How to Care For a Dog's Eyes, Ears and Teeth

Brushing dog's teeth
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While you're brushing your dog's teeth, check for dental issues like cracked teeth, loose teeth and recessed gums.

Grooming involves more than just keeping your dog's hair looking good. After all, you wouldn't consider a person well-groomed if they never brushed their teeth or cleaned their eyes — even if they did have perfectly coiffed hair. For dogs, keeping the teeth, ears and eyes properly groomed is vital not only for good looks, but for good health.

Eyes

For most dogs, healthy eyes require very little attention beyond using a moist cloth to clean away any crusts that may accumulate overnight. But this gives you a chance every day to monitor your dog's eye health. Check that errant hairs or lashes are not touching the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eye) and causing irritation. Dogs with long hair or with eyelid problems may need special care, such as clipping the hair or tying it back, to help keep hair away from the eyes. In some cases a few extra eyelashes turn in toward the eye and begin to scratch the cornea. In this situation, surgery may be recommended to correct this condition.

Many eye problems can cause a watery or mucous discharge. Some dogs have tear ducts that get clogged, so their tears may drain out onto their face. Tears cause the fur on the face to stain red or brown. You can help keep the eyes clean to make your dog more comfortable and attractive. Ask your veterinarian to check your dog's eyes if he has tear staining or if you notice discharge from the eyes.

Pain can cause your dog to squint or paw at his eye. Swelling, redness or discharge may indicate glaucoma, a scratched cornea, an object (foreign body) in the eye or one of several other problems. Some dogs don't produce enough tears, a painful condition called “dry eye” (keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS). Contact your vet if you notice squinting, pawing, rubbing redness or discharge for an  ophthalmic exam. If you can see a sort of half-moon shape behind the pupil, anything protruding from the pupil or any change in pupil size is cause for an immediate visit to the veterinarian as these symptoms could indicate a brain injury, lens detachment or another potentially serious problem.

Ears

Many dogs live their entire lives without having any ear problems, but others are not so lucky. The dog's ear canal is made up of an initial long vertical segment with an abrupt right angle turn before the ear drum. This design means that moisture and debris can sometimes accumulate and cause problems. For some dogs, this can mean bacterial or yeast ear infections. Although certain types of bacteria are normal and harmless inhabitants of the ear canal, others can grow unchecked under the right conditions, such as inflammation or excessive moisture in the ears.

Several factors can contribute to ear problems. Allergies are the most common cause of ear infections in dogs. Seborrhea can cause itchiness and contributes to a heavy accumulation of ear wax. Parasites, such as ear mites, can also cause intense itching and inflammation.

Signs of ear problems can include head shaking, head tilt, scratching at the ear, rubbing the ear, smelly ear, redness and waxy build-up within the ear. Problems like ear infections and ear mites can look very similar, yet the various causes require different treatments. In addition, especially in cases of chronic problems, the eardrum could be perforated or damaged, in which case you would not want to put the same medications into the ear as you would with an intact eardrum. For these reasons, ear problems should be examined by a veterinarian.

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