About Shih Tzu Ears

By Janice Jones     |Last Updated 02-07-2020

Caring about Shih Tzu ears does require time, but is it really all that necessary to worry yourself about your Tzu's ears? 

Most Shih Tzu puppy owners don't even give ears a second thought, unless they are trying to train their puppy and the puppy "pretends" not to hear.  Luckily, this breed does not have major hearing issues, more likely stubborn issues, but they do have problems with their ears.  Let me explain.

Here are Three Of My Shih Tzu Dogs With Varying Lengths of Dog Ears

Dogs have a variety of different types of ears, some that stand up (prick ears) and some that droop.  Then there are the breeds whose ears are partially up but the tips are bent bent.  The Shih Tzu has a drop ear, meaning that they carry their ears downward like Beagles and Maltese.  The big difference between Shih Tzu ears and many other dog breeds is that their drop ears are also heavily coated with thick hair.  Not only is hair covering the outer ear, but it is also growing inside the ear canal.  All that hair can cause problems.

Ways to Avoid Shih Tzu Ear ProblemsAll About Shih Tzu Ears

The normal ear canal in the Shih Tzu dog is clean, odor free and the color of a light skinned person.  Not all Shih Tzu dogs are prone to problems, but when they become chronic, it can be miserable for the dog as well as expensive to you.

The warm moist environment inside your Shih Tzu's ear creates a great place for bacteria to grow as well as ear mites, both conditions lead to infections. Add an over abundance of ear wax and hair and you have a fertile environment to create a nasty, smelly mess.

The good news is that it is preventable with a little help from you.  Cleaning out ears may not be your ideal choice for evening fun, but you can save $$$ and your poor Shih Tzu, by learning a few tricks that will keep those ears clean, smelling fresh, and free of any infection.

Hair grows continually in the ear canal of the Shih Tzu Dog.   This is not unique to the Shih Tzu and is common in most long haired dog breeds, but if hair is allowed to grow, it will combine with the wax already found in the ear causing problems. 

Ear infections are one of the top reasons that people end up taking their dog to the vet.  You will know your dog is having difficult with his ear because he will shake his head, scratch at his ears and rub his head on the floor or other objects. As bad as ear infections sound, the infection itself may be the result of another problem:  Allergies

Shih Tzu dogs that suffer from allergies often have problems with their ears. One of the most common ways that food allergies or seasonal allergies are manifested is through ear infections.  But parasites such as ear mites may also be a problem.

Ear mites are tiny little white parasites that live in the ear canal can cause intense itching and head shaking.  You won't see them, but your veterinarian can detect them using an otoscope.  All of these nasty problems can be preventing by cleaning his ears periodically.  Ear problems are not difficult to diagnose.  Most owners will notice ear scratching that becomes more frequent and intense.  That is a good sign that something is not right with your Shih Tzu's ears.

Caring About Shih Tzu Ears Involves Three Steps.

Shih Tzu Ear Problems

You can stay one step ahead of the problem by incorporating just three simple steps into your normal weekly grooming routine.  

Three Step Procedure

  • Observing for infection (redness, swelling, little specs that resemble coarse black pepper)
  • Wiping out excess wax and dirt using a cotton ball dipped in ear cleaner, wipes specifically designed to clean ears, or a few drops of plain mineral oil.
  • Removing excessive hair inside the canal if your breed continues to grow hair inside his ears.

Alternately, Opt for Your Professional Groomer to Take Care of Your Shih Tzu's Ears

If you normally take your dog to a professional groomer about every 6 to 8 weeks, the groomer is likely to clean out the ear canal and remove excessive hair as part of the overall service.  She may also alert you to problems your dog may be having.  If this does not occur and you suspect a dirty ear problem, ask your groomer to take a look.  If it is more than just dirty ears, you will need to make an appointment with your veterinarian.  

Ear issues are common in this breed and can be annoying if not painful to your dog if you let them go untreated.  If you decide to take matters into your own hands, cleaning dog ears is not a difficult process and can save you money in the long run.  Here is my D.I.Y. Home Shih Tzu Ear Cleaning Tutorial:

Procedure for Caring About Shih Tzu Ears:  Cleaning the Ears

1. Assemble Materials You Will Need to Clean the Ears

Before beginning, I gather my materials so that I will not need to stop and find an item.  If you plan to remove ear wax and debris as well as hair that is growing within the ear canal, you will need the following supplies

  • Clean cotton balls, tissues or gauze pads (at least one or more for each ear) and several cotton tipped applicators
  • Mineral oil, ear cleaner wipes, or ear cleaner.  
  • Ear Powder
  • Hemostats or tweezers
  • Flashlight or scope.  You can purchase a professional scope or buy one commonly used by parents for checking on their children's ears.  These are available online as well as off in most retail pharmacies.

Here are a few of the products that I commonly use on my dogs:

Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner, 8-Ounce

Or, if you are having problems with ear wax build up, this product works well.

Top Performance ProEar Professional Medicated Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner, 16-Ounce

Ear powder:  Good Choices

Miracle Care by Miraclecorp/Gimborn R-7 24-Gram Ear Powder for Dogs and Cats

Or Pro Ear which is very easy to use and does a great job.

Top Performance ProEar Professional Dog and Cat Ear Powder, 80g

Curved hemostat (optional) or tweezers (You can purchase straight hemostats but the curved ones work better. This is optional because you can also use your finger tips to pull out small amounts of hair.  This is what a hemostat looks like if you decide to get one.  They are really inexpensive.


2. Observe for Infection

Before you begin to clean the ear, observe the interior of the ear.  Look for redness, swelling, or the presence of little specs of what appear to be coarse black pepper.  Smell the ear canal.

Does it have an odor?  Any of these signs should alert you to a possible infection or ear mite infestation.  Stop and call to make a veterinary appointment.  If everything appears normal, proceed to clean the ear and remove any ear hairs

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms affecting your Shih Tzu’s ears: These may be signs of mites or infections:

  • Ear discharge
  • Bad smells
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusty skin
  • Hair loss

Ear Mites

When you are cleaning your Shih Tzu’s ears, notice if there is any debris that resembles coffee grinds.  If so, you might be dealing with ear mites.

Many people when they think about Shih Tzu ears, they think ear mites. Not all problems are caused by ear mites, but it is a good idea to rule them out. If you suspect ear mites, here is an article that might be helpful to you: 

Learn more about ear mites here.

Shih Tzu Allergies and Infected Ears

One last thing about Shih Tzu ears that you may not know is that allergies and ear problems often occur simultaneously.  Chronic ear infections may be a sign your Tzu has other types of allergies.  Shih Tzu allergies are caused by several different things including environmental factors and even the food your serve your Shih Tzu.  Sometimes offering a new and totally different food will help heal your dog's ears,

Read more about Shih Tzu Allergies

3. Clean Excessive Wax and Hair from your Shih Tzu Ears

Continue to read through the steps or if you prefer, here is a video I created several years ago that takes you through the process of cleaning your dog's ears.

First, Remove Hair From Shih Tzu Ears

You will want to remove the hair inside your Shih Tzu’s ear periodically to prevent ear infections.  Ear wax, ear hairs, moisture from swimming or bathing, and any other debris creates a fertile ground for an infection to brew.  Most ear infections are caused by yeast or bacteria and anything that gets trapped in the canal is likely to remain.

When you think about Shih Tzu ears, its not hard to imagine how infections can happen quickly.  The anatomy of a Shih Tzu’s ear canal creates an environment where any debris or water gets trapped making it very difficult to get out on its own.  Dogs that have ears that hang down are most susceptible to infections, especially those whose hair continues to grow and weigh the ear down. This is true of Shih Tzu, but also Poodles, Cockers, and other small breed dogs.

To remove hair from the canal is a little trickier.  Some dogs do not mind at all and others will squirm and wiggle.  This procedure is uncomfortable but not painful.  I like to compare it to plucking eyebrows, if you have ever done this.

First, sprinkle a few drops of an ear powder into the ear and spread it around if necessary to coat the ear hairs.  The easiest way is to grab a few hairs with your thumb and forefinger and gently pull out.  Repeat until the ear canal is free of hair.

Sometimes, it is impossible to get the hair with your fingers and that is where a pair of tweezers or hemostat comes in handy.  I prefer hemostats as you can grab hold, clamp down onto the hair, and gently pull.  Tweezers work the same way.  Be very cautious as you do this, as it is very easy to catch a piece of skin between your tweezers or hemostats.

If your dog has recurring ear infections, your vet may recommend testing him for allergies and/or using an anti-fungal ear cleaner.

Next, use a High Quality Cleaner to Remove Debris and Was

Caring about Shih Tzu ears, means cleaning!!  To clean an ear, use a cotton ball, cotton tipped applicator or ear wipe and gently wipe out each ear using a different wipe or cotton ball for each ear.  For very dirty ears, you will need to use several until the wipes come out clean.

If using an ear cleaner, place the recommended number of drops in each ear and gently massage the base of the ear.  The dog is likely to shake his head and spray you with excess cleaning, so be prepared.  Allow the dog to shake as this helps loosen the debris.  Wipe dry using small cotton balls and cotton tipped applicators.  Never go any deeper than you can see with an applicator. 

About Shih Tzu Ears:  Preventative Care

You can keep your Shih Tzu's ears clean, hair free, and feeling great with using just a few basic steps

  • Clean ears periodically, but not so often that you cause irritation
  • Keep the Shih Tzu’s ears dry during and after baths. You can use a small wad of cotton in your Shih Tzu’s ear during a bath and dry thoroughly after the bath.
  • Dry ears well after the dog has gone swimming
  • Pluck ear hairs from the Shih Tzu’s canal periodically
  • If your dog has chronic ear problems, ask your vet to prescribe a drying agent.

About Shih Tzu Ears:  Ear Wax Build Up in the Ear Canal

A site visitor recently emailed me about a problem she was having with her Shih Tzu...

I own a six year old Shih Tzu, had him since he was 8 weeks old, and he has had an ongoing issue with his right ear generating an over-abundance of ear wax.  I have taken him to the vet, and it is not an infection, rather wax buildup.  I have had him on good food, grain free, for over 4 years, I do not let him have any corn in his treats, etc. and do not feel him table scraps or human food other than the occasional piece of meat, etc.

My groomer has suggested a product called Micro-tek, made by Eqyss, a spray, that can be used to flush out and clean their ears, which I have been using about once a week, but last night discovered a large ball of wax protruding from his ear.  I didn't know until watching your video that you can pull out their ear hair so easily, so maybe I need to begin doing that once a week or so.  Do you have any solutions or experience with a dog producing so much ear wax?

And, My response...

Any dog that has drop down ears can be prone to ear problems, but it sounds like you are doing all the right things when it comes to diet and cleaning.  Some dogs just seem to produce more ear wax than others and I suspect the reason has a genetic component.  I've always used cleaning solutions prescribed by my vet so I'm not 100% comfortable recommending one product over another.

I do know that you should pick one that has a drying component to help with the ear wax.  Also, how often do you bathe your dog?  Sometimes we can "over-bathe" them.  Frequent bathing especially when water gets into the ear can cause problems. 

When you do bathe your dog, think about Shih Tzu ears and place a small piece of cotton inside the ear so no water can enter.  Removing all the hair inside the ear will also help because a clean ear canal will allow air to circulate easier and prevent infection from setting in.

When you remove the little hairs, use an ear powder first to help you grab and remove them easily.  Then, use your ear cleaning solution to thoroughly clean out the ear.  Most dogs will shake their head when you put the solution into their ear, but that is OK because it helps remove some of the debris.  Hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any other questions.

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