Q: I have always heard that floppy-eared dogs get more ear infections than dogs with erect ears. Is that really true? Also, how often should a dog's ears be cleaned to prevent infections?

A: It is a widely held belief that dogs with prick ears have fewer infections, but the truth is: No one knows for sure. There's no scientific evidence one way or the other, but some veterinarians, myself included, will admit to seeing ear infections more often in dogs with droopy ears.

The fact is, though, that any dog can get an ear infection if conditions are right. Allergies can be part of the equation, as can excess moisture from swimming or baths. When the inside of a dog's ear gets wet and isn't dried thoroughly, it creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and yeast. And some dogs are genetically predisposed to chronic ear infections.

If the ears smell normal and don't look dirty, there's no need to clean them. Signs of problems include redness, odor and discharge, or a heavy buildup of gray wax. To deal with waxy buildup, clean the ears with a mild product recommended by your veterinarian. Ear tissue is sensitive, and harsh substances such as alcohol can irritate and dry the skin.

A bad odor and frequent head shaking suggest an infection and warrant a trip to the veterinarian.