it that only one of them is suffering from skin problems?

Unfortunately, whether your pet is susceptible to diseases is already written in the genes, and others are more prone to certain problems because of their physical attributes. The reason? Let’s go a little into the details. Female dogs ovulate twice a year, and this period is the only golden window in the year when breeders have the potential to earn money from the dogs in holding (or what we call the ‘breeding stock’).

puppy millsBecause of this pressure, they would try to breed whatever dogs they could, usually resorting to in-breeding or line breeding (mating siblings or close relatives). This act results in what we commonly see in humans when the genes of both parents are closely related, the incidences of birth-related defects or genetic problems would be higher.

Furthermore, because of the defects, it lowers the animal’s chance of getting bought; the breeder, in his effort to utilize all resources efficiently, would use the defective pet for breeding again and, in turn, create a next-generation who are carriers of the faulty genes.

In addition, businesses being businesses would seek to minimize costs and maximize profits. With that in mind, would you think that the animals on the farm would receive quality care? Would they be fed quality food that is essential to good health? That is why so many animals grow up with poor immune systems that are so prone to diseases.

Secondly, some breeds are more susceptible to skin problems than others. E.g., Dogs with wrinkled skin (Shar-pei, Pugs, etc.) are more prone to Skin Fold Dermatitis because the moisture is trapped between the folds causing bacterial and fungal growth.

My pet has not had skin issues for the last couple of years up until recently. What’s wrong?

Just like in our human bodies, viruses, parasites, and malicious cells are present in and on your pet’s body all the time. They lie dormant only because they’re being suppressed by the body’s immune system. Whenever your pet is exposed to long-term stressors physically or mentally, take, for example, separation anxiety, possessiveness, change of environment, pregnancy, heat cycles, illness, or allergens from food or the environment, it may cause the body’s immune system to weaken and cause skin problem outbreaks and other problems like intestinal parasites and obsessive paw licking.

What do I do then?

Like humans, they can be stressed about anything and allergic to anything; therefore, a process of trial and error is inevitable.

If your dog is calm and you don’t think it is mentally unbalanced in any area, you can follow these recommendations:

  1. zymox Shampoo & conditionerSee a vet and get skin tests done to see what might be causing the problem (Bacterial? Fungal? Demodex, or Mange mites?) Medications can be prescribed to ease symptoms for a moment. Zymox is a range of enzymatic products usually prescribed for bad cases of bacterial and fungal infection. It’s usually my choice, too, because of its natural ingredients, which doesn’t have any of the harmful side effects that other medications, steroids, or antibiotic does. You can get it from the vet or The Grooming Table.
  2. Identify if there are any changes in your pet’s lifestyle or environment lately. Food, new members in the family, new pets, pregnancy, products,  floor cleaners used, etc.
  3. Feed your pet a high-quality, grain-free diet or, even better, commercially available raw diets (commonly known as BARF diets). If you see an improvement, you can try reading up on how to prepare raw diets at home for your pets. A complete, raw, varied diet that is close to their ancestral diet helps to bring the body back into balance. (More on this the next time.)
  4. Eliminate any forms of bread, biscuits, or commercial treats. They either contain carbohydrates that fungus feed on, yeasts, oBragg's Apple Cider Vinegarr contain toxins that just wrecks the system. Here’s how to make your own.
  5. You can also try using raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, aka ACV (Bragg or Solana Gold), in their diets or as a leave-on treatment. For small dogs, add a teaspoon to their food daily, 2 teaspoons for a medium breed, and a full tablespoon for large dogs. It contains numerous enzymes and minerals, which have a variety of benefits, including improving digestion, balancing the body’s PH levels, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and much more. As a leave-on, dilute 1 part ACV with 3 parts water and apply to the body after shampooing and conditioning. Dry as normal.
  6. Bathe your dog every 1-2 weeks. Too much sebum will be removed if bathed too often, which will stress the skin to produce more sebum. Too infrequently, the bacterial flora will over-colonize the dog’s skin, especially if the skin is already weak.
  7. Always apply conditioner after bathing. This helps to bring the skin back to balance after being exposed to cleaning agents. Also, rinse the conditioner thoroughly, as too much product on the skin will encourage bacterial growth, especially in hot and humid weather. For more information, read our article on how to give your pet a bath.
  8. Dry thoroughly after its bath.
  9. Do not use any fragrances on your pet.
  10. Although Singapore is warm all year round, I have customers who claim that during cooler periods, their pet’s skin did show signs of improvement. If really so, have your pet stylist give Fido a shorter clip or have the undercoat removed. Or place a metal sheet in sheltered areas to serve as a cooling pad.

Remember, the key is really a lot of trial and error. It is a tiring and painstaking process, but it is essential to solving the root of the problem. It is a long-term solution to save your pet and your pocket, not antibiotics and steroids. I wish you all the best, and please take a before and after picture of your pet’s skin and post it on our Facebook page, will you? Or did you have any similar experiences? Please share it on our Facebook page.