The Swab Incident

June 14th, 2016

Newfoundland dogs have very big ears with lots of folds and crevices.  Recently, I learned that their ear canal is so deep that you can stick an entire cotton swab in it.  How did I come across this tidbit of knowledge?  Well, it did not come cheap.  Bailey has had two ear infections during her first year of puppyhood.  Each of them involved a $100 veterinarian bill. I thought that the periodic ear cleaning was good enough.  Apparently, it wasn’t because Bailey developed her first ear infection.  We took preventative steps and cleaned her ears about twice a week.  Unfortunately, we were only cleaning the inside flap area of  Bailey’s ears and not the canals.  An unusual amount of brown gook and a bit of ear scratching alerted us to the second ear infection.  Back to the vet, we went for another costly visit.  Buying pet insurance was starting to look really good.  Bailey’s ears were given a thorough cleaning.  What came out of them was not very pretty.  I felt like a bad owner.  We were advised to place a cotton swab into the ear canal and swish it around.  Now, with humans, we are warned not to stick  cotton swabs into the ear canal.  To do so can cause damage to the ear drums and other unpleasant things.  This warning apparently does not apply to Newfoundland dogs.  We needed to go very gently into the ear canal with the swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide.  I suspected that Bailey was going to be less than thrilled with the new ear cleaning regiment.

ResignedShe did not like this new technique as I predicted.  However, she stayed in a lying down position with a few whimpers to let us know her displeasure.  For the record, I was only putting the cotton swab halfway down her ear canal.  I guess the vet did not make it clear to us that almost the entire cotton swab needed to go in.  The bacteria were thriving further down the canal.  Our lack of understanding resulted in round three of the ear infection saga.  We actually thought the infection was getting under control when “the incident” occurred.  My husband and I were working in tandem on Bailey’s left ear when the unthinkable happened.  The swab was pulled back and the cotton batten part was not there.  Black HoleI looked inside the ear canal as far as I could see.  There was no sign of it.  The tweezers came out as did my son’s special head lamp for better lighting.  I checked again with no luck.  Bailey was going to the vet.  A call was made to the clinic.  Lucky for us, the vet could fit her in.  I was asked when she last ate.  Why?  Bailey would have to be anesthetised in order for the vet to get deep into her canal while avoiding a negative reaction from her (like biting).  Besides the obvious cost, I was very concerned about putting her under.  The receptionist informed me that it happens frequently.  I think she was trying to make me feel better.  Nothing could make me feel better as this point.

I voiced my concern and asked that every attempt be made to get the cotton piece out before administering aesthetic.  I reminded her that Bailey was very user-friendly.  After all, she let them clip her nails without any fuss.  Bailey was loaded into the car.  She was happy to be rid of the ear probing and hopeful that she was on her way to the dog park.  Bailey was clearly going to be disappointed.  Curses, just what we needed on a busy activity night.  I had to stay behind and keep the boys on schedule while my husband took her.  The vet was willing to try without putting Bailey under.  She succeeded in getting the rogue cotton piece out.  Good news for Bailey who had eaten a solid lunch which did not make her a good candidate for aesthetic.  Bailey returned home with another round of antibiotics to treat her infection that was now present in both ears.  My husband also received vet grade cotton swabs and special ear cleaner.  The total cost of this excursion was $150.  It was worth it.  Our girl was going to be fine.

Vet SwabWhat caught my attention though were the swabs.  They were twice as long as ours regular ones.  I listened in disbelief to my husband who explained how far these gigantic swabs had to go in her ear canals.  I knew  Bailey was not going to like this one bit.  I was right.  But, she was not the only one.  I cringed every night when I had to gently push these swabs further and further into her ear.  My husband would keep saying I needed to go deeper.  Thankfully, she is finished her last dose of antibiotics today and her ears are spotless – canals included.  I am no longer using the Newf-sized swabs on Bailey.  I have taken up using the human grade ones.  Each swab gets closely examined to ensure the cotton piece is securely attached.  Some things are not worth taking chances on when it involves our sweetness.



  1. easyweimaraner · June 15, 2016

    it’s a challenge here too, Easy dislikes it like the plague. I used the common swabs first, but once one of the cotton balls fell of and landed in easy’s ear…we fortunately could remove it without the vet and we only use the long swabs now :o)

    Liked by 1 person

    • noofmitchell · June 15, 2016

      I guess there is no way around it. We reconsidered using the regular swabs and have decided to go back to the longer ones. Do you go deep into Easy’s ear canals too?


      • easyweimaraner · June 16, 2016

        no, I always fear I could hurt him. we mostly use vetericyn to get the dirt out and to avoid infections… I sometimes wonder how much dirt finds a place in a dogs ear lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • noofmitchell · June 16, 2016

        Even during the winter when contact with dirt is limited, Bailey still managed to get dirt in her ears. I started thinking we had a dirt fairy in the house. Vetericyn might be something to look at.


      • easyweimaraner · June 16, 2016

        it is very good for dogs with floppy ears… we had no serious ear problems since we use it… knock on wood 3 times :o)

        Liked by 1 person

      • noofmitchell · June 17, 2016

        Can you get it at places like Walmart or is it only at Pet Stores? Or, is it only available at the vet?


      • easyweimaraner · June 18, 2016

        we bought it at amazon, but I also saw it on eBay :O)

        Liked by 1 person

      • noofmitchell · June 18, 2016

        Good to know about ordering it on-line as we live in an isolated place. Thanks for the info.


      • easyweimaraner · June 19, 2016

        we too… they call it the land before time LOL

        Liked by 1 person

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